East Africa

KIGALI: Seven parties back Kagame for fourth term

Kigali, (UG): Two of the oldest political parties in Rwanda; the Liberal Party (PL), and the Social Democratic Party (PSD), have endorsed the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) candidate Paul Kagame in the July presidential race.

The two join four smaller political parties, which are already in a coalition with the ruling RPF — Ideal Democratic Party (PDI), Democratic Union of the Rwandan People’s Party (UDPR), Prosperity and Solidarity Party (PSP) and Rwandan Socialist Party (PSR) — in endorsing Kagame.

PL and PSD are historically allied to the ruling party, and their leaders have served in different government positions. For example, president of Liberal Party Donatille Mukabalisa is also the Speaker of Parliament.

“We endorse President Kagame in developing different sectors such as agriculture, education, health, and security,” Mr Mukabalisa said.

While announcing his party’s endorsement of Kagame, Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta, the PSD president, said: “It is a good thing that President Kagame acknowledges and considers ideas from other political parties.”

Formed in 1991, a year after RPA, the military wing of RPF had launched a military war against President Juvenal Habyarimana’s government, PSD has enjoyed a healthy alliance with RPF.

Both PL and PSD have had four chances of fielding presidential candidates, in 2003, 2010, 2017 and 2024.

Prosper Higiro contested for president in 2010 on the PL ticket while PSD nominated Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo as its presidential candidate.

President Kagame garnered 93.08 percent of the vote, with Ntawukuriryayo getting 5.5 percent, and PL’s Higiro having 1.3 percent.

They both conceded defeat and continue to work with the government.

A PL member heads Parliament, while a PSD leader heads Senate.

After Habyarimana’s government was arm-twisted into allowing the return of the multiparty system in 1991, PSD and PL were some of the political parties that were formed.

These new parties exerted internal pressure on the ruling MRND party to further open up the political space, and to provide for the rule of law and advancement of democracy and human rights in the country.

According to Tito Rutaremara, one of the founding members of RPF, it helped their cause that there were political parties that exerted political pressure from inside the country.

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“Although we were putting external military pressure on Habyarimana’s government, it was important that there is internal pressure from political parties opposed to the ruling party and government, and parties like PSD and PL served this role,” he said.

Rutaramera said that RPF remained in touch with opposition politicians in the country.

“Seth Sendashonga was always in touch with the politicians in the country, some of whom were PSD party leaders.”

Some sources say that RPF was even bankrolling PSD at the time.

The parties, which were young and weak at the time, later succumbed to machinations of Habyarimana and his MRND party and couldn’t sustain the pressure, especially after some of their leaders were bought or beaten into silence, according to Rutaremara.

After capturing power and stopping the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, these parties that didn’t participate in the genocide were included in the new government of national unity.

Analysts critical of this brand of alliance politics that has characterised Rwanda in the past two decades say the weaker parties are in it for political survival.

“The primary goal of every political party, big or small, should be to a quest for political power, or at least to influence politics with its ideas and ideology, but all we have are parties that have forfeited these. Rwandans deserve opposition parties with agency to challenge the ruling party, someone to do checks and balances, not cheer-leaders,” said a commentator who requested anonymity.

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In its manifesto for this year’s elections, PSD is proposing the extension of military service for girls and boys who have completed secondary education, starting from the age of 18, and to include additional training beyond one year in military service while continuing their education.

Musa Fazil Harerimana, a senator and president of PDI, said the reason his party continues to endorse Kagam is that he puts the needs and interests of all Rwandans ahead of everything else, and because of his relentless pursuit of unity of Rwandans, protection of the country’s sovereignty, development and democracy.

Pie Nizeyimana, spokesperson of the Forum for Political Parties in Rwanda, said everything the parties are doing is within their democratic rights.

“By backing the RPF candidate the parties are exercising their freedoms and democratic rights. They have a right to front a candidate in their party, back candidates from other parties, or even form coalitions,” he said.

Source: EastAfrican

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