Three candidates nominated for the 2017 presidential elections launch their campaigns today in different parts of the country. They are Paul Kagame, of Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi); Frank Habineza, of Democratic Green Party of Rwanda; and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent candidate. Athan Tashobya profiles them.
The former history teacher-turned-politician was a surprise inclusion on the final list of presidential candidates, having failed to make it on NEC’s provisional list for falling short of quite a number of requirements.
But the confidence he had while addressing the media shortly after presenting his nomination papers showed that he understood the “battlefield” he was bracing for. Mpayimana, who was initially not able to present the minimum required 600 signatures of endorsers and his birth certificate, among other papers—was able to collect and present them in a week later—subsequently making it on the final list.
Mpayimana, 47, is a father of four and recently returned to Rwanda after 13 years living in France. He also lived in DR Congo for five years before he left for France.
Three of his children live in France with his first wife. He is now married to his second and current wife. The couple have one child.
Mpayimana, a professed activist and an author, has published a number of books including; Réfugiés rwandais entre marteau et enclume (L’Harmattan, Paris 2004), La rue de la vie, poèmes du Rwanda (L’Harmattan, Paris, 2006), Rwanda, regard d’avenir, loosely translated as “Only forward looking” (L’Harmattan, Paris, 2015) – Rwanda 2017, and his recent collection titled “Indi ntambwe (L’Harmattan, Paris, 2016)—loosely translated as “Another step”.
According to Mpayimana, it is his “Indi Ntambwe” issue that launched him into politics and his desire is to see Rwanda take “another step” in democracy and in all kinds of freedom.
“I was really happy when I learnt that I was on the final list of candidates,” Mpayimana said, adding, “My objective is encouraging people out there not to fear politics. I want us to take another step in democracy and freedom of expression and build a nation that is inclusively developed.”
He is the only independent candidate.
Habineza, the flag bearer and the president of Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, is a resident of Kimironko Sector, a Kigali suburb.
He launched his political career in August 2009 after forming the opposition Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and has not looked back since.
Married with three children, Habineza says he is a born-again Christian and attends prayers at New Life Bible Church in Kicukiro District.
At 40, he is the youngest of the three candidates. He was born in the Ugandan district of Mityana before coming to Rwanda.
He attended the National University of Rwanda [now University of Rwanda] from 1999 to 2004, graduating in Political and Administrative Sciences with a major in Public Administration. While at university, he started a student association campaigning for environment protection. He later became a personal assistant to the Minister for Lands, Environment, Water, Forestry and Mines, Drocella Mugorewera.
At some point, he moved to Sweden and acquired the country’s citizenship. However, as part of Rwanda electoral code, he had to forego his Swedish citizenship to stand for presidency.
His role model is Mahatma Gandhi, the former leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule.
He says he wants to “change the course of Rwandan politics through nonviolent means.”
Habineza says that his move to stand for President was due to “a desire to have a free, peaceful and democratic Rwanda; a country that has rule of law; separation of powers; media freedom and other freedoms of expression.”
The Incumbent needs no introduction, but we can’t help.
Kagame was born on October 23, 1957, in southern Rwanda to Deogratias and Asteria Rutagambwa (all deceased).
Married to Jeannette Kagame, with whom he has three sons and a daughter, Kagame became Rwanda’s sixth President in 2000. Previously, Kagame served as Vice-President and Defence minister from 1994 to 2000.
His exceptional role in commanding RPA liberators that ended the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and rebuilding an economy once regarded as a failed state into one of the fastest growing ones in the world, forced some Rwandans to petition parliament—asking for the scrapping of presidential term limits to allow Kagame to continue steering the country beyond 2017.
President Kagame’s second term and what was meant to be his last in office—as per the previous Constitution–was to end in 2017. However, Rwandans requested for his continued stewardship of the country for at least one more term.
According to the petitions, the President’s track record, especially in improving people’s welfare and the country’s remarkable development and economic growth is what inspired the calls for constitutional amendment. More than 3.7 million petitions were received by Parliament (59 per cent of the eligible voters). The provisional list of voters register published by NEC last week indicates that Rwanda has 6.8 registered voters.
When a poll was held on December 17, 2015, regarding constitutional amendment—specifically scrapping of two-term limit, 98.3 per cent of voters endorsed it.
In his acceptance speech after being elected RPF-Inkotanyi flag bearer, last month, Kagame said, “Now that you brought me here to accept it, I will give you my all. I will do it to the best of my ability.”