There isn't really any democracy that one can speak of in Rwanda. Opposition parties are not able to function. President Paul Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front are the dominant political forces in Rwanda. There is only one registered opposition party and many political opponents have fled into exile. While the country has progressed economically during Kagame's time in office, opponents say it has come at the cost of political freedom.
As of 2015 there were seven political parties represented in the Government of National Unity of the Republic of Rwanda. They are: Front Patriotique Rwandais (FPR), Parti Social Démocrate (PSD), Parti Libéral (PL), Parti Démocrate Centriste (PDC) Parti Démocratique Idéal (PDI), Parti Socialiste Rwandais (PSR) and Union Démocratique du Peuple Rwandais (UDPR).
The constitution outlines a multi-party system but provides few rights for parties and their candidates. There were some reports that the RPF pressured youth into joining the party during mandatory “ingando” civic and military training camps held after secondary school graduation. There were also reports that RPF cadres coerced political donations from both party members and nonmembers.
Some parties were not able to operate freely, and parties and candidates faced legal sanctions if found guilty of engaging in divisive acts, destabilizing national unity, threatening territorial integrity, or undermining national security. The government’s enforcement of laws against genocide ideology, divisionism, and spreading false information with intent to create a hostile international opinion against the state discouraged debate or criticism of the government and resulted in occasional detentions.
The government required all political organizations to join the National Consultative Forum for Political Organizations, which promoted consensus at the expense of political competition. To register as a political party, an organization must present a list of at least 200 members, with at least five members in each of the 30 districts, and it must reserve at least 30 percent of its leadership positions for women and provide a written party statute signed by a notary.
There were some reports the RPF pressured youth into joining the party during mandatory “ingando” civic and military training camps after completing secondary school and “itorero” cultural school, which promoted patriotism in addition to inculcating national customs. There were also reports RPF members pressured teachers, clergy, and businesspersons to join the party and coerced political donations from both party members and nonmembers. Political parties allied to the RPF were largely able to operate freely, but members faced legal sanctions if found guilty of engaging in divisive acts, destabilizing national unity, threatening territorial integrity, or undermining national security.
The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR) was registered officially as a political party on 09 August 2013, after the government blocked previous attempts to register the party in 2009 and 2010. The registration was granted one working day before candidate lists for the September Chamber of Deputies elections were due, and the DGPR was unable to register candidates for the election. In 2010 DGPR vice president Andre Kagwa Rwisereka was killed. The perpetrator(s) had neither been identified nor punished by the end of 2013.
In November 2013 the mayor of Gasabo District cancelled the founding party congress of the Pacte Democratique du Peuple-Imanzi (PDP-Imanzi), stating that he could not permit the party to organize a meeting while its president, Deo Mushayidi, was incarcerated. PDP-Imanzi leaders reported that party members were arrested and harassed after the congress was cancelled.
Opposition leaders reported that police arbitrarily arrested some members of the DGPR, the unregistered faction of PS-Imberakuri, the FDU-Inkingi, and the PDP-Imanzi, which remained unregistered. Party members reported receiving threats because of their association with those parties.
Party leaders for the unregistered opposition party Democratic Pact of the Imanzi People (PDP-Imanzi) and a splinter party, the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA), continued to seek permission to hold a founding party congress following the cancellation of the PDP-Imanzi congress in Gasabo District in 2013. The Ministry of Local Government and local officials continued to deny PDP-Imanzi and PDA permission to hold such a meeting, citing the two parties’ connections to Deo Mushayidi, who remained incarcerated on state security charges.
In November 2913 the Nyarugunga District Court sentenced FDU-Inkingi members Sylvain Sibomana and Dominique Shyirambere to terms of two years and five months in prison, respectively, and levied fines of one million francs on each. Sibomana was convicted of contempt for security officers, and both were convicted of illegal demonstration for wearing badges with a photograph of incarcerated opposition leader Victoire Ingabire.
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