As Expected! Opposition’s Diane Rwigara Barred from Rwanda Presidential Race

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Diane Rwigara, one of Rwanda’s most vocal opposition figures, has been blocked from contesting in the country’s July 15 presidential election.

“After all the time, work and effort I put in, I am very disappointed to hear that I am not on the list of presidential candidates,” said Rwigara, 42, on Friday evening.

@PaulKagame why won’t you let me run?,” she wondered on X platform, adding, “This is the second time you cheat me out of my right to campaign.”

Rwigara on June 4, 2024, presented her nomination papers for the upcoming presidential elections. 

Rwigara, who is the leader of the People Salvation Movement (PSM), said she had submitted all the required documents plus 974 signatures (600 is the minimum required number) from all 30 districts.

Interestingly, Rwigara did not appear on the provisional list of candidates released by Rwanda’s electoral body on Thursday.The list had Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) candidate Paul Kagame, Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party and independent Philippe Mpayimana.

The electoral body’s chief, Oda Gasinzigwa, said out of the required 600 signature endorsements, Rwigara fell short of providing at least 12 signatures from eight districts.

The commission further said Rwigara, who held Belgian citizenship until 2017, did not prove she was Rwandan by birth. 

However, Rwigara maintained she was born in Rwanda. 

Rwigara recently announced her presidential bid, saying, “A new chapter for Rwanda begins now. Join me as I run for President.”

She told her supporters, “Together we will make history!”

Rwanda will hold presidential elections on July 15, 2024. 

President Paul Kagame, 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.

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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. 

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. 

At the time, Rwigara said she had 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 US State Department and the European Union also criticised the decision.

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).

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.

She was charged on 23 September 2017, alongside her mother 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 eradicate poverty, establish universal health insurance, and champion free speech.

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

Rwigara later launched an activist group called the People 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.

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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