Three candidates vying for Rwanda’s presidency officially kicked off campaigns on Friday ahead of the August 4 poll, which the incumbent President Paul Kagame is expected to win with little challenge.
For the next 20 days, until August 3, the three candidates: President Kagame, the flag bearer of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi), Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent candidate will traverse the country to sell their manifestos to the electorate.
The elimination of two “considerable” independent candidates, Gilbert Mwenedata and Diane Shima Rwigara, tilted the race farther towards an RPF landslide, with the opposition candidate and Mpayimana not expected to cause any upset.
The EastAfrican takes a look at each candidate’s promises:
President Kagame has been at the helm since 2000 but was first elected in 2003 for a seven-year term before he contested again in 2010 and won what would have been his final term.
However, following the amendment of the Constitution in 2015, the incumbent became eligible to contest another seven-year term and could possibly seek two more four-year terms.
The RPF chairman goes into the race as the favourite; buoyed by the party’s vast resources and support, his rallies are expected to bring the country to a standstill, making his competitors less visible.
President Kagame, a father of four, who turns 60 in October, goes into the polls riding on a number of successes by his government over the past seven years in the areas of infrastructure, social welfare, regional integration and stability.
His party has vowed to push further for unity, justice, democracy, promote good governance and socio-economic development over the next seven years.
Announcing the ruling party’s manifesto last week, the RPF secretary-general Francois Ngarambe said that once elected, the ruling party will be looking to consolidate the gains made over the past seven years.
Critics of the ruling party point out that while the party has been at the forefront of socio-economic transformation over the past 23 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, it has failed to open up political space and allow alternative voices.
The head of the Rwandan Greens has been active in the country’s politics since 2009, albeit going through many difficulties, including fleeing into exile in 2010, but returning in 2012 when he was able to finally register his party.
Mr Habineza believes that he has enough experience and ideas that can propel him to the country’s highest office.
The 40-year old environmentalist turned politician thrives on a number of populist promises, which have earned him ridicule from some, particularly the idea of constructing a wall on the Rwanda-Democratic Republic of Congo border.
While he maintains that he is not attempting to ride on Trump-like ideas, Mr Habineza says that over the years Rwanda has had issues with its neighbours DRC and Burundi and constructing a wall along the border would end such conflicts.
Mr Habineza also offers alternatives to some of the programmes started by the RPF government, which he says have become a burden on Rwandans, including the crop and land intensification programmes, and also reform land ownership policies.
“The issue of land ownership needs to be revisited; it’s unfair for citizens to rent their ancestral land from the government. The current expropriation policy only considers properties on land but does not value the land itself. This needs immediate change.
“We will encourage, promote and partner for better methods of farming that will help Rwandans have enough food to eat and for export. We also require that farmers are consulted by state officials before decisions are made on what types of crops are suitable for their land,” the party’s programme says.
The father of three kicked off his campaign in the southwestern districts of Rusizi and Nyamasheke before he returned to the Southern Province district of Kamonyi.
The former journalist, teacher and author is considered an amateur in Rwandan politics and has no known political record or achievements. However, the 47-year old maintains that he is a breath of fresh air in the country’s politics and budding democracy.
Mr Mpayimana, whose motorcycle antics earned him the moniker “moto man,” is in the race with limited resources compared with the more financially stable RPF-Inkotanyi or even the Greens. But he maintains that he will work within his limited resources to reach out to all Rwandans.
Beginning his campaign in Bugesera district in Eastern Province before heading to Southern Province and later the west of the country, Mr Mpayimana says that he wants to be an agent of democracy and freedom.
“My main project is to transform Rwanda into a state with full democratic rights, where engaging in politics has no consequences,” he says, adding that his mission is to make Rwanda a country where people’s ideas are fully recognised and represented.
“I would like to break down the barriers of fear engendered by political activity in the country,” he says.
If voted for, Mr Mpayimana says he will instil the democratic culture of political participation, where all citizens have a right to vie for all political offices including the presidency.
Among other things, he says he will be looking to consolidate what has already been achieved while emphasising strengthening of unity and reconciliation, strengthening of democratic and judicial institutions and restoring of the country’s culture, traditions and norms.
The father of four, who until recently lived in France, laughs off those who underestimate his political clout or his lack of financial muscle, noting that it is his ideas that will endear him to Rwandans.
His inclusion on the final list of candidates by the National Electoral Commission on July 7 shocked many, as the electoral body had earlier said he lacked signatures from the majority of the districts and had only five days to meet the requirements.