Monday December 04, 2023

Rwanda opposition figure announces presidential bid

May 14, 2023

KIGALI: The head of a Rwandan opposition party, Frank Habineza, said on Saturday he would run for president in next year´s election after winning the nomination of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda.

Habineza is widely expected to face President Paul Kagame, who has ruled Rwanda with an iron fist for decades and who won a third term in 2017, taking home nearly 99 percent of the vote.

A former rebel chief, Kagame has been regarded as the country´s de facto leader since the end of the 1994 genocide.

Habineza was elected unopposed by around 200 members at a party congress held in Kigali on Saturday.

“We will continue our struggle for democracy, freedom of speech, free media, and human rights,” he told a press conference after the vote.

Kagame has not declared an intention to run a fourth time but has presided over controversial constitutional amendments that allowed him to serve a third term and could see him rule until 2034.

The government in March decided to synchronise the dates for its parliamentary and presidential elections, which are due to be held in August next year.

Habineza, who is also a human rights activist and lawyer, ran against Kagame in the 2017 presidential election, coming in third place with less than one percent of the vote.

His party -- one of just two opposition parties recognised by the government -- won two seats in parliament for the first time in 2018.

“When we started this party in 2009, everyone knows it was very difficult. We were violently attacked by people with guns, our people were put in prison, and I had to go into exile in Sweden for two years,” Habineza told reporters.

“But despite these difficulties, we have seen some progress and changes,” he added.

In 2017, the United States said it was “disturbed by irregularities” in the presidential election. Several opposition parties -- including the United Democratic Forces (FDU) -- are not officially recognised and cannot participate in elections in Rwanda.