Political tension is mounting in the east African country of Rwanda, ahead of the country's first multi-party presidential election since the genocide in 1994. Incumbent President Paul Kagame is threatening to jail the main opposition candidate for allegedly promoting the type of ethnic divisions that led to the genocide.
President Paul Kagame and his ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front party held a series of campaign rallies in Kigali on Saturday.
Several thousand cheering supporters greeted Mr. Kagame as he began the last day of campaigning before Monday's historic polls.
Many people waved miniature red, white, and blue RPF party flags and pledged loyalty to the Tutsi rebel fighter-turned-statesman, who put an end to the genocide nearly a decade ago.
Rwanda is still recovering from the genocide, during which Hutu extremists slaughtered as many as one million of Rwanda's ethnic minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus in just 100 days.
One Kagame supporter, who identifies himself only as Norman, says he believes the Rwandan leader is the only man who can prevent further ethnic bloodshed.
Norman says it was Mr. Kagame who finally brought peace to the country and that is why he is voting for the president on Monday.
Paul Kagame, who was elected by Parliament three years ago but has effectively ruled Rwanda since 1994, is widely expected to win the presidential race. But the race has been badly marred by allegations and counter allegations between Mr. Kagame and his main rival, Faustin Twagiramungu.
The moderate Hutu, who once served as prime minister under Paul Kagame, returned to Rwanda in June after an eight-year self-imposed exile in Belgium. Since electoral campaigning began on August 1, Mr. Twagiramungu has been bitterly complaining that the ruling party has intimidated, harassed, and illegally detained his supporters.
Mr. Twagiramungu, who chose not to hold a public rally on Saturday, says the RPF is resorting to unfair tactics because he believes he presents a serious challenge to Paul Kagame's rule.
"I think the Rwandan people know me very well who I am and they know what I've been fighting for for peace, for unity, for justice. And I believe I'm a very strong contender and can win this election," he said.
Mr. Kagame and his RPF arty deny they have been trying to sabotage his campaign. They say it is Mr. Twagiramungu who has been attempting to gain votes by highlighting ethnic differences. Such activity is a criminal offense in Rwanda. Mr. Twagiramungu denies the charge.
In a thinly-veiled warning to his political opponent, Mr. Kagame told his supporters Saturday that he will not tolerate anyone who tries to stir up ethnic troubles.
Mr. Kagame said that it is not enough to simply denounce people who promote ethnic divisionism. He says those who do will be dealt with swiftly, once he wins the election on Monday.
There are two other candidates in the race, including Alivera Mkabaramba, the first Rwandan woman to run for president. But she has a limited following and is not expected to mount much of a challenge to Mr. Kagame.