Rwanda’s Parti Sociale (PS-Imberakuri) has threatened legal action against one of the disqualified independent presidential aspirants, Diane Shima Rwigara.
The opposition party said if it confirms that she used its list of members as part of the signatures she submitted to the electoral commission, it would take her to court.
Last week, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) said only three individuals would contest for Rwanda’s top seat – President Paul Kagame of Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF)-Ikotanyi, Frank Habineza of Democratic Green Party, and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent candidate.
Ms Rwigara, Gilbert Mwenedata and Fred Sekikubo Barafinda, who had been running as independent aspirants, were ruled out of the presidential race after failing to meet set requirements.
Ms Rwigara, NEC said, managed to get only 572 signatures, 28 short of 600 required by the electoral law. According to the law, the independent candidates are to collect 600 signatures – at least 12 from each of Rwanda’s 30 districts.
According to NEC, 34 of the people who signed for Ms Rwigara were obtained from a list of PS Imberakuri members, who had not consented to signing for her.
Christine Mukabunani, the leader of the party, said they will take the necessary legal steps against Ms Rwigara for using their members.
“At this point we are still putting together information to know how she got the list and then consider filing a case against her,” Ms Mukabunani said.
She said the party received complaints from some of its members that their names and identification numbers appeared among Ms Rwigara signatories without their consent or knowledge.
Ms Mukabunani said the party was yet to obtain the list in question from NEC and has not conferred with Ms Rwigara in order to understand how she obtained the said signatures.
PS Imberakuri, which did not field a presidential candidate and has neither endorsed any of the three confirmed candidates, has been marred by internal disagreements for the last seven years.
One faction, which is registered, is led by Ms Mukabunani, while the other group is headed by the party founder Bernard Ntaganda, who maintains that he is the rightful leader and accuses Ms Mukabunani of hijacking the leadership.
According to Charles Munyaneza, the Executive Secretary of NEC, Ms Rwigara may have obtained the list of party members from the rival faction.
Mr Munyaneza said that while the electoral body does not take any further action beyond barring a prospective candidate a chance to run for presidency, NEC can provide the list if an aggrieved party wants to take the issue to court.
“Our job is to ensure that candidates meet requirements. We do not take any further action if we find flaws or cases of forgery of signatures. We don’t put you on the final list. That is the only measure we take,” Mr Munyaneza said.
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He said the electoral body carried out a strict verification exercise.
“We took our time to verify the submissions made, especially the signatures and that is how we discovered the flaws. We feed the ID number in our database and see the status of person.
“Our registers are updated regularly, beginning at the village level. If someone passed away, it is easy to notice in our system,” Mr Munyaneza told The EastAfrican.
He said that three of Ms Rwigara’s signatures were of persons who had died while another, who had signed for Mr Mwenedata, was deceased.
Mr Mwenedata, according to NEC, had only 522 verified signatures. Mr Barafinda Sekikubo had 362.
Mr Munyaneza said the presidential candidates were free to contact the commission find out what informed the decision of the electoral body.
When reached for comment, Ms Rwigara she would issue a statement on the allegations in due time.
Campaigns will kick off on July 14. Elections are slated for August 4 with Rwandans in diaspora voting a day earlier.