The leader of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, Frank Habineza, has announced that he will be returning to the country after two years of self-imposed exile in Europe.
Mr Habineza fled the country in August 2010 for Sweden after claiming that his life was in danger following the death of his vice president, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, ahead of the 2010 presidential elections.
Mr Habineza says he is ready to return home at the beginning of September and continue his political activities, ahead of the Democratic Green Party’s third anniversary.
“We take the opportunity to inform all party members, well-wishers and the general public that we have re-committed ourselves to resuming political activities inside the country,” Mr Habineza said in a statement.
Mr Habineza told Rwanda Today that he is ready to return home next month to spearhead the registration of the party and prepare for the September 2013 parliamentary elections.
Launched in August 2009, the Democratic Green Party describes itself as an opposition and alternative party to the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front-RPF but its efforts to register and take part in the 2010 presidential elections were marred by confusion and infighting.
“Our party was started in Rwanda; thus it is natural to continue activities inside the country, since the party is for Rwandans,” Mr Habineza said.
Asked what prompted him to flee the country that has changed now, Mr Habineza said that he left the country to attend to several errands since his party had not managed to participate in the August 2010 presidential elections.
Mr Habineza said that he believed his party would be registered.
“We understood that some people had misinterpreted our intentions. We now believe that they had enough time to understand who we are and what we stand for,” he told Rwanda Today.
Mr Habineza said that investigations into the death of Mr Rwisereka, who was found decapitated in Huye are going on.
“We understand from the prosecutor general that investigations are still going on so we cannot go into more detail,” Mr Habineza said, adding that his party is striving for a vibrant democracy in Rwanda.
“Our immediate plan is to request the registration of our party and then campaign in the September 2013 parliamentary elections,” Mr Habineza said that opposition political parties were in the formative stage.
However, the head of Rwanda Governance Board, the body charged with registering political parties, said that Mr Habineza’s decision to flee the country was personal and had nothing do with any threat due to his political activities.
“We don’t have any problem with Mr Habineza and his party. It is his constitutional right to return home and his right to register a party so long as it fulfills the requirements. We are a multiparty state.
“I understand that in 2010, he was well on course to register his party but he failed to meet certain standards, which the Ministry of Local Government asked him to resolve,” Prof Anastase Shyaka told Rwanda Today.
Mr Habineza denies allegations that his decision to flee with his young family was aimed at securing a financial future. He said his return was prompted by the invocation of cessation clause by Rwanda meaning that all Rwandans living abroad will lose their refugee status come December.
“We are glad that another Rwandan is giving up refugee status to return home. It is the right decision for him to make. We maintain that there is space for everyone in the country,” Prof Shyaka said.
The Green Party is one of the three parties that formed a coalition in 2010 to take on RPF. The other two were FDU-Inkingi led by Victoire Ingabire and Parti Sociale Imberakuri led by Bernard Ntaganda.
The two are currently in detention facing charges of promoting ethnic divisions, the genocide ideology and threatening state security. Mr Ntaganda is serving a four-year jail term while the verdict in Ms Ingabire’s case is expected on September 5.
Prof Shyaka said that some opposition parties could not be registered because they promoted sectarian interests or were formed along ethnic lines.
“There shouldn’t be a problem for anyone to register a party but when it is found that such a party is formed along geographical or ethnic lines, a problem arises,” Prof Shyaka said, adding that opposition parties need to have a national agenda.
According to the spokesperson of the Forum for Political Parties in Rwanda, Alvera Mukabaramba, a new Bill curently in the Senate will change how registered parties become members of the forum.