The countdown to the 2017 Presidential Election got underway, yesterday, with aspirants beginning submission of their nomination papers to the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
The process to submit nomination forms runs until June 23.
The first presidential aspirant to arrive at the commission was Frank Habineza, the flag bearer for Democratic Green Party of Rwanda.
Clad in a white T-shirt and matching hat emblazoned with the party logo, Habineza arrived 20 minutes past the scheduled time, pulling up at the NEC offices in a chauffeured black Land Cruiser in the company of party members in a coaster bus.
Moments after his team and supporters arrived, the Executive Secretary of NEC, Charles Munyaneza, explained the applicable law and what was expected of prospective candidates.
“As it is stipulated in Articles 82 and 83 of law governing presidential elections as amended and complemented to date, presenting a presidential candidate’s dossier is done by an individual himself or herself to the president of the electoral commission who, after verifying that the dossier is in order then provides the aspirant an official document that confirms that he has received the dossier,” he said.
After handing in his candidacy, Habineza told journalists that his documents had been found to be in order and that he would be waiting for the final announcement.
“We are very ready. As a political party, we have been preparing for the last eight years and we have structures in 29 of the 30 districts of the country and our campaign teams are ready,” he said.
The opposition candidate said they had faced some challenges, including not being well known by many people across the country.
“When setting up structures countrywide, we had the challenge of not being well known and there was doubt in the legitimacy of our party. And where there was harassment by locals, the Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs stepped in and all issues have been resolved,” he said.
Mwenedata in the mix
Next aspirant was Gilbert Mwenedata, who is attempting a shot at the highest office in the land as an independent.
Mwenedata was able to hand in all the documents except for a few that lacked some photocopies. He is expected to rectify that in the next five days.
Mwenedata was one of the four independent candidates who contested for a parliamentary seat in 2013 but was unable to garner enough votes.
This time he is vying for the presidential office.
Meanwhile, another surprise aspirant, Fred Barafinda Ssekikubo, turned up to present his candidature without proof of nationality and other key requirements.
Ssekikubo, who claimed to belong to Rwanda Revolutionary Union Democratic Advancers – a party not registered in the country – said he had gone to the commission in a rush, adding that he would return later with all the required documents.
THE ELECTION ROADMAP
According to the electoral calendar, as part of preparations, NEC has been holding consultative meetings with stakeholders since February and procuring election materials. This particular process ends in July. The provisional list of nominated candidates will be announced on June 27 and the final list on July 7. Campaigns will officially begin on July 14 and end on August 3, a day before the election.