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Candidate Withdraws from Rwanda Election - 2003-08-25

Rwanda's only female presidential candidate has withdrawn from the race and has asked her supporters to back Paul Kagame as president.

Alivera Mukabaramba heads the Party for Progress and Concord. Until Sunday, she was one of four candidates in the presidential election.

Official party spokesman Christian Marara said the Party for Progress and Concord pulled out of the presidential race because fellow candidate Faustin Twagiramungu is dividing voters along ethnic lines and the party does not want to be associated with an election that is based on ethnic politics.

After withdrawing from the race, the Party for Progress and Concord encouraged its supporters to vote for Mr. Kagame, one of the remaining three candidates and currently Rwanda's president.

Mr. Twagiramungu, who is a Hutu, has been accused of fomenting ethnic divisions by, among other things, telling Hutus only a vote for him will return them to power.

Mr. Twagiramungu has accused Mr. Kagame and his Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front of harassing his supporters, blocking crowds from attending his rallies, and other forms of intimidation.

Ethnic relations are a sensitive issue in Rwanda. In 1994, Hutu extremists killed up to a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The presidential ballot is the first election in Rwanda since that genocide took place.