Presidential poll held in climate of fear and repression


Presidential elections took place in Rwanda on 4th August, with incumbent President Paul Kagame winning a third term in office with a landslide victory of 98.63 percent of the vote, according to the country's National Electoral Commission. While observers maintain the election was free and fair, concerns remain over the disqualification and intimidation of several independent candidates, including businesswoman and rights activist Diane Shima Rwigara, as reported previously on the Monitor. On 31st August, The East African reported that the whereabouts of Rwigara and some of her family members remain unknown, after a police spokesperson indicated on 30th August that Rwigara was being investigated for alleged forgery and tax evasion. Although the police first denied having taken Rwigara or her family members into custody, the police confirmed on 4th September that Rwigara, her mother and sister were arrested on tax evasion charges, and that Rwigara is facing additional charges of forgery of signatures in the supporting documents she submitted in order to run as a presidential candidate. 

A report by Amnesty International released on 7th July documents how opposition politicians, journalists and human rights defenders have faced restrictions on their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in the two decades since the genocide. The state's restriction on the exercise of fundamental freedoms has created a climate of fear and repression. 

Peaceful Assembly

In late July 2017, on the eve of the elections, Democratic Green Party presidential candidate Frank Habineza was prevented from holding a campaign rally in Rwimiyaga trading centre by district authorities and was instead sent to another district, Nyarupfubire, which is next to a cemetery. Independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana also complained that local officials blocked him from holding campaign rallies in his preferred locations. In the lead-up to the elections, both opposition candidates had been ordered by the National Electoral Commission to campaign within demarcated areas to avoid disrupting citizens' daily activities.