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Rwanda - Politics

After its military victory in July 1994, the RPF organized a coalition government called “The Broad Based Government of National Unity.” Its fundamental law was based on a combination of the June 1991 constitution, the Arusha Accords, and political declarations by the parties. The government outlawed the MRND Party. In April 2003, the transitional National Assembly recommended the dissolution of the Democratic Republican Party (MDR), one of eight political parties participating in the Government of National Unity since 1994.

Human rights groups noted the subsequent disappearances of political figures associated with the MDR, including at least one parliamentarian serving in the National Assembly. On May 26, 2003, Rwanda adopted a new constitution that eliminated reference to ubwoko and set the stage for presidential and legislative elections in August and September 2003.

The seven remaining political parties endorsed Paul Kagame for president, who was elected to a 7-year term on August 25, 2003. Paul Kagame was born in October 1957 in Rwanda’s Southern Province. His family fled pre-independence ethnic persecution and violence in 1960, crossing into Uganda where Kagame spent thirty years as a refugee. Determined to resist oppressive regimes, as a young man, Paul Kagame joined current Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and his group of guerilla fighters to launch a war to free Uganda from dictatorship. Under the new government, he served as a senior military officer.

In 1990, Paul Kagame returned to Rwanda to lead the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s (RPF) four-year struggle to liberate the country from the autocratic and divisive order established since independence. Led by Kagame, the Rwanda Patriotic Army defeated the genocidal government in July 1994 and the RPF subsequently set Rwanda on its current course towards reconciliation, nation building and socioeconomic development. Paul Kagame was appointed Vice-President and Minister for Defence in the Government of National Unity on 19 July 1994. Kagame, a Tutsi and member of the (mainly Tutsi) RPF had been in office since the then-guerrilla RPA took Kigali in July, 1994. Kagame is one of the "59ers" who grew up as a refugee in Uganda and served in Museveni's army. He led the RPA to victory, but ceded the top spot to President Pasteur Bizimungu, a moderate Hutu. Four years later was elected Chairman of the RPF, a partner in the Government of National Unity.

Kagame is an extremely energetic, extremely intelligent man who has fully taken advantage of many of the hot buttons that he knows the West cares about, that is economic progress, that is environmental concern, that is furthering information technology, He took the lead on the international stage that originally put him among the new African leaders during the Clinton administration, including Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia, and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda.

Rwanda held its first-ever legislative elections September 29 to October 2, 2003. A ninth political party formed after these 2003 elections. In the spring of 2006, the government conducted local non-partisan elections for district mayors and for sector and cell executive committees. Elections for the Chamber of Deputies occurred in September 2008; the RPF won an easy victory in coalition with six small parties, taking 42 of 53 directly-elected seats. As provided in the constitution, 24 seats were also accorded to women candidates in indirect elections. Women now hold 45 of the 80 seats in the Chamber. The elections were peaceful and orderly, despite irregularities. A tenth political party formed in 2010.

Presidential elections were held in August 2010; the National Electoral Commission reported that President Kagame won re-election with roughly 93% of the vote. The presidential election was peaceful and orderly, with heavy turnout. However, the pre-election period was marked by events of concern, including waves of terrorist attacks using grenades in populous areas, the murder of a journalist, the unexplained murder of the vice president of the unregistered Democratic Green Party, an assassination attempt on a former high-ranking government official accused of fomenting attacks, and the suspension of two local-language newspapers. In addition, two political opposition figures were arrested on criminal charges, and a party that had been seeking to register for many months was unable to do so.

Local elections again took place in the spring of 2011, with indirect Senate elections following in the fall. Both elections were peaceful and orderly. RPF candidates again dominated the field.

Challenges facing the government include maintaining internal and regional security, promoting further democratization; judicial and media reform; completion of prosecution of remaining individuals for crimes relating to the 1994 genocide, either by the regular court system or the gacaca system; integrating former combatants and prisoners; preventing the recurrence of any insurgency directed by ex-military and Interahamwe militia who remain in eastern Congo; and the continuing work on medium- and long-term development.

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR) was registered officially as a political party in 2013, after the government blocked its attempts to register in 2009 and 2010. Authorities, however, granted the registration just one working day before candidate lists for the 2013 Chamber of Deputies elections were due, and the DGPR was unable to register candidates for the election. DGPR leaders reported the party was permitted to publish policy proposals as alternatives to RPF policy and hold small meetings with party supporters. Local officials, however, often threatened DGPR members with dismissal from employment or the withholding of state services unless they left the party. In 2014 the organizing secretary for DGPR, Jean Damascene Munyeshyaka, disappeared after meeting with an unknown individual in the town of Nyamata, Bugesera District. Police reported no developments regarding his disappearance during the year 2016.

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.

Elections for parliament’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, in 2013 were peaceful and orderly, but according to international observers did not meet the generally recognized standards for free and fair elections. In 2010 voters elected President Paul Kagame to a second seven-year term with 93 percent of the vote; the National Electoral Commission (NEC) reported that 97.5 percent of the population participated in the election. Observers’ confidence in the integrity of electoral results was undermined by their being denied access to vote tabulation at the polling station, district, and national level. Opposition parties experienced difficulties in registering candidates ahead of the elections, depriving voters of a meaningful choice at the polls.

On July 24, 2014 Rwandan Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi was dismissed and Anastase Murekezi appointed to replace him. Murekezi became President Paul Kagame’s third prime minister since 2000, and the country’s 10th since 1960.

While the decision to replace Habumuremyi was not officially described as a dismissal, that is how it was reported in local media. And there had been no official denial that he was, in effect, fired. Afterwards, President Paul Kagame said the Cabinet shakeup did not mean the replaced members were lacking in capabilities or achievements, and added they would continue to serve in other offices.

There had been media reports outside Rwanda that police were investigating the former prime minister and his family for possible links to the Rwandan rebel group FDLR, based in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

On June 05, 2015 Rwanda’s opposition Green Party petitioned the Supreme Court to prevent parliament from moving ahead with plans to amend the constitution to pave way for President Paul Kagame to seek re-election. Frank Habineza, chairman of the party, said it would be illegal for parliament to change the constitution. Adopted in 2003, the Rwanda constitution stipulates only two presidential term limits. Rwanda's parliament passed a motion in July 2015 supporting another term for Kagame.

Rwanda's Supreme Court cleared the way for President Paul Kagame to run for a third seven-year term when his term expired in 2017. The court ruled October 08, 2015 that amending the constitution to remove the current two-term limit for presidents was legal, as long as the process respects the law. Voters would still have to approve any changes in a referendum. The amendment would be likely to pass, given Kagame's control of media and politics in the East African country, and his popularity for keeping the peace since the end of the 1994 genocide.

There were numerous reports local officials and the SSF briefly detained some individuals who disagreed publicly with government decisions or policies. Opposition leaders and government critics faced indictment under broadly applied charges of genocide incitement, genocide denial, divisionism, and incitement to rebel. Numerous individuals identified by international and domestic human rights groups as political prisoners remained in prison, including Victoire Ingabire, Deo Mushayidi, and Theoneste Niyitegeka.

The constitution outlines a multiparty system but provides few rights for parties and their candidates. 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.

As the people of Rwanda went to the ballot on 04 August 2017, they had a reason to be optimistic of even brighter days ahead. The country’s political scene also has a lot to be happy for.

Rwanda conducted a referendum in 2015 to extend current Rwandese President Paul Kagame’s stay in power, with 98% vote that the referendum in favour of the extension of Kagame’s term. In effect the referendum allowed Kagame to stand for another seven-year-term, and two more after that of five years each, meaning that Kagame could be in power until 2034 if successful in all those elections.

Kagame sought to extend his rule in the East African nation, having been in power since 2000. Kagame is credited with pulling Rwanda out of the murky waters of war and genocide, and seeing the country realize immense development in his 17 year rule. While many laud him for many great achievements, others have criticized his rule, saying Rwandans have been denied freedoms.

Some notable achievements by Kagame include;

  • Gender Equality: Women occupy more than 60 percent of seats in the Lower House of Rwandan Parliament, highest in the world.
  • Umuganda: Mandatory community service from 8:00 am to 11:00 am on the last Saturday of every month. Every adult between 18 and 65 years of age is required to participate in Umuganda. This project has got Kigali the top ranking in cleanest cities in Africa.
  • Nation-wide ban on plastics. Possession of non-biodegradable polythene bags in Rwanda is illegal. Border security or customs may search your luggage for plastics.
  • All ministers and officials in his government and administration have signed goals and specific targets and are held accountable for it.
  • Successful war on corruption: Rwanda ranks a respectable 55th on Transparency International corruption index, ahead of fledgling economies like South Africa, Brazil, India, and Mexico
  • Effective health care: Rwanda has built a near-universal health care system that covers more than 90 percent of the population, financed by tax revenue, foreign aid and voluntary premiums scaled by income.

In the run-up to the 04 August 2017 elections, incumbent President Paul Kagame attracted huge rallies in the capital, Kigali, and everywhere else he went. His opponents, opposition party leader Frank Habineza and independent Philippe Mpayimana, drew crowds too, although not nearly as large. The events were peaceful and free of threatening rhetoric, in part because Kagame is expected to win in a landslide. He won the 2003 and 2010 polls with more than 90 percent of the vote, and there was no indication this year's result would be much different.

Green Party candidate Frank Habineza vowed to slash taxes for the poor, support small traders and reduce unemployment. In May, the country's National Institute of Statistics said unemployment stood at 13.2 percent.

Several rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have said Kagame's re-election bid comes in a climate of fear that resulted from two decades of crackdowns on the political opposition, media and activists.

Kagame faced mounting censure for what critics and rights groups say are widespread human rights abuses, a muzzling of independent media and suppression of political opposition.

With 80 percent of votes accounted for, the 59-year-old former guerrilla leader secured 98.66 percent, the National Electoral Commission's Executive secretary Charles Munyaneza told a news conference. "We expect that even if we get 100 percent of votes, there will not be any change," he said. The board expected turnout to top 90 percent in the East African country of 12 million citizens once full details emerged, in elections that fielded only a single opposition candidate, Frank Habineza, and an independent.

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