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Kagame, his two rivals officially kick off campaigns for July 15 polls

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Rwanda presidential candidate Paul Kagame campaigns in Ngororero, Rwanda on July 18, 2017. PHOTO | POOL

The three candidates in the race for Rwanda’s presidency have started their campaigns, as momentum picks up for the on July 15 elections.

The approved candidates who will be on the ballot are Paul Kagame of the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party and independent candidate Phillippe Mpayimana.

None of the trio is new to this contest. The two Kagame opponents have run – and lost – against him before.

President Kagame will kick off his campaigns in Musanze town, while Mr Habineza will start his in Jabana, Gasabo District.

Addressing media on Thursday, Charles Munyaneza, secretary-general of the National Electoral Commission (Nec) said all candidates have shared their respective campaign itineraries, and sought permission from district authorities where they will campaign.

“Presidential campaigns will kick off on June 22 up to July 13, and everything is going according to plan. We have engaged all candidates regarding the campaign guidelines, the things they are allowed to do and those they are not allowed according to the law,” he said.

The Nec announced that more than nine million voters have been put on the provisional list of voters, while others are verifying their names and places they are supposed to vote from a digital platform. The process of verification and correction will go up to June 29.

“We are ready, all election materials are in place and volunteers have been trained, the public sensitisation efforts regarding elections are ongoing,” Mr Munyaneza said.

“From July 12, all election materials will be dispatched to the respective polling stations, and all the necessary logistics are also being availed.”

The NEC said that 267 election observers from different countries and institutions have been approved to participate in the election observation.

Up to 62,000 Rwandans in diaspora are slated to vote in 70 countries, almost threefold increase from the 22,000 who voted in the last presidential election from the diaspora.

“We are working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the respective embassies to make sure everything is in order,” MR Munyaneza said.

In this election, more than two million Rwandans will be first-time voters, and many of them are excited about casting their first-ever vote.
One of them, Ineza Grace, said it is an “empowering time” for her.

“I know the painful history my country has gone through; there have been many sacrifices made over the years for us to be like this -- to know that my country now also counts on me to shape its future through my vote is invigorating to say the least,” she said.

But the question of presidential aspirants who were eliminated from running lingers and the NEC says those who were left out did not meet the requirements as stipulated in the law.

The disqualified aspirants are Diane Rwigara, Herman Manirareba, Innocent Hakizimana, Fred Sekikubo Barafinda, Thomas Habimana, and Jean Mbanda.

After being barred, Ms Rwigara took to social media to express her disappointment.

The NEC said she was not approved because on the list of supporters she submitted, she did not provide signatures of at least 12 supporters with identity cards that were issued, in the districts of Kamonyi, Gatsibo, Gasabo, Musanze, Nyagatare, Burera, Nyabihu and Kayonza.

It also said on Ms Rwigara’s list of supporters from Huye and Gisagara districts had non-existent ID numbers.

The commission further said Ms Rwigara submitted a copy of a court document instead of her criminal record.

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, a fierce critic of President Kagame, went to the East African Court of Justice with prayers to the court to force Kigali to grant her a chance to vie. In her application dated April 30, 2024, Ms Ingabire sought orders to permit her to register a political party that she can use to vie and vote.

The disqualified aspirants, all of whom were independents, failed to meet a number of requirements, mainly related to the list of 600 signatures of supporters from all districts.

President Kagame, who defeated the same competitors in the 2017 election by a landslide, garnering 98 percent of the vote, is widely expected to win this election.

Mpayimana got 39,620 votes (0.72 percent) in the last polls, while Habineza got 24,904 votes (0.45 percent of the votes.