Rwanda: opponent Victoire Ingabire not authorized to run for president

Rwanda: opponent Victoire Ingabire not authorized to run for president

A Rwandan court on Wednesday rejected the request to restore the civil rights of Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, an opposition figure to President Paul Kagame, a decision which prevents her from running in the July 15 presidential election.

The 55-year-old opponent, who cannot appeal this decision for two years, was stripped of her rights after her conviction in 2013 to 15 years in prison, notably for “minimizing the 1994 genocide”, which cost 800,000 died between April and July 1994, mainly among the Tutsi minority.

“I do not agree with this decision. It is clearly politicized. We still have a country where the courts are still not independent”she immediately reacted to AFP from the court in the capital Kigali where she attended the announcement of the judgment.

Since her return to the country in January 2010 after 16 years in the Netherlands, this economist of Hutu origin has spent a large part of her time in prison.

She was arrested and accused of denying the reality of the genocide, after asking on January 16, 2010, during a visit to the Kigali genocide memorial, that the perpetrators of crimes against the Hutu also be judged.

She was released in September 2018 as part of a presidential pardon granted to more than 2,000 prisoners.

“During the presidential pardon granted to Ingabirecertain conditions have been set which it must respect”said the court in its decision, in reference to the maintenance of deprivation of civil rights in the event of a sentence of more than six months.

“His request is therefore unfounded,” he judged.

Leader of the Dalfa Umurunzi (Development and Freedom for All) movement, unauthorized by Kigali, Ms. Ingabire had announced her desire to run in the July presidential election against Paul Kagame, whom she accuses in particular of flouting freedom of expression, to repress the opposition and neglect the poorest populations.

In a press release posted on social networks, she expressed her “deep disappointment”but assured of its “determination intact”.

“Today’s decision is a stark reminder of the barriers to political participation and the urgent need for governance reform in our country”she writes.

“I am determined to continue the fight for the establishment of true democracy in Rwanda, advocating for respect for human rights and the rule of law” she adds.

Only two candidates have so far declared themselves for the July 15 election: Mr. Kagame, the country's strongman since 1994 – when the Rwandan Patriotic Front put an end to the genocide – and president since 2000, and Frank Habineza , leader of the Democratic Green Party which obtained 0.45% of the vote in the last election in 2017.

The Democratic Green Party is the only authorized political group that criticizes the government. The other so-called opposition parties with official approval support Paul Kagame.

If he is credited with the spectacular development of Rwanda, bloodless after the genocide, Mr. Kagame is regularly accused of flouting freedom of expression and repressing all opposition.

Elected president by Parliament in April 2000, he obtained more than 90% of the votes in the presidential elections which have since been held by universal suffrage in 2003, 2010 and 2017.

Under constitutional amendments passed in 2015, the 66-year-old leader can potentially remain in power until 2034.

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