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Kagame’s Critic Rwigara Barred from the Presidential Contest
Kagame’s Critic Rwigara Barred from the Presidential Contest
| June 9, 2024

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. However, her name was missing from the provisional list of candidates announced by the electoral commission on Thursday. Photo: AFP

When Rwanda’s National Electoral Commission Thursday released a provisional list of candidates to contest in the upcoming presidential and legislative elections, indicating that three candidates were approved to run in the presidential race, it irked Diane Rwigara, President Paul Kagame’s ardent critic.

Those approved include incumbent Kagame, representing the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), Frank Habineza, founder of the opposition Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent candidate.

The announcement, made by Oda Gasinzigwa, chairperson of the National Electoral Commission saw the agency provisionally endorse approximately 450 parliamentary candidates to contest for 80 seats in the lower house of parliament.

The final list of candidates will be announced on June 14, and the presidential and parliamentary elections will be conducted on July 15.

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. However, 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 electoral agency indicated that Diane had failed to provide a criminal record statement as required, and that she had not further met the threshold of 600 supporting signatures from citizens.

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.

She 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, now seen as Kigali’s de facto ruler since the 1994 genocide and president since 2000, has been emerging victorious over the last three decades with more than 90% of the vote.

In this contest, Kagame is widely expected to win with a landslide margin.

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

Diane’s barring from contesting comes at a time when Kigali has grown to become the focal point of a concerted media campaign led by a consortium of European newspapers.

In the Forbidden Stories’ series, it is revealed how over a long period, a pattern of repression, crimes, assassinations and kidnappings have marked the Rwandan regime under the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) since 1994.

The reports go further to indicate that despite well documented proofs, these crimes and repressions appeared to be overlooked by the international community, influential media, and other main organizations.

Even Western Democracies have seemed to overlook these crimes and bloody repression and continue to support and welcome Paul Kagame and other RPF leaders.

Forbidden Stories was founded in 2017 by Laurent Richard, with a mission to provide a journalistic response to crimes against journalists.

The Rwanda Classified Project Forbidden Stories investigated the widespread repression and crimes, using a consortium of 50 journalists representing 17 media outlets in 11 different countries over an extended period.

They interviewed several people including former senior leaders of the RPF regime, such as Theogene Rudasingwa, a former RPF Secretary General and a former Rwandan ambassador to the United States and Eugene Gasana, a former Rwandan Ambassador to the United Nations.

Based on the reports by Forbidden Stories, the investigative journalists working on the Rwanda Classified project  trained their focus on the crimes, assassination attempts, intimidation, kidnappings, suspicious deaths, and the use of surveillance technologies by the RPF regime under Rwandan leader Paul Kagame.


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