Rwanda Elections: Kagame Critic Diane Rwigara Announces Presidential Bid

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Diane Rwigara, one of Rwanda’s most vocal opposition figures, has said she will stand in the country’s upcoming presidential elections.

“A new chapter for Rwanda begins now,” said Rwigara on the X platform on Wednesday, adding,  “Join me as I run for President.”

Rwanda will hold presidential elections on July 15, 2024. 

President Paul Kagame, who has been president since 2000, is already campaigning for re-election.

Kagame is eligible to continue in office for another decade after a constitutional amendment in 2015 changed term limits that would have forced him to step down two years later.

In 2015, Rwigara returned to Rwanda from California after her father died in a car crash.

On 3 May 2017, Rwigara, an accountant by profession, announced her intention to run as an independent candidate in Rwanda’s presidential election. 

Disqualification

On 7 July 2017, the National Electoral Commission disqualified Rwigara from the election on technical grounds, alleging she had used forged signatures in her presidential bid and had submitted only 572 valid signatures rather than the required 600. 

Anne Rwigara and her father who passed away in a road accident in 2015

Rwigara said she submitted 958 signatures, with an additional 120 after some were disqualified.

Two other candidates were also disqualified, prompting Amnesty International to say that the election would be held in a “climate of fear and repression.”

The decision was also criticised by the US State Department and the European Union.

After Rwigara was disqualified, Rwanda’s Revenue Authority slapped her family’s business with a tax bill of 5.7 billion Rwandan francs (approximately $6.5 million).

Charges 

The government also seized the family’s business, selling off their assets for more than 1.7 billion Rwandan francs (approximately $1.9 million) in auctions in March and June 2018.

Diane was charged on 23 September 2017, alongside her mother Adeline and four other defendants, with “inciting insurrection” among other counts, but was acquitted along with her mother on 6 December 2018.

She reiterated her intention to run, with campaign vows to work towards eradicating poverty, establishing universal health insurance and championing free speech.

Kagame won the 4 August election with 98% of the vote.

Rwigara later launched an activist group called the People’s Salvation Movement to challenge 

President Kagame’s government on its human rights record, saying that the country’s parliament is little more than a rubber stamp.

It remains unclear if Rwigara will stand on the People Salvation Movement ticket.

The platform seeks to sensitise Rwandans about their rights and criticise the policies and actions of the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) party.

Diane’s sister, Anne Rwigara, passed away in her home in California, United States on Thursday, December 28. 

She was aged 41 and was said to have succumbed to multiple organ failures after suffering stomach complications.

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