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Rwandan Opposition Candidate Charges Interference in Campaign


A candidate in Rwanda's August 25 presidential election said the ruling party is using unfair tactics to frustrate his campaign efforts. But the electoral commission has denied the charge.

Faustin Twagiramungu is one of four candidates vying for the position of president, a post currently held by President Paul Kagame of the ruling Rwandese Patriotic Front. Mr. Kagame is also running for president, as are Alivera Mukabaramba and Jean Nepomuscene Nayinzira.

Mr. Twagiramungu said it is difficult for him to campaign effectively. He said he has been prevented from holding public rallies until recently, and claims that government agents are assaulting and detaining his supporters.

"People who support us in different corners of the country are not in safety. They are being threatened. The only propaganda would be for the president, not for the competitors of his campaign," he said.

Mr. Twagiramungu also claims that the Tutsi-led ruling party is warning that if Rwandans elect a Hutu such as him, there may be a repeat of the 1994 genocide in which up to one million people were killed when Hutu extremists indiscriminately killed members of the Tutsi ethnic group and moderate Hutus.

The chairman of the National Electoral Commission of Rwanda, Chrisologue Karangwa, disputes Mr. Twagiramungu's claims, insisting the campaigns are free and fair.

Mr. Karangwa also denies that government or party agents have been harassing the candidates' supporters. "I can assure you, in our commission, we follow everything within this campaign time. Neither Twagiramungu nor other candidates is intimidated or his supporters are intimidated. The commission is taking every measure to assure every candidate that he can have his rights in this campaign time," he said.

Mr. Karangwa said it is Mr. Twagiramungu who is basing his campaign on ethnic politics by telling Hutus to take back power. "He's saying that the RPF [Rwandese Patriotic Front] is using that way [ethnic politics]. That is the contrary of what is being done here in our country."

The August 25 election will be Rwanda's first since the 1994 genocide. After the violence, the RPF took power to deal with the genocide's aftermath and restore order.

Since then, arrangements have been made to allow for multi-party elections. But despite these changes, observers are worried that these elections may not be free and fair.