Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rwanda: RPF government plans to block UDF-Inkingi’s participation to the 2010 presidential race

By UDF-Inkingi Information Desk
February 19, 2009

So far, elections in Rwanda remind us those held in South Africa during the apartheid regime. Are things going to change in 2010?

According to sources in Rwanda which asked not to be named for fear of harassment by security organs, the RPF leadership is considering options aimed at blocking UDF-Inkingi participation to 2010 presidential race.

The source adds that one of the options in consideration might be an amendment to the Constitution that could tighten the requirements a candidate has to comply with to compete for the top executive job in the country.

The Article 99 of the Rwandan Constitution stipulates that a candidate for the office of the Presidency of the Republic shall:
(1) be of Rwandan nationality by origin,
(2) not hold any other nationality,
(3) have at least one parent of the Rwandan nationality by origin,
(4) have irreproachable morals and probity,
(5) not have been convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of six months or more,
(6) not have been deprived of his or her civil and political rights,
(7) be at least thirty five (35) years old on the date of submission of his or her candidacy and
(8) be resident in Rwanda at the time of submission of his or her candidacy.

Our source reports that the RPF leadership is most likely considering imposing a period of at least two years of effective residence in Rwanda before the commencement date of the race.
UDF-Inkingi Policy Council announced last September 2008 that UDF-Inkingi will take part in the presidential election come 2010 and present a candidate alone or along with other political organizations. UDF-Inkingi was launched in Brussels in 2006 and most of its leaders still live in Western Europe.

If such an amendment is effectively introduced in the Constitution, it would bar them from participating in the forthcoming elections, a path that could leave them with no other option to implement their political program peacefully. In the recent past, hopeful candidates have been blocked from participating in presidential elections.

In 2002, former first post-genocide Rwanda’s President of the Republic Pasteur Bizimungu was sentenced to a 15 year jail term for having fallen out with the RPF and tried to launch an independent political party that could have most likely made him its flag-bearer in the last presidential election held in 2003, a trial and sentence that all independent observers described as meant to silence him and barring him from running for the top official job in Rwanda. He can’t stand for the coming election as well for that reason, since the Constitution doesn’t make any difference between common offences and political offences.

Last year, former hopeful candidate Dr Théoneste NIYITEGEKA was sentenced to a 30 year term by a Gacaca Court in Muhanga District, on concocted genocide charges in a trial that all independent civil society organizations described as politically motivated.

Ruling party RPF is an organization created by Rwandan refugees in 1986 with a very narrow political base that seized power by military force in July 1994 in apocalyptic conditions, a political and military calculation that plunged the country and the whole Great Lakes region in chaos up to now. The former rebel movement resumed hostilities on April 6th, 1994 after the shooting down of the presidential jet carrying President Habyarimana of Rwanda and President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi, a terrorist attack that triggered the Rwandan genocide and buried the Arusha peace agreement that was being painfully implemented since August 1993.

The Arusha Peace Agreement that had been agreed on by the warring parties organized a power sharing transitional government that was due to last 22 months, concluded by general elections. The RPF strategists were convinced that they had no reasonable chance of winning them and opted for a resumption of hostilities.

Sixteen years down the road, the now ruling RPF party has not yet overcome its structural weakness and still uses a range of judicial, political and militaristic tactics aimed at delaying any peaceful, free and fair elections in Rwanda and rather maintains the country under a façade of multiparty environment that serves as a cover to a one-party political system.


Note:

The United Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi) is a political framework whose goal is to install the rule of law in Rwanda, underpinned by the respect of democratic values enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights and other international instruments relating to democracy and good governance. It is made up of organisations and individuals who are determined to offer to the Rwandan people an alternative political system to the dictatorial system of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The FDU have the conviction that the building of a State must be based on the respect of the dignity of the human person, his freedoms and rights, and on accountability.

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