Rwanda's independent candidates fail to get enough signatures
Tuesday June 27 2017
Ruling RPF-Inkotanyi’s candidate, President Paul Kagame, and opposition’s Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, Frank Habineza, were Tuesday evening given the greenlight to run for presidency in this year’s August 4 General Election.
While making the announcement, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) said all independent candidates, also seeking the top office, failed to meet the necessary requirements.
NEC’s president Prof Kalisa Mbanda said the list was only provisional and the candidates who failed had five days to fulfil all requirements or risk being disqualified.
“Some candidates were temporarily confirmed and these are Frank Habineza of DGPR and Paul Kagame of RPF. Those who have not been confirmed are independent candidates,” he said.
The independent candidates are Gilbert Mwenedata, Diane Shima Rwigara, Philippe Mpayimana and Fred Sekikubo Barafinda.
Among key requirements for the aspirants were 600 signatures of registered voters with at least 12 from each of Rwanda’s 30 districts. Prof Mbanda said the candidates failed to meet this requirement.
Only 387 signatures submitted by Mwenedata were approved with those from 15 districts missing.
Barafinda did not present his list of signatures when he submitted his bid.
“Rwigara Nshimiyimana is missing a few signatures to fulfil the required 600 and she did not cover all the 30 districts.
“For Mpayimana Philippe, 265 signatures have been confirmed but he lacks signatures from at least 23 districts,” Prof Mbanda said.
The candidates now have until July 5 to resubmit their bids.
“On July 7, we will issue the final list,” he said.
According to NEC, the signatures are verified against the voter’s district of origin and whether they have registered to vote.
Prof Mbanda said that while all the independent candidates had submitted the required number of signatures, many were found not to be valid during the verification process. He cited examples of cases where people had signed against the wrong district, while others were not eligible voters.
“We check in the voters' list to confirm if the person who signed is registered to vote. We also verify if indeed the exercise of acquiring signatures was done in all districts at the sector level and if it wasn’t done, we ask the candidates to do so,” Prof Mbanda said.
Mwenedata said he was surprised to learn that he did not make the list yet he had submitted 670 signatures collected from the 30 districts.
“I made sure I had more than 12 signatures in each district, such that if some are disqualified, I would still have the required 600,” he told The EastAfrican on Tuesday.
He further said he was yet to be contacted by NEC to inform him of the development and only heard about it through the media.
“I will follow up with the commission, but I don’t understand how all 283 signatures could not meet the requirements. That is a huge number,” he said, adding that if he learns that it is a way to frustrate independent candidates, “he will not waste his time”.
Ms Rwigara, sharing similar sentiments, said she had presented more than 900 signatures.
While presenting their bids earlier, the independent candidates had raised concerns of alleged harassment and intimidation from local leaders during the exercise to gather signatures.
READ: Rwanda Polls: Candidates submit bids
Speaking last week after presenting his papers to NEC, President Kagame said that no candidate should be harassed or intimidated during the electoral exercise.
The final list will be announced on July 7, while campaigns kick off on July 14. The General Election will take place on August 4 with Rwandans in the diaspora voting a day earlier.