Rwanda’s Ruling Party Picks Kagame As Presidential Flagbearer

Rwanda’s ruling party named President Paul Kagame as its candidate for the July election, setting up a battle in which the veteran leader is largely likely to be re-elected for a fourth seven-year term.

The 66-year-old has ruled the landlocked African country for decades, winning elections in 2003, 2010, and 2017 with more than 90% of the vote.

According to the Rwandan Patriotic Front, Kagame’s nomination went unopposed during the party’s conference, which ended Saturday.

Kagame said he had accepted the nomination but asked the ruling party to plan for a transition beyond him.

“The responsibility of leading our country can be likened to a shock absorber for the challenges we face every day.” “It requires the right mindset,” he explained.

“I accept this burden of responsibility, but with a call to get someone to relieve me of this responsibility.”

Frank Habineza, the opposition Green Party leader, is Kagame’s only known contender in the July polls.

The 47-year-old member of parliament received only 0.45% of the vote in the 2017 election, placing third in elections that rights groups criticized for irregularities and voter intimidation.

Victoire Ingabire, the leader of the unregistered Dalfa Umurunzi (Development And Liberty For All) movement, has been barred from running for president due to a previous criminal conviction.

The court’s verdict on whether she can run for president is scheduled for March 13.

Rwanda will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on July 15, after the government’s decision last year to align the voting dates.

On July 16, electoral colleges and committees will pick 24 women MPs, two youth members, and one representative for disabled Rwandans.

Candidates will be able to campaign from June 22 until July 12, according to the election calendar.

While Rwanda claims to be one of Africa’s most stable countries, rights groups accuse Kagame of fostering an environment of fear that suppresses dissent and free expression.

Kagame, a former rebel chief, was elected president in April 2000 but has served as the country’s de facto leader since the 1994 genocide ended.

He presided over contentious constitutional reforms in 2015 that allowed him to run for another term and remain in power until 2034.

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