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Opposition Leader Urges Rwandans to Boycott August Vote

  • Peter Clottey

Victoire Ingabire is a leading opposition figure in Rwanda

Victoire Ingabire is a leading opposition figure in Rwanda

The leader of Rwanda’s unregistered opposition United Democratic Forces said she is ready to organize Rwandans to boycott the upcoming general election scheduled for August 9.

Victoire Ingabire says there is no need to waste money and resources to participate in an election that will not be credible.

“The real opposition party in Rwanda will not participate in the election. And, you know that there is always a permanent persecution for the opposition. And, we know that the regime of [President Paul] Kagame will arrange the election register, the rate of participation in the election, the management of the polling station[s] and the counting of votes, and will decide the results it wants,” she said.

She also claimed that senior officials of the election commission are members of the ruling party.

Opposition groups have expressed concern that the National Electoral Commission will favor President Paul Kagame’s ruling Patriotic Front Party in the upcoming vote, a charge the electoral body denies.

Ingabire said the government has often refused to address opposition concerns ahead of the vote.

“You know, the members of this commission are members of RPF. Why [should] we vote if we know who will win? The regime of [Mr.] Kagame will take all measures to expel the opposition in the process and they will push the population to vote for [Mr.] Kagame,” Ingabire said.

International human right groups, as well as Rwanda’s opposition parties, have expressed concern over the killings of opposition figures in the country, viewed by some as politically motivated.

The groups allege that the government is cracking down on dissenting views ahead of the August vote.

They said two independent newspapers have so far been banned from publishing, while opposition politicians and human rights organizations have been harassed by the authorities in the run up to the election.

But, supporters of the ruling party dismiss the allegations saying the government has launched investigations to find and punish the perpetrators behind the killings, as well as claims of intimidation and harassment.

Opposition leader Ingabire was recently prevented from traveling abroad after police said she was under investigation because of comments she made about the 1994 genocide.

Shortly after returning to Rwanda, Ingabire called for the prosecution of those responsible for the deaths of Hutus during the genocide.

But, a group of genocide survivors called on the government to prosecute the opposition leader saying her pronouncement belittled the genocide in which hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were killed.

Ingabire denied the charges against her as a plot to prevent her from challenging incumbent President Kagame in the upcoming vote.

“Now, it [has] been more than five months that the government has no possibility to bring it to the court the charges against me. They said I am denying genocide and collaboration with a terrorist organization, but five months and…they cannot bring the case to trial. This is why, from the beginning, I said this process is only to prevent me from participating in the election because [Mr.] Kagame knows, if I contest with him, I will win,” Ingabire said.

Observers expect incumbent President Kagame to decisively win the general election saying the opposition offers little or no challenge in the run up to the election.