President Paul Kagame, on January 6, appointed François-Xavier Kalinda, a habitually calm former member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), as a senator in the Rwandan Senate. This was less than a month after former senate president, Augustin Iyamuremye, resigned due to illness.François-Xavier Kalinda Biography
Three days later, on January 9, Senators unanimously elected the 60-year-old as the new senate president.
He stood unchallenged, amassing all 26 votes to become Rwanda’s number two – in official hierarchy – after the Head of State. In his acceptance speech, Kalinda promised to deliver.
He said: “I will work with all institutions to continue serving Rwandans…I promise my utmost commitment and cooperation with everyone. I will seek advice and listen to everyone in order to serve Rwandans.”
Kalinda, a member of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), is one of the five Rwandan lawmakers who returned home after finishing their two terms in the regional parliament in December 2022, when the Fourth Assembly’s life and tenure ended.
The former Dean of the School of Law, at the University of Rwanda, joined EALA in 2015 during the Third Assembly, when he replaced Celestin Kabahizi who had resigned. Kalinda continued to serve in the Fourth Assembly, from 2017 to 2022. In the regional Parliament, among others, Kalinda served as a member of the EALA Commission, the leading committee which manages the affairs of the regional Assembly, organises the business and programme of the House, and nominates members of other committees. Kalinda was also the Vice Chairperson of the Rwanda chapter in the regional House.
Born in Kitabi Sector, in Nyamagabe District, the father of five earlier worked as a lecturer, and researcher, at the University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences, where he was member of the academic senate. After graduating from the then National University of Rwanda, in 1996, he pursued a Master of Law in Intellectual Property Rights at the University of Ottawa, in Canada. He completed it in 1999.
Eleven years later, in 2010, he obtained a PhD – a Doctorate of Philosophy degree in Business Law – from the University of Strasbourg in France.
There is more to this very modest, or unpretentious, man who has promised not to disappoint in his new duties as he continues to serve Rwandans.
He is a down to earth, patriotic, hard working, well-mannered, and honourable man.
Throughout his seven-year stint in EALA, Kalinda never stopped lecturing – part time – at the University of Rwanda. He continued to teach, as a guest lecturer, both at UR and the Institute of Legal Practice and Development (ILPD), something that endeared him to his students, former university colleagues and others.
“Kalinda is an exceptional person. He is a person of integrity, with no pretentiousness. His words match his thoughts and actions. He is a remarkable teacher who is devoted to making sure his students get the knowledge,” said Kalinda’s former student, Didas Kayihura Muganga, who is now the acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Rwanda.
“When he was the academic secretary of our faculty, he was a very welcoming and sociable person to the staff and students. I later became his superior at the School of Law. Kalinda is also a hardworking person, with a flawless track record. He is the kind of person who cannot be drawn into malpractice.”
When Kalinda was appointed as Senator, Muganga said, everyone who knew him “concurred that he deserved the job.”
In September 2015, Kalinda lived in Huye District with his family of seven.
When he was elected to represent Rwanda in the regional Assembly, Kalinda promised to put national interests first, and work hard with other lawmakers to “put the interests of the nation, and the region in general, first.”
His former colleagues in EALA attest to the truth of his statement.
MP Amb Fatuma Ndangiza is one of those former colleagues who is “proud of him and wish him all the best as he embarks on his tour of duty” as president of the Rwandan Senate. Amb Ndangiza has known Kalinda for the last seven years but worked closely with him during the Fourth EALA.
She said: “I had an opportunity to serve with him, for two and a half years, when I was chairing the EALA Committee on Legal rules and privileges and I cherish his wise counsel whenever consulted.
“Dr. Kalinda has displayed high levels of professionalism and competence and has a rich experience in the legal field. Regarding his character and personality, he has a strong sense of purpose and focus on quality results. He is open and frank when engaging on any matter; a good team builder, shows empathy on social matters, strives for excellence and compliance when delivering on assignments.”
Oda Gasinzigwa who also served with Kalinda in the EALA Commission said Kalinda immensely contributed to the implementation of the EALA mandate.
“He is humble and professional. And I trust that he will fulfill his duties in his new capacity. We wish him all the best,” Gasinzigwa said.
Kalinda is also respected, and admired very much, within his party – PSD.
Senator Juvenal Nkusi, a PSD member, said: “Kalinda is a very intelligent, calm person, who is attentive and has great teamwork skills.
“His election as President of the Senate has, indeed, pleased us.”
Four out of the five senate presidents Rwanda has had, since 2003, except Bernard Makuza (October 2014- October 2019) who was an independent, came from PSD.