June 13, 2024
Rwanda's Main Opposition Leader Barred From Presidential Election, Citing Faulty Record

Rwanda’s Main Opposition Leader Barred From Presidential Election, Citing Faulty Record

Diane Rwigara, a vocal critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, has been barred from running in next month’s presidential election.

Only Mr Kagame, Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party, and independent Philippe Mpayimana were cleared by the electoral commission.

Ms Rwigara, who was also disqualified from the 2017 election, took to X, formerly Twitter, to express her disappointment with Mr Kagame.

“Why won’t you let me run? This is the second time you [have] cheat[ed] me out of my right to campaign,” she said.

The 42-year-old People Salvation Movement (PSM) leader had previously told BBC Newsday that she hoped to run again this time.

“I’m representing the vast majority of Rwandans who live in fear and are not allowed to be free in their own country,” she said.

“Rwanda is portrayed as a country where the economy has been growing. But on the ground, it’s different. People do lack the basics of life, food, water, shelter.”

However, when the electoral commission issued its provisional list of candidates, it stated that Ms Rwigara had failed to provide the necessary documentation to prove she had no criminal record.

It also claimed she had failed to demonstrate enough national support to stand.

“On the requirement for 600 signature endorsements, she did not provide at least 12 signatures from eight districts,” Oda Gasinzigwa, the electoral commission chief, was quoted as saying.

Ms Rwigara also failed to demonstrate her Rwandan ancestry, according to the commission.

She previously held Belgian citizenship, but she gave it up in 2017 before her most recent run for office.

However, Ms Rwigara told the BBC that she was born in Rwanda and dismissed all other reasons for her candidacy’s rejection.

Rwanda’s National Electoral Commission received nine applications for the presidency.

Their final list will be announced next Friday, as they are still considering earlier appeals – though the PSM leader’s appeal is too late at this point.

In 2017, she was barred after being accused of forging supporters’ signatures on her application.

Ms Rwigara was imprisoned for over a year before being acquitted in 2018 on charges of inciting insurrection and forgery. She claimed the charges were politically motivated.

In March, a Rwandan court rejected prominent opposition figure Victoire Ingabire’s bid to lift a ban on her running in the presidential election.

She was released in 2018 after serving eight years in prison for endangering national security and “belittling” the 1994 genocide.

In Rwanda, people who have been imprisoned for more than six months are barred from running in elections.

The two cleared candidates, Mr Habineza and Mr Mpayimana were also the only candidates approved to run against Mr. Kagame in the 2017 election.

Mr Kagame is running for a fourth term, which, if won, would extend his presidency for nearly three decades.

He won the previous presidential election in 2017 with nearly 99% of the vote.

Rights groups have criticized the 66-year-old president’s crackdown on the opposition.

However, he has consistently defended Rwanda’s human rights record, claiming that his country values political freedoms.

Rwanda’s Main Opposition Leader Barred From Presidential Election, Citing Faulty Record

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