Rwanda: ORGANIC LAW No 16/2003 OF 27/06/2003 GOVERNING POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS AND POLITICIANS
We, KAGAME Paul,
President of the Republic;
THE TRANSITIONAL NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HAS ADOPTED AND WE SANCTION, PROMULGATE THE LAW AS DECLARED BY THE SUPREME COURT, SECTION OF CONSTITUTIONAL COURT, TO BE IN HARMONY WITH THE CONSTITUTION IN ITS RULING N° 017/11.02/03, PASSED ON 26/06/2003 AND ORDER IT TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL GAZETTE OF THE REPUBLIC OF RWANDA.
The Transitional National Assembly, meeting in its session of June 23, 2003;
Given the Constitution of June 4, 2003, especially in its Articles 57, 62, 93, 108, 118-7°, 195 and 201;
Having reviewed the law n°28/91 of June 18, 1991 governing political parties;
CHAPTER ONE : GENERAL PRINCIPLES
Article One :
This organic law defines a political organization as a group of citizens who share the same ideas and understanding as to the vision on how to enhance the social welfare and the development of the country, with the aim of coming to power through democratic and peaceful means so that they may achieve that vision.
A politician is any person who engages in political activities as defined in paragraph one of this article whether as an individual or through a political organization.
Article 2 :
Political organizations shall be formed and operate freely. They must abide by the Constitution and other laws as well as by democratic principles and not undermine national unity, territorial integrity and security of the nation.
Political organizations shall participate in the education of citizens on politics based on democracy and elections and operate in such a manner as to ensure that women and men have equal access to elective offices.
Article 3 :
Political organizations shall only have offices at national, provincial and Kigali City levels.
Each political organization shall inform the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions in writing of its address (Province, Kigali City, District, Sector and Cell) together with the names of its representatives and their identities.
Article 4 :
With the exception of such persons mentioned in Article 16 of this organic law, any Rwandan who is at least 18 years old has the right to join or not join a political organization. However, nobody is allowed to be a member of more than one political organization at the same time.
No Rwandan citizen shall be subjected to discrimination by reason of membership of a given political organization or on account of not belonging to any political organization.
Article 5 :
Political organizations are prohibited from basing themselves on race, ethnic group, tribe, clan, region, sex, religion or any other division which may give rise to discrimination.
Political organizations must constantly reflect the unity of the people of Rwanda and gender equality and complementarity whether in recruitment of members, putting in place organs of leadership and in their operations and activities.
CHAPTER II. : FORMATION, STRUCTURE AND FUNCTIONING
OF POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS
Article 6 :
A political organization shall be formed upon the decision of its members meeting in a constituent assembly which sanctions its statutes and internal rules and regulations.
Article 7 :
Statutes of a political organization are distinct from its internal rules and regulations.
The statutes for a political organization shall particularly indicate the following :
1° the full name of the political organization ;
2° its objectives ;
3° its structures and organs;
4° its head office that should be in Rwanda;
5° members of its organs, modalities of their election and replacement, their term of office and the limit of their authority;
6° conditions required for membership, resignation and expulsion;
7° its representatives ;
8° articles relating to assets ;
9° provisions relating to the amendment of its statutes and its dissolution;
10° how its assets will be used in case of dissolution by its own members or
by a court of law.
Statutes for any political organization shall include a commission or an organ meant to reconcile and settle disputes, to manage conflicts arising among its members as well as to interprete its statutes.
Article 8 :
No political organization shall identify itself by designation or acronym or any other symbol that is already used by another political organization, the State or any other institution.
Article 9 :
For a political organization to be registered and operate, those intending to form it should submit to the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions an application letter for which an acknowledgement of receipt shall be issued.
The number of signatories to any political organization’s statutes shall be at least one hundred and twenty persons from the whole country including at least five persons who have domicile in each province or in Kigali City.
Article 10 :
An application letter to register a political organization shall include the following :
1° three copies of the political organization statutes, three copies of the minutes of the constituent assembly which formed the political organization and three copies of its internal rules and regulations;
2° a statement describing the head office of the political organization and its basic equipment;
3° for each legal representative of a political organization :
a) a certificate of full identity;
b) a residence certificate which is issued by the Mayor of the District, Town, Municipality or City of his or her residence;
c) police clearance certificate.
Article 11 :
Before being admitted to the leadership organs of any political organization, every applicant shall fulfil the following conditions :
1° be of Rwandan nationality ;
2° be at least 21 years old ;
3° not have been deprived of his or her civil or political rights by the court of law;
4° reside in Rwanda ;
5° not have been sentenced to more than 5 years of imprisonment for the last ten years for an offence ;
6° have irreproachable morals and probity;
7° not have committed crimes of genocide.
Article 12 :
Within thirty (30) days of submission of the application letter, the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions shall issue a ministerial decree stating that the political organization has been registered where provisions under Articles 7, 9 and 10 of this organic law were met or in the case of not being met, he or she shall issue a ministerial decree rejecting the application stating the reasons thereof.
However, where the ministerial decree is not published thirty (30) days after the application letter was submitted, the political organization shall be deemed to have been registered and the Minister shall, within fifteen (15) days, issue a decree of registration.
Where a political organization is not satisfied with the decision made, it may lodge a complaint with the High Court of the Republic.
The High Court of the Republic shall decide on the case within thirty (30) days of submission of the complaint to the clerk’s office.
Article 13 :
Within thirty (30) days provided for in paragraph one of Article 12 of this organic law, the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions examines, makes necessary inquiries and investigations to ascertain the validity and authenticity of statements and documents submitted.
Article 14 :
A decree of the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions which certifies that a political organization is registered automatically confers legal status onto the newly formed political organization.
Both a ministerial decree certifying a political organization’s registration and political organization’s statutes are published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Rwanda.
Article 15 :
Any change made to the leadership organs or statutes of any political organization shall be declared through ways and means provided for in Articles 9 and 10 of this organic law within thirty (30) days following the day the political organization's meeting was held or the decision was taken by the appropriate organ.
Any amendment made to the political organization's statutes shall also be made public as provided for in Article 14 of this organic law.
Article 16 :
Judges, public prosecutors as well as members of the armed forces, police and National Security Service shall not be permitted to be members of political organizations.
Other public servants and employees of public enterprises and parastatal organizations may join political organizations but can not be their legal representatives.
Article 17 :
Any political organization intending to organize a public assembly and demonstration in a public place shall be subject to prior written notification at least one week before to the Mayor of the Town , Municipality or District where the event concerns one Town, Municipality or District; to the Prefect of the Province or the Mayor of the City of Kigali where at least two Districts, Municipalities or Towns in one Province or in the City of Kigali are concerned, to the Ministers having Local Government and Security in their attributions where the Districts and Towns or municipalities concerned are in different provinces and the City of Kigali.
Notification modalities must conform to the regulations thereto related.
The organisers are required to help public authorities to keep law and order. They shall amicably compensate for any action and behaviour of their political organization's members that threaten the security of people and their property, otherwise the courts of law shall intervene.
Article 18 :
Any political organization causing trouble or carrying out divisive acts shall face sanctions determined by the law.
Article 19 :
No political organization shall be held accountable for its member’s or members’ acts where these are not related to the political organization.
CHAPTER III. : POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS’ MEDIA
Article 20 :
Political organizations have the right to establish media and circulate their publications in conformity with the laws and regulations in force.
Political organizations' media is prohibited from disseminating information with a denigrating or divisive nature likely to undermine national security, territorial integrity and national unity.
Political organizations have the same rights with regard to the use of official media.
CHAPTER IV. : ASSETS OF A POLITICAL ORGANIZATION
Article 21 :
The assets of a political organization derive from :
1° contribution from its members ;
2° donations or legacies ;
3° its property and activities ;
4° State grants.
Article 22 :
A political organization may receive donations and legacies. Within thirty (30) days of receipt, donations with a value of at least one million Rwandan francs (1,000,000 frw) shall be included in a statement to the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions. The statement indicates their donors, nature and value. A copy of the statement shall be given to the Ombudsman and the Consultative Forum of Political Organizations.
Political organizations shall not be allowed to receive donations or legacies from foreigners, trading companies, industries or other institutions belonging to foreigners or in which foreigners are shareholders.
Public enterprises or Government parastatals shall not make any donation or legacy to a political organization or to a politician.
Article 23 :
It is prohibited and punishable by the law to give a political organization or politicians contributions, donations and legacies that are likely to undermine national independence and sovereignty.
For political organizations or politicians, it is prohibited and punishable by law to receive contributions, donations and legacies that are likely to undermine national independence and sovereignty.
Article 24 :
A political organization shall keep its books of accounts regular and balanced and keep an inventory of its movable and immovable assets.
It shall submit, not later than 31st March of the following year, a yearly accounting report to the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions with a copy to the Consultative Forum of Political Organizations and the Office of the Ombudsman.
Accounting documents shall be kept for at least 5 years. That period starts with the end of the accounting year.
Article 25 :
Each year and not later than 31st March of the following accounting year, political organizations shall submit to the Office of Ombudsman their yearly accounting books of accounts.
On its initiative or upon request by the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions, the Office shall each year and whenever necessary verify the accounts of political organizations. A copy of that verification shall be submitted to the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions, the Consultative Forum of Political Organizations as well as to the Senate. The political organisation under verification shall provide the Office of the Ombudsman with all the evidence and explanations required to fulfil its mission.
Article 26 :
Only assets belonging to political organizations and acquired through income generating activities shall be subject to taxation.
Article 27 :
No Government assets shall be used in the activities or interest of political organizations unless the Law so provides.
However, in an electoral year, Government shall, in its budget, provide for grants to political organizations and independent candidates for their campaigns. Political organizations and independent candidates shall receive an equal amount of money.
That grant is only given to political organizations and independent candidates who have obtained at least 5% of the electoral votes.
CHAPTER V.: RELATIONS BETWEEN POLITICAL
ORGANIZATIONS AND THE GOVERNMENT
AND OTHER INSTITUTIONS
Article 28 :
Political organizations are allowed to have relations with other political organizations or associations, both inside and outside the country.
However, the nature of those relations shall not make decisions that compromise laws and national sovereignty.
Article 29 :
Political organizations shall be equal before the Government Institutions. Political organizations must contribute to achieving the Government’s permanent mission to serve the population. Political organizations shall also have the moral obligation to condemn any biased ideas and behaviour aimed at turning the State into a State governed by a cluster of politicians.
Article 30 :
Political organizations shall participate in mobilizing the population for activities relating to national policies and in upholding democracy in accordance with the political system as provided for by the Constitution.
CHAPTER VI. : COALITION AND MERGING OF POLITICAL
Article 31 :
Political organizations may agree to form a coalition or a merger for the election as a means of coming to power.
A coalition of political organizations shall have no legal status of its own.
Article 32 :
The merging of two or more political organizations with the effect of nullifying the legal status of each political organization and with the intention of forming a new political organization with its own legal status, is allowed.
In that case, it shall be notified in writing to the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions.
Any decision to merge political organizations into one shall bear the signatures by the leaders of the merging political organizations together with minutes of the meeting of each political organization's organ taking that decision and the statutes as well as internal rules of the new political organization.
To be registered, the new political organization shall meet the same requirements as any new political organization applying for registration.
Article 33 :
The merging provided for in Article 32 of this organic law does not apply to the electoral period.
The merging of political organizations shall be registered at least 90 days before an electoral campaign.
Article 34 :
Before registration, the leading organs of the merging political organizations shall agree on how to settle out of court all issues concerning their common assets as well as their debtors and creditors.
CHAPTER VII : THE CODE OF CONDUCT FOR POLITICAL
ORGANIZATIONS AND POLITICIANS
Article 35 :
No political organizations or politicians shall undermine public order or the rights and freedoms of the individual in particular and of the people in general.
They are particularly prohibited from forming military groups or militia.
Article 36 :
In a state of siege or state of emergency, every politician or political organization shall particularly avoid :
1° any act, writing or speech likely to reinforce the enemy of the country;
2° any act, writing or speech that lead to weakening or undermining the strength of the nation;
3° seeking their own interest during such state of siege or state of emergency;
4° any act, writing or speech that may cause disturbances;
5° basing on the suffering of people to carry out activities for personal gain;
6° causing problems that may prolong the state of siege or the state of emergency;
7° acting contrary to the laws of the country that relate to the appointment of the Head of State.
Article 37 :
In a state of siege or state of emergency, every politician or political organization shall particularly fulfil the following obligations :
1° abide by the statements made by the Head of State;
2° contribute to suppressing or countering the reasons given by the enemy as a reason to attack the country;
3° perform such acts, speech or writing that mobilise and encourage citizens to counter the enemy of the State with patriotism and sacrifice;
4° perform acts, speech or writing that mobilize citizens for national unity and avoid divisions and discrimination;
5° advocate for the end of war and the peaceful resolution of the conflict;
6° contribute to reducing and ending the disturbances;
7° condemn and nullify plans of the instigators of a Coup d’Etat;
8° join hands with others and mobilise citizens to support victims of catastrophe and in the rehabilitation of damaged property;
9° to contribute quick and peaceful solutions to the causes of the state of siege or the state of emergency.
Article 38 :
Political competition period refers to the electoral period. In this period, every politician or political organization is particularly obliged to :
1° avoid any speech, writing or any other kind of action based on discrimination and division;
2° educate the members of a political organization or a politician to participate in political competition peacefully and with mutual respect and in tranquillity;
3° respect their opponents and avoid disparaging or defaming them;
4° tell the truth during political competition;
5° inform Rwandans of the fundamental principles and the political programme of the political organization, with a view to building the nation;
6° avoid spoiling ballot papers, cheating in the ballots and disturbing the elections or the counting of votes;
7° avoid unsound legal disputes or disparaging any election that was held in accordance with the law;
8° use the already-established legal procedures and abide by the final verdict made by the authorised institution where election results are being challenged.
Article 39 :
Normal period in politics refers to any period outside an electoral, siege or emergency period.
In such periods, every politician or political organization shall particularly observe the following :
1° abide by the laws and regulations;
2° hold meetings with members of the organs of political organization;
3° prepare and publicize fundamental principles and political programmes;
4° denounce whatever is not going well in the country and suggest possible solutions;
5° promote unity and reconciliation among Rwandans;
6° mobilise people to peacefully take part in democracy and avoid all kinds of discrimination and division;
7° educate people to reject, not to support and to fight any government established through a Coup d'Etat that has overthrown a Government that come to power by legitimate means.
Article 40 :
A politician or political organization shall particularly prohibited from the following:
1° supporting or committing any act that may cause war, disturbances and any other acts that may lead the country to a state of emergency or siege;
2° disparaging Rwanda and Rwandan citizens;
3° doing anything that may destabilise or hinder the country's sovereignty, human rights, democracy and justice,
4° carrying out acts, delivering speech or writings that cause any form of discrimination and divisions among Rwandans;
5° acting contrary laws and regulations governing political organizations;
6° carrying out any act that may hinder or prevent other legally instituted political organizations from operating legally;
7° forcing a person to join a political organization;
8° inciting members of political organizations into terrorist acts or inculcating into them the culture of intolerance;
9° refusing to disclose the source of the political organization's assets or acquiring them illegally;
10° using words and acts that intend to denigrate, to disparage a person in order to unlawfully remove him or her from leadership positions in the country, or to ruin his or her private activities ;
11° featuring their identity symbols on movable or immovable assets of the State or of any other political organization;
12° disclosing a secret related to State duties he or she is or was entrusted with;
13° carrying out acts or delivering speech showing intolerance for people with different ideas;
14° negationism or trivialization of Genocide.
Article 41 :
A politician shall particularly be prohibited from the following :
1° behaving in a degrading manner;
2° using dictatorship and terrorism;
3° using one's position to practice unfairness and violation the law ;
4° betraying other politicians and the country;
5° committing acts of corruption and other related offences;
7° inspiring idolization of oneself;
8° personalizing one’s administrative position;
9° working with lack of transparency;
10° favouritism and injustice.
CHAPTER VIII : SANCTIONS AND CANCELLATION OF DECISIONS
MADE BY POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS
Article 42 :
The Senate may lodge a complaint with the High Court of the Republic against any political organization that has grossly violated the obligations contained in provisions of Articles 52, 53 and 54 of the Constitution.
The Senate may also lodge a complaint with the High Court of the Republic against any political organization or politician that has grossly violated the obligations contained in provisions of Articles 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this organic law.
Depending on the gravity of the violation proved, the High Court may, without prejudice to criminal prosecution, impose any of the following sanctions against the political organization found guilty of the violation:
1° formal warning;
2° suspension of activities for a period not exceeding two years;
3° suspension of activities for the whole Parliamentary term ;
Any political organization against which a complaint has been filed shall receive all legal guarantees necessary for its defence.
The final court verdict shall be published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Rwanda.
Article 43 :
Notwithstanding provisions of Article 69 of the Constitution and without excluding a politician contravening the provisions of Articles 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this organic law from facing sentences provided for in the penal code, a politician may be warned by the organ governing him or her or be removed from a political position he or she is holding.
Any politician against whom a complaint is made shall receive all legal guarantees necessary for his or her defence.
Article 44 :
Any member of Parliament when elected on the ticket of the dissolved political organization shall automatically lose his or her parliamentary seat.
By-elections shall be held to replace those from the dissolved political organization if the remaining period of the Parliamentary mandate is more than one year.
Article 45 :
Sanctions taken in accordance with Article 42 of this organic law shall according to the law, immediately be notified to the legal representative of the concerned Political Organization and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, the President of the Senate, the Minister having political organizations in his/her attributions and to the Prosecutor General of the Republic shall be informed.
For any suspended political organization, failure to respect this measure shall be liable to legal prosecution.
Article 46 :
Without prejudice to provisions of the penal code, any person who infringes upon this organic law and form or lead any political organization, shall be punished with a sentence from six months to two years' imprisonment and fined between five hundred thousand Rwandan Francs (500,000 FRW) and one million Rwandan Francs (1,000,000 FRW) or one of the two penalties.
Any person leading or claiming to lead a political organization that continues its activities while under suspension or that reconstituted itself after its dissolution, shall also be punished in the same way.
Article 47 :
Any political organization not abiding by the provisions of Article 25 of this organic law shall face the following sanctions :
1° formal warning and a time limit is set for it to submit the books of accounts and the State grants shall be suspended as long as the books of accounts have not been handed in ;
2° suspension of activities for a period of one year, if after the formal warning, for a second time, a political organization does not respect the time limit provided for in Article 25 of this organic law;
3° dissolution where after the sanctions mentioned in 1° and 2° of this Article have been imposed and the political organization has, for the third time, not respected the date provided for in Article 25 of this organic law;
Sanctions mentioned in 1° of this Article shall be imposed by the Ombudsman.
The sanction mentioned in 2° of this Article shall be imposed by the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions upon request by the Ombudsman.
The sanction mentioned in 3° of this Article shall be imposed by the court of law upon request by the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions.
Decisions taken in accordance with this Article are notified to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions, the Ombudsman and the Consultative Forum of Political Organizations.
Article 48 :
In case a political organization is dissolved in accordance with its statutes its assets shall be used as provided for in those statutes.
Where a political organization is dissolved by law, a trustee shall be appointed. He or she convenes a meeting of the highest organ of the said political organization within such a time as specified by the decision appointing him or her, but only for deciding on how the assets of the dissolved political organization should be used.
Article 49 :
A member of a political organization or any other interested person may refer to the courts for the cancellation of the decision taken by a political organization’s organs or its representatives and deemed contrary to the statutes of a political organization or legal provisions.
However, before a member of a political organization introduces his or her claim to the court, he or she refers it to the political organization’s mediating organ. Where he or she is not satisfied with the settlement taken by the organ, he or she refers the matter to the higher organ of the political organization for decision. When he or she is not satisfied with the decision then taken, he or she refers the matter to the relevant court.
The copy of the court verdict is submitted to both the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions.
CHAPTER IX : THE CONSULTATIVE FORUM OF POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS
Article 50 :
A consultative Forum of Political Organizations provided for in Article 56 of the Constitution is an independent organ both in its administrative and financial management and enjoys both freedom of thought and of decision making in accordance with the law.
The head office of the Forum shall be in the Capital City of Rwanda.
Article 51 :
The Consultative Forum of Political Organizations shall be composed of political organizations recognized in Rwanda and shall particularly have the following responsibilities:
1° be a platform for exchanging ideas on politics and how these ideas may help in governing the country;
2° be a platform where political organizations both with and without members in Parliament may exchange ideas that may help in governing the country;
3° allow political organizations discuss major national issues and present their recommendations to the relevant State institutions for use in governing the country;
4° make political organizations’ members role models in the policy of unity and reconciliation and in fighting discrimination and divisions;
5° allow political organization members restore and strengthen the citizens' confidence in political organizations and politicians;
6° allow political organizations’ members to harmonize their views and closely follow how politics is going on in the country;
7° be a framework for political organization members to put together and join their efforts to fight any ideas that the enemy may use to attack the country or promote divisions among Rwandans;
8° help the State in mobilising the citizens on how they should cooperate especially in times of calamity;
9° organise training and study tours for members of political organizations so that they can improve their political knowledge;
10° designate some members of the Senate as provided for by Article 82
of the Constitution;
11° reinforce the principle of power sharing;
12° educate politicians and other citizens in the culture of considering an
opponent not as an enemy but as one to collaborate with through
13° be a mediator for problems that may arise between political
organizations before they are referred to the court;
14° to be a mediator in the resolution of internal conflicts within a political
organization that makes a request thereof and before the matter is referred
to the court;
15° follow up the activities and conduct of representatives of political
organizations in organs of leadership.
Article 52 :
This Consultative Forum's assets shall come from the State budget, donations and legacies.
Article 53 :
The Consultative Forum of political organizations shall have one spokesperson and his or her deputy and one Executive Secretary who shall be appointed in accordance with the Consultative Forum's internal rules and regulations.
The Auditor General of State Finances shall audit the utilisation of assets of the Consultative Forum of Political Organizations.
The Forum’s internal rules and regulations are sanctioned by a General Assembly gathering the same number of representatives for each political organization.
CHAPTER X : TRANSITIONAL AND FINAL PROVISIONS
Article 54 :
The first meeting of the Consultative Forum of Political Organizations is convened and chaired by the Minister having political organizations in his or her attributions. The first meeting brings together four (4) representatives for each political organization.
Article 55 :
Without prejudice to provisions of Article 33 of this Organic Law, registration of the political organizations' merger shall be done not later than 15 days before the political campaign period before the start of the presidential and parliamentary elections, soon after the end of the transitional period.
Article 56 :
Political organizations already in existence in Rwanda shall harmonise their statutes with this organic law and make new registrations within fifteen days (15) days of the date of the publication of this organic law in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Rwanda.
Any political organization not fulfilling provisions contained in the first paragraph of this article shall be immediately dissolved.
A Ministerial decree shall publicize the dissolution of such political organization and order that the dissolution be carried out in accordance with its statutes and if otherwise, by the Courts of law.
Article 57 :
Law n° 28/91 of August 18, 1991 on political organizations and all other previous legal provisions contrary to this Organic Law are hereby abrogated.
Article 58 :
This organic law shall come into force on the date of its publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Rwanda.
Kigali, on 27/06/2003
The President of the Republic
The Prime Minister
The Minister of Local Government, Information and Social Affairs
Seen and sealed with the Seal of the Republic:
The Minister of Justice and Institutional Relations
MUCYO Jean de Dieu