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Rwandan Opposition Seeks Inclusion Ahead of Poll

  • Peter Clottey

The chairman of Rwanda’s opposition Democratic Green Party said officials of President Paul Kagame’s administration have repeatedly refused to register his party ahead of the general elections scheduled for 9 August.

Frank Habineza told VOA his group has joined forces with other opposition parties to petition the U.S government to put more pressure on Kigali to ensure a level-playing field ahead of the vote.

“The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, which I head, has been trying to get registered for the last 10 months since August last year. We have been stopped, sometimes violently and sometimes legally. Some of our members have had to run out of the country, others have been imprisoned, and others have been harassed or intimidated,” he said.

This comes after a coalition of opposition parties petitioned the U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda, Stuart Symington, seeking America’s intervention to help resolve what they described as the escalating social and political tensions in the country.

The coalition, which goes by the name the Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda, comprises the United Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi), the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, and the Parti Social IMBERAKURI.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagama

Rwanda's President Paul Kagama

In the petition, the coalition asked the U.S government to “impress upon the Rwanda government to open the political space and ensure the electoral process for the presidential elections are free, fair and transparent.”

But, the government has often dismissed several opposition accusations that it opposes dissent and tramples on individual freedoms.

Chairman Habineza said the government’s ploy is to monopolize the electoral process aimed at frustrating the opposition to ensure a landslide victory for incumbent President Kagame’s ruling Patriotic Front party.

“Another partner (in the coalition) has also been divided and these divisions make some sources to suggest that some people in the government had a hand in it… We cannot go into the election when our parties are not registered (and) we cannot do anything else because we have tried all the legal requirements, and we have failed. So, this is a deliberate policy from the government side,” Habineza said.

He also said that the opposition parties sought America’s intervention because they feel powerless under the “prevailing condition” which makes it difficult for them to operate ahead of the poll.

Habineza said the government is flouting the constitution by refusing to register several opposition parties ahead of the August vote.

“The government is the one which has the duty to make sure that it registers the other parties…It’s a constitutional right to have other parties. We have a constitution which allows multiparty democracy in Rwanda. So, the government is supposed to allow us to be registered and compete with the ruling party,” Habineza said.

Officials of the government were not immediately available to comment, despite repeated attempts.