How will divided opposition fare against RPF in 2017?

Saturday February 22 2014

Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire. PHOTO | FILE

Rwanda’s opposition parties have three years to stop wrangling and put their house in order or stand no chance of competing with the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front in the 2017 presidential polls.

Last week, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), one of the most prominent of the opposition groups in exile, was rocked by the resignation of one of its senior members, Dr Paulin Murayi and his wife Winnie Kabuga, who quit and started their own party.

In addition, meetings bringing together Rwandan opposition groups in Europe, which were organised by former prime minister Faustin Twagiramungu, were marred by divisions, with some agreeing to attend while others refusing to do so.

Mr Twagiramungu said he called the meetings in Brussels in a bid to bring together the Rwandan opposition to form a united front to discuss the way forward for the country.

“It is time the Rwandan government talked to all sides to ensure that an ultimate solution for the political problems in Rwanda is arrived at. If they are not ready to talk, we are set to use other means,” Mr Twagiramungu said in an interview.

In the series of meetings that took place on February 1 and 2 and February 15, Mr Twagiramungu sought to persuade Rwandan opposition groups to push for talks with Kigali.


The former prime minister runs the Rwanda Dream Initiative (RDI) Rwanda Rwiza, which recently formed an alliance with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group made up of Hutu militias accused of committing the Genocide against the Tutsi, and a faction of PS Imberakuri.

Didas Gasana, an exiled Rwandan journalist and political analyst, pointed out that Rwandan opposition parties’ prime political enemy is not President Paul Kagame or the RPF, but one another.

READ: Rwanda’s real opposition: Now you don’t see them, now you do

While the Rwanda National Congress had little participation in the meetings, another party led by the incarcerated Victoire Ingabire, the Union of Democratic Forces (FDU) Inkingi, was divided on whether to attend or not.

A Europe-based faction of FDU Inkingi, led by Nkiko Nsengimana, pulled out at the last minute but the other group led by the interim vice president Boniface Twagirimana sent delegates.

Mr Twagirimana nominated Joseph Bukeye and Michel Niyibizi to represent the party, which has witnessed internal wrangling ever since Ms Ingabire was detained upon return to Rwanda in January 2010.

She was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in jail on charges of genocide ideology and denial as well as conspiring to threaten state security.

READ: Court hands Ingabire 15-year jail term

FDU Inkingi, like many other Rwandan opposition groups, has lost ground and has failed to win over Rwandans back home and in the diaspora.

On the other hand, RNC was shaken by the murder of Patrick Karegeya, one of its founders, who was found dead in a hotel room in Johannesburg, South Africa. The former head of external security was an integral part of the opposition.

READ: Rwanda now dismisses murder of ‘sworn enemy’ Karegeya

The political organisation, formed by dissident army and government officials, has lost steam since its formation in 2010. It had been touted as the party that would pose the biggest threat to RPF’s power but over the past couple of years, the group has weakened.

Its more vocal founders, such as Dr Gerald Gahima, a former prosecutor general in Rwanda, Dr Theoneste Rudasingwa, a former RPF secretary general and Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former army chief of staff, have been quiet of late.

Currently, there is no opposition politician in or outside the country who can pose a major threat to RPF in 2017, whether President Kagame decides to step down or seeks re-election under an amended constitution.

Even Frank Habineza, the head of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda — the youngest recognised party in Rwanda — believes that it will not be easy for any opposition group to take on RPF, let alone dislodge it from power.