Saturday, August 09, 2003

Rwanda: opposition candidate complains of harrassment

Opposition candidate, Faustin Twagiramungu, complained to journalists that his supporters are being harassed by police and the supporters of President Paul Kagame. According to the article, police deny harrassing anybody but they said they "questioned some politicians involved in talk or acts of fuelling ethnic divisions between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi communities."

Rwanda is going to the polls to elect a president on August 25 ... the first time since the genocides in 1994. Parliamentary elections will follow next month.

Rwanda's new constitution says that political parties must ''reflect Rwandan unity" ... which I think means that you cannot appeal to people's ethnicity when campaigning. Candidates have also had less than two months to campaign to reduce the chances that passions might be inflamed.

In May, Twagiramungu's party, the Hutu-dominated Democratic Republican Movemement (MDR), was officially dissolved for allegedly fomenting ethnic division.

That same month, Human Rights Watch, published this briefing paper saying that Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) are "working to eliminate any opposition to its [RPF] victory in elections...".

Paul Kagame does have his defenders. This is a three-year-old mini-bio of Paul Kagame, but the description is consistant with what I've seen elsewhere over the years. "Colleagues hint at an ascetic temperament, presenting the president as an incorruptible teetotaller and strong disciplinarian."

Here's a month-old piece from the Ugandan paper, "New Vision". The author seems to take a win by Kagame as given. The article is worth reading in its entirety ... but this one line struck me: "If Twagiramungu won the election, he would be faced with an army whose loyalty lies 100% with President Kagame."

There are four presidential candidates ... one of whom is a woman. Dr Alivera Mukabaramba is running on a platform of, among other things, free primary and secondary education.

In related news .... the Monitor (Uganda) reported yesterday that President Kagame resigned from the military. According to the new constitution, military personnel cannot stand for public office.