Christopher Kayumba, a senior journalism university lecturer, has joined active politics in Rwanda by forming a new political party - Rwandese Platform for Democracy (RPD).
Mr Kayumba announced his intentions to register a new political party on social media last week, saying that the RPD seeks to address “weakness in our social, economic, and political system revealed by Covid-19 and deeper problems of widespread poverty and inequality.”
The announcement comes a few months after he was released from prison where he served a one-year jail sentence for intentionally causing damage to property at Kigali International Airport or its related facilities.
He had been accused of public drunkenness and damaging the airport property, but the court cleared him of the public drunkenness charges and convicted him for the destruction of property.
Mr Kayumba hopes to overturn the sentence through an appeal as Rwanda’s law governing political parties and politicians prevents individuals sentenced to imprisonment equal to or exceeding six months from being in a political organisation’s management.
“This serves to inform members of the media and the general public about the formation of the Rwandese Platform for Democracy (RPD) as a forum to advance, and contribute to the development of a freer, democratic, just, secure and sustainably peaceful and developed Rwanda,” reads a statement posted on social media on March 16, announcing the launch of the political party.
But the statement comes a few weeks after Kayumba wrote an open letter to President Paul Kagame on February 10, 2021 “about Covid-19 and its impact on the life of ordinary citizens, livelihoods of our communities, and the economy.”
In his letter, Mr Kayumba poked holes in the government's strategy to contain the Covid-19 pandemic citing “securitisation of the virus” which had broader adverse effects on businesses, people’s livelihoods, and basic rights.
“Our objective is to end this state of affairs,” Mr Kayumba told The East African.
The party plans to launch its manifesto and hold a delegates’ conference to announce its leaders and prepare the paperwork and other requisites to start the formal registration process.
Asked whether he intended to run for Presidency or public office, Mr Kayumba said that this would be decided by party members.
“I don't aspire to have an office. I belong to the office of ideas; therefore, those formal offices don't interest me,” he said.
Registration of a political party in Rwanda requires submitting letters requesting for the organisation to be registered, statutes and internal rules and regulations which must hold signatures of at least 200 people in the whole country with at least five people having their domicile in each district.
Currently, registered political parties in Rwanda, except one, are in a coalition with the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). They include the Social Democratic Party (PSD), Liberal Party (PL) and Social Party Imberakuri (PS Imberakuri).
The only registered independent opposition party that is not in the coalition is the Democratic Green Party.
Christopher Kayumba holds a Ph.D. in peace and development research and is the author of “Threatening & Appropriate Bodies in Nation-building: Paths to World’s First Female Parliamentary Majority in Post-Genocide Rwanda” published by the Swedish University - University of Gothenburg. He has practiced and taught journalism in Rwanda for over 15 years and is currently a founding member of an English online website - The Chronicles.