The head of Rwanda’s only registered opposition party, the tiny Green Party, said on Sunday he will stand against President Paul Kagame, who is expected to run for third term in August presidential polls.
Kagame is widely admired by many for restoring stability to the East African nation after its 1994 genocide, presiding over rapid economic growth and creating a relatively corruption-free government.
But rights activists say those achievements have come at the expense of civil liberties. Some of Kagame’s political opponents have been killed after they fled abroad, in cases that remain unsolved.
Frank Habineza was elected to oppose Kagame in a Green Party congress of about 400 members. His platform includes investing in agriculture, increasing salaries for the security forces and ending political detentions.
Habineza says the party has about 500,000 members out of an of about 6 million and a population of 11.8 million.
He said his tiny party faces sabotage and intimidation from the ruling party when they hold meetings and accused the ruling party of putting pressure on his supporters to join.
“He (Kagame) has more money. He has been in power for 20 years. They have companies. We are not scared of that,” he added.
But Senator Tito Rutaremara, a commissioner in the ruling party, said Habineza was lying.
“He should come to court or name the people who were forced to join the ruling party. I doubt he even has 1,000 supporters,” Rutaremara told Reuters by phone.
Constitutional changes, which technically allow Kagame to stay until 2034, were approved in a 2015 referendum by a 98 percent majority that the opposition and Western diplomats said was suspiciously high.