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Last Updated: Monday, 2 June, 2003, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Rwanda constitution: Will it make a difference?
A voter holds her identity card as she lines up to cast her vote in the Kigali district of Nyiamirambo, 26 May 2003
Rwandans voted on Monday on a new draft constitution for the country.

The new document aims to prevent a repeat of the 1994 genocide, when an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

The Hutu government at the time was blamed for orchestrating the violence and the draft constitution hopes to limit the ability of any one political party to manipulate ethnic disagreements in future.

However, critics say it is geared toward keeping the Rwandan Patriotic Front in power and includes significant powers to curtail civil rights.

What do you think? Can the constitution bring a new era to Rwanda?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

I hope this document will bring everlasting understanding between the tribal groups
Gabriel Gomez, England
I hope this document will bring everlasting understanding between the tribal groups so that they can live in peace and harmony. The time has come for We Africans to for forget about our differences, forget the madness and the killings. We should strive to eliminate hunger and diseases. This is the new kind of war we should be fighting. Once we realise that war is not the solution to our problems then Africa will prosper. We are not poor but we just don't utilise our human and natural resources in the right way. Let's wake up. God bless Africa.
Gabriel Gomez, England

Despite the historical, ethnic hatred and economic hardships, Rwanda is moving in a right direction. Rwanda has set a good example of conflict transformation in the whole world. Those who are quick to criticize should remember where Rwanda is coming from and where its people want to be.
Musemakweri, USA/ Rwanda

I was in Rwanda soon after the genocide as the RPF sought to establish control over the country. I have the utmost respect for them and all they have achieved. A year earlier I was working in Somalia and the difference is immeasurable. It hasn't been easy or perfect but after the fastest genocide in history the lack of revenge culture and the stability are lessons for Europe and the Middle East.
Ian Boys, UK

This is a good step, but I am not sure if this is compatible with Democracy. It looks like this constitution is putting a lot of limits on democratic processes. Well, I hope every stakeholder operates within the constitution.
Peter Chari, Zimbabwe

We can only hope that Paul Kagame will show a real commitment to regional peace
Rob Ives, Canada
While Rwanda has been relatively stable since 1998, the Great Lakes region has been anything but. Conflict in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi will continue to impact on the lives of the people of Rwanda. We can only hope that Paul Kagame will show a real commitment to regional peace when he is re-elected President later this year. Without such a commitment, constitution or no constitution, the region will remain fragile for many years to come. The people of Rwanda deserve better.
Rob Ives, Canada

The RPF is doing a GREAT JOB and this newly drafted constitution is for the benefit of Rwanda. I've worked in Rwanda before and after the genocide. I only wish my country Somalia had a leader like Kagame.
Elias, USA

As a foreigner living in Rwanda, I salute the present government for bringing harmony in the country. The new constitution will strengthen what the people have achieved since 1994. Most of the criticism is from people who fled and haven't been in the country to see the changes.
Milembe Edwards, Tanzanian living in Rwanda

I really commend the Rwandan people for trying their best to secure a peaceful land. A lot of horror happened prior and during 1994 and I pray to God that nothing like that happens in Africa ever again.
Marcia Ashong, United States (University of Minnesota)

A constitution in itself cannot turn around the fortunes of a people
Boniface M.K. Zuyeri, Ghana
In my opinion, a constitution in itself cannot turn around the fortunes of a people. It only serves as a skeletal framework around which determined societies develop their flesh of peaceful co-existence and sustainable development. Any meaningful change can only be achieved, if and only if the people of this once great African country are genuinely prepared to leave the regrettable past behind them and work together as one people with a common aim of building a vibrant nation, devoid of tribal undertones.
Boniface M.K. Zuyeri, Ghana

Rwanda's new constitution is just the legal consolidation of Paul Kagame's and the RPF dictatorship. All opposition to the regime has practically been banned and Hutus are relegated to second class citizenship or ceremonial government posts.
Robert, Uganda

Good leadership and people-oriented minds are a basic necessity for Rwanda's future.
Justine U. N., Rwandan in UK

The constitution itself is only a piece of paper
Mike Schorsch, USA
It's a good thing that democracy is being exercised in this way and it offers a glimmer of hope to heal the country. But democracy is something that needs to be maintained, and I have to question the ability of a new constitution to erase decades of suspicion and magically protect the citizens. The constitution itself is only a piece of paper, and any Rwandan can tell you how well paper holds up to a well sharpened machete.
Mike Schorsch, USA

How many Rwandans understand what they are voting for? I would bet not more than 10%. Then why waste money that could be used for something else on something the majority of the population didn't have a chance to examine closely.
Yego, Rwanda

We should not forget that Rwanda, like many other African countries, has never experienced democracy based on western ideals. Rwanda needs security more than so-called democracy.
Minega, Rwanda/ Canada

Rwanda needs to maintain stability
Michael, UK
I think the RPF is too readily criticised by the West. Kagame's leadership and restraint over the RPA in defeating the Interahamwe is unprecedented in central Africa. As Fergal Keene has said, a free and fair election in Rwanda would most likely plunge Rwanda into genocide. It is all well and good for us in the west to criticise the lack of democracy, but we need to see the situation in the context of the last decade. Rwanda needs to maintain stability and that it what it is doing.
Michael, UK

Rwanda - new constitution, old era. I don't think the enfranchised citizens of Rwanda have been given the chance to pore over their "new" constitution. They just might be voting for the same old thing with a shining new cover. And that would be preposterous.
Joentenwi, Cameroon, USA

I think after such high calibre atrocity, RPF is a necessity. The Rwandans need some healthy nationalism to pull themselves back together. I hope that the constitution entails no more than two term presidency in order to ensure that nothing like the `94 genocide happens again.
Helen Tewolde, Eritrean Canadian

Rwanda votes on new constitution
26 May 03  |  Africa

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