Two independent presidential hopefuls have failed to make it to the final list of candidates and will not be on the ballot in Rwanda’s August 4 election.
Out of the four independent candidates who submitted their presidential bids, only Philippe Mpayimana made it to the final list.
Mpayimana joins Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda who will battle it out with the incumbent President Paul Kagame of RPF-Inkotanyi for the top seat.
Announcing the final list on Friday evening, the chairman of the National Electoral Commission Kalisa Mbanda said that out of the six people who submitted bids, only three made it to the final list.
“The commissioners met and assessed the requirements supporting the bids as stipulated in the law and the following candidates were confirmed on the final list after they fulfilled all the requirements,” said Prof Mbanda.
“The first one is Frank Habineza fronted by the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, Philippe Mpayimana, an independent candidate and Paul Kagame fronted by RPF Inkotanyi.”
Prof Mbanda said that Gilbert Mwenedata managed 522 of the 600 signatures required by the law — an improvement from the previous 387 signatures.
“He did not get a single signature from Burera District and also included a dead person among the signatures,” the NEC head said.
Fred Sekikubo Barafinda managed to raise 362 signatures. He, however, failed to get the minimum 12 signatures required from each of the 30 districts. He also failed to submit a citizenship certificate.
“The other candidate who did not make it to the final list is Diane Nshimiyimana Rwigara because she did not raise the 600 signatures required. She has 572 signatures and used voters cards which are yet to be obtained by their owners,” said Prof Mbanda.
He added: “Some of the signatures belong to deceased people; she also used documents belonging to the political party PS Imberakuri while gathering signatures, which puts her integrity in disrepute,” said Prof Mbanda.
The NEC announcement came as Ms Rwigara declared that she had submitted more signatures than what the NEC required.
She said she had submitted 120 more signatures in addition to some 150 submitted earlier which were valid but were not included on the list because the owners of the signatures relocated their polling stations.
“I submitted additional NEC requirements including 120 signatures from 11 districts which brings the total number of signatures collected and submitted to 1,105 — almost double the NEC requirement,” Ms Rwigara said.
But on its Twitter account, NEC said that one of the people who signed for Ms Rwigara died on April 16, in Kibagabaga hospital and was buried the next day.
“Ms Rwigara also connived with an NEC volunteer Josephine Uwingabire to sign for 26 people, while 34 people who signed for her were taken off a list of members of PS Imberakuri,” the electoral body tweeted.
Other independent candidates echoed Ms Rwigara’s sentiments saying that they had submitted more than the required number of 600 signatures, but the NEC knocked off a big number of them.
Mr Mwenedata claimed that members of his team were threatened and intimated in different parts of the country when they went to collect more signatures.
“When you have cars without number plates trailing you, you can’t say you are 100 per cent secure,” Mr Mwenedata told Voice of America, expressing his lack of confidence in the electoral body to fairly vet the signatures.
The omission of the independent candidates from the provisional list caused jitters, with several diplomats tasking the NEC to explain the circumstances under which they were left out.
The incumbent President Kagame who is seeking a third term described the envoys’ involvement as “interference” saying they should let the electoral body do its job and not be put under pressure from anyone.
He said that foreign envoys should “stop fuelling fire” while describing the “interference” as a “bizarre situation.”
“My question is, does the electoral commission, or will the electoral commission clarify things they should because the European Union representative has said so?” he posed.
His remarks in a TV talk show came days after several diplomats including the EU, ambassadors from the UK, South Korea and the US visited the electoral commission to “understand better” the vetting process which left out independent presidential candidates on the provisional list.
According to Michael Ryan, the head of the EU delegation to Rwanda, diplomats wanted to understand from the NEC’s perspective the process which raised fears that independent candidates could be left out, and possibly denting the credibility of the elections.
Campaigns begin on July 14, three weeks to the August election. Rwandans in the diaspora vote a day earlier.