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Rwanda opposition leader barred from vying against Kagame in next month’s election

Friday, June 7th, 2024 19:16 | By
Diane Rwigara speaking to the media in Kigali in 2017. She posted on X: ‘Paul Kagame, why won’t you let me run?’ PHOTO/Reuters.
Diane Rwigara speaking to the media in Kigali in 2017. She posted on X: ‘Paul Kagame, why won’t you let me run?’ PHOTO/Reuters.

A prominent opponent of the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, has been barred from standing in next month’s election to challenge his three-decade rule.

Diane Rwigara, the leader of the People Salvation Movement, who was also barred in 2017, launched her election bid in May and submitted her candidacy last week. Her name was missing from the provisional list of candidates announced by the electoral commission on Thursday.

“After all the time, work and effort I put in, I am very disappointed to hear I am not on the list of presidential candidates,” Rwigara said on X. “Paul Kagame, why won’t you let me run?”

The election commission said she had failed to provide a criminal record statement as required, and that she had not met the threshold of 600 supporting signatures from citizens.

Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame (centre), walks past members of an honour guard for the 2024 South Korea-Africa summit in Seongnam, South Korea, last weekend. PHOTO/Lee Jin-man/AP.

Only two other candidates – Frank Habineza, of the Democratic Green party, and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent – were cleared to run against Kagame.

A final candidate list is due on 14 June, a month before the presidential and parliamentary votes on 15 July.

Rwigara was barred from the 2017 race over accusations she had forged supporters’ signatures for her application. She was arrested and charged with forgery and inciting insurrection, and held behind bars for more than a year.

Rwigara is the daughter of Assinapol Rwigara, an industrialist and former significant donor to Kagame’s ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front party before he fell out with its leaders.

Kagame, Rwanda’s de facto ruler since the 1994 genocide and president since 2000, has won three elections with more than 90% of the vote and is widely expected to be victorious again in July.

He has been praised for putting the country on the path of economic transformation after the genocide but he faces frequent criticism over rights abuses and intolerance of the opposition.

In the run-up to this year’s vote, Rwandan courts had already rejected appeals from the prominent opposition figures Bernard Ntaganda and Victoire Ingabire to remove previous convictions that in effect barred them from standing.

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