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Opposition candidate for Rwanda’s presidency manages
to grab attention as Kagame enjoys high popularity    

By Mohammed M. Mupenda KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) -- Rwanda’s presidential campaigns officially kicked off Friday. The three candidates are Incumbent President Paul Kagame, Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR), and Philipe Mpayimana, independent candidate.

According to the National Electoral Commission (NEC), the campaigns will end on August 3, one day before the voting day.

Habineza launched his presidential campaign on Friday in Rusizi District, western Rwanda. There are 11 political parties in Rwanda. Besides the ruling party, eight opposition parties backed Kagame in this year’s election, according to Kagame at a campaign rally.

Kagame gained landslide victories in the last two presidential elections held in 2003 and 2010 by winning 95 percent and 93 percent of the total votes, respectively.

When Habineza arrived at the campaign venue in the district, he was welcomed by hundreds of supporters chanting DGPR songs.

Habineza, who was born in 1977 in Uganda and returned to Rwanda after 1994’s genocide, managed to attract the attention of supporters who came to listen to his manifesto.

DGPR emphasizes on eradicating poverty, land taxes, creating job opportunities for the youths, striving for reduction of unemployment, establishing a national security council and ensuring a better civil-military relations model, promoting economic growth without environmental degradation, championing the respect of all fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the constitution.

“We will end the food shortage and hunger in the country by considering citizen’s views participation,” Habineza explained the manifesto to the press and supporters at the rally.

“I will make sure that under my party’s government, we shall achieve what the RPF (the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front) has failed to achieve,” he said.

“We will offer shelter for soldiers and provide health facilities around those houses.”

After the first stop of campaign in Rusizi, Habineza moved to Nyamasheke district, western Rwanda on Saturday for the second day of his rally.

Upon his arrival, Habineza, along with his wife Judith Kabarira and his party members, was welcomed by his supporters chanting his name and manifesto. Aime Fabien Kamali, Mayor of Nyamasheke District, in his welcome remarks reminded DGPR of respecting the campaign rules as indicated by NEC.

“We are delighted to welcome you to the district. In the democracy, multiple parties are recognized and DGPR is legalized on Rwandan land,” Kamali added.

Despite the low turn up at the rally, Habineza is confident that he will win the election. People know DGPR, which is in people’s heart, he said.

Habineza said he will deal with the long standing conflict between Rwanda and countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and France.

“I am ready to engage in talks. France was once our good friend and we had good diplomatic relations that I will reinstate once elected,” he promised.

“I will make sure we are living harmoniously with France and the neighboring countries, and what others call enemies for the country, we see them as Rwandans and we are ready to engage in daily talks,” he explained his foreign policy.

He also said he will reduce VAT from 18 percent to 15 percent.

Rose Musanabera, 32, from Nyamasheke District told Xinhua that Habineza has a good manifesto but she will wait for other candidates to also present theirs to decide who to vote for. Pascal Rugira, 28, said Habineza’s policies can boost social welfare of all Rwandans.

But another participant Vedaste Nsengiyumva criticizes the DGPR’s manifesto, saying that the government cannot get money to develop the countries and paying workers without taxing citizens on land and other economic activities.



With achievements made, Rwandans believe in their own path for development

By Lyu Tianran, Mohammed M.Mupenda and James Gashumba KIGALI Rwanda(Xinhua) -- Rwandans will go to polls on August 4 to decide the presidency for the next seven years. Various achievements have been made under the current government led by Incumbent President Paul Kagame, and Rwandans said they believe in their own path for development.

Kagame, who represents the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), is seeking re-election. Other two presidential candidates are Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent candidate.

The government’s achievements in the past seven years include unity, poverty reduction, peace, security, fighting corruption, inclusive development, accountability and justice as foundation for sustainable development, infrastructure development and environment conservation, women empowerment, according to Anastase Shyaka, the CEO of Rwanda Governance Board.

Government has various social protection programs. Elderly or disabled are given subsistence allowances. Rwanda alongside Mauritius was ranked the third least corrupt country in sub-Saharan Africa on the global Corruption Perception Index released in January 2017.

According to the Rwandan Household Living Conditions Survey released by the government in 2012, at least 1 million Rwandans have been lifted out of poverty in five years.

Over the past seven years, more than 7,000 households were given cows, over 100 schools were constructed in Gisagara district, read RPF’s daily campaign brief issued after Kagame joined presidential campaigns in the district. In Nyaruguru district, 33 kilometers of feeder roads were built, the bridges increased to 40 from 26 in 2010, the number of households connected to the grid has increased by 20 percent since 2010.

Kagame has been president since 2000 when he was elected transitional president by ministers and members of parliament following the resignation of then President Pasteur Bizimungu. He was then reelected in 2003 and 2010.

“Some people have said that the result of the election is a foregone conclusion. They are not wrong. Rwandans made their position clear in 2015,” Kagame said at his first campaign rally in Ruhango District in Southern Province.

Rwandans in 2015 voted in a constitutional referendum that allowed Kagame to seek re-election after his term expires in 2017. Some 98 percent of voters voted “yes.”

The United States expressed “disappointment” that the referendum was called on short notice to amend the Rwandan constitution and introduce exceptions to term limits. The Delegation of the European Union to Rwanda also expressed concern that the one week run-up to the referendum in Rwanda neither fully explained the constitutional changes, nor offered sufficient time and space for debate.

After the referendum, Kagame in a veiled message said statements that depict Rwandans as people incapable of either thought or feeling are “deliberately abusive.”

Rwandans expect a democracy in which public office is routinely transferred from one individual of their choice to another, he said at annual national dialogue council after the referendum, adding that “Rwandans want a good politics that keeps delivering results, and respects the fundamental principles in our Constitution.”

Rwanda has decided to use its own democratic way based on commonly accepted principles of democracy, to which it has subscribed including free and fair elections, human rights, rule of law, citizens’ participation in shaping their future, inclusiveness for all, social protection and so on, Director General of Rwanda Management Institute Wellars Gasamagera told Xinhua in a telephone interview.

Rwanda refused the western style of a copy and refused to paste the shortcut in the exercise of the democratic agenda, said Gasamagera.

“The country instituted such mechanisms like the forum of political parties based on constitutional principles of seeking consensual settlement of disputes while respecting differences,” he said.

There are 11 political parties in Rwanda, among them RPF and eight opposition parities back Kagame in this year’s election. “Those who think this specialty of Rwanda is not democracy, their studies on democracy were a waste of time because everywhere in the world what comes first in democracy is people’s wish,” Kagame said at his campaign rally.

“It’s a wish based on many things such as how they see themselves, how they benefit, how they feel and how they want it. The decision that is made is of the majority but it respects the rights of all including those who don’t agree with us.”

The 1994’s Rwanda genocide claimed over 1 million lives, mostly ethnic Tutsis. After ending the genocide, RPF formed a coalition government, which brought parties that did not participate in the genocide together, and started the journey of reconstruction and reconciliation.

Throughout Rwanda’s reconstruction, Rwanda learned to count on its own efforts, secure its dignity, ensure that its path to development is based on self-reliance and not on western charity, said Gasamagera.

“I does not care about democracy for the westerners or wherever, what I care much is security, human rights, development, people’s value, social well-being and prosperity,” a 28-year-old Rwandan journalist, Anne Marie Dushimimana, told Xinhua.

She said she will vote for someone who is able to maintain security of Rwanda, has a clear vision for the country, and understands the value of the people.

Rwanda has a consensual form of democracy based on power sharing and this came into force in the 2003 constitution, said Kayumba Christopher, senior lecturer at the University of Rwanda. Those who usually criticize Rwanda, they should know that the country has laws, institutions and citizens’ vote, he said in an interview.

Christopher said he will vote for the leader who understands the country’s problems and know how to solve them.

Hamza Rukundo, a 19-year-old student, said he would vote for a leader who will bring security, keep the citizens employed regardless of their status.

Campaigns for the three qualified presidential candidates started on July 14 and will end on August 3, just a day before the voting day.

About 6.8 million people will participate in this year’s presidential elections, up from 5.7 million who participated in 2010 presidential elections, according to the National Electoral Commission of Rwanda.



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