CHARGED: Former presidential aspirant Diana Shima Rwigara

Diane Shima Rwigara, the female candidate who had hitherto generated a lot of debate in regard to the August 4 elections in Rwanda, has been disqualified from contestinbg for the presidency.

Running as an Independent Ms. Rwigara, one of the three candidates disqualified, was told her fate yesterday by the Electoral Commission, which claimed she had failed to garner enough signatures to support her candidature.

But last week Ms Rwigara said that local leaders threatened her supporters while they collected signatures, while the Electoral Commission boss Kalisa Mbanda said she was excluded from the race for submitting signatures of some people who have been long dead and others who belong to a rival political party.

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According to electoral laws, independent presidential candidates are required to present 600 signatures, with at least 12 from each of Rwanda’s 30 districts. Others disqualified by the commission are Gilbert Mwenedata and Fred Sekikubo Barafinda.


Rwandans go to the polls Aug. 4 and will choose among longtime President Paul Kagame, Frank Habineza of the opposition Democratic Green Party and independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana. Kagame is widely expected to win.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has charged that the election will be held under a ‘climate of fear’ and repression, adding that the East African nation has seen two decades of often deadly attacks on political opponents, journalists and rights activists. The group called for serious political reforms.

“Since the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front took power 23 years ago, Rwandans have faced huge, and often deadly, obstacles to participating in public life and voicing criticism of government policy,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, an Amnesty official in East Africa.

Many killings and disappearances have been blamed on the government of Kagame, who has been Rwanda’s de facto leader or elected president since the end of the country’s 1994 genocide.

Kagame is credited with leading Rwanda to stability and impressive economic growth, but critics say he is an authoritarian who is intolerant of legitimate opposition.


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