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Rwandan Presidential Contenders Focus on Economy


Incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame gives a speech during a campaign rally July 31, 2017, in Gakenke, Rwanda, ahead of the August 4 presidential election.

With only a few days until Rwanda's presidential election, candidates are focusing on the economy as they make their final pitches to voters.

President Paul Kagame, predicted by most analysts to win big in Friday's poll, campaigned Monday in Rwanda's Northern Province. While there, he promised residents that the dusty roads in their district would be improved as soon as he is re-elected.

The president appealed to national pride as he addressed a large crowd.

"We have the responsibility to transform our own nation. Others may come and help, but the foundation of it all is each of us," he said.

One of Kagame's two opponents, Green Party candidate Frank Habineza, campaigned in the Huye district of southern Rwanda. Habineza vowed to slash taxes for the poor, support small traders and reduce unemployment.

In May, the country's National Institute of Statistics said unemployment stood at 13.2 percent.

“We want to eliminate anything that is a hindrance to our economic growth,” Habineza told a crowd of several hundred in Huye.

Habineza and independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana are fighting an uphill battle against Kagame, who has led the central African nation for more than 20 years and won landslide victories in the last two presidential elections.

Under his rule, Rwanda has enjoyed a decline in poverty and steady economic growth based on agriculture, construction, mining and tourism, although human rights groups accuse Kagame of suppressing dissent.

Campaigning in western Rwanda on Saturday, the president vowed that his development plan would help all Rwandans.

“We want everyone in Rwanda to benefit from our development; we don’t leave anyone behind,” he said.

Presidential campaigns are expected to end on August 2.

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