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Rwanda: Victoire Ingabire at the 2024 presidential elections – risk or opportunity for Paul Kagame?

Rwanda: Victoire Ingabire at the 2024 presidential elections – risk or opportunity for Paul Kagame?

It is mid-July 2024 when Rwandans will be called to elect their President for a five-year term, as well as their representatives within Parliament for the same duration.

For many, the outcome of these elections is already known, and Paul Kagame will certainly be re-elected as President of the Republic, while the RPF-Inkotanyi, the state party in power since 1994, will win the vast majority of seats without concessions.

The only question that still animates debates is whether there will be credible and independent political groups facing the RPF at the legislative elections, as well as serious and free candidates facing Paul Kagame at the presidential elections. Paul Kagame has indeed already announced his intention to run for a 4th term after 30 years since he seized power in July 1994.

Until now, Paul KAGAME and his party, the RPF, have always made sure to rule out any serious competition before each election, as was the case in 2017.[1] and in 2010[2], which ensures them to win the presidential elections by almost 100%, or to obtain nearly 75% of the votes in the legislative elections.

And yet, a few months before the elections scheduled for Monday July 15, 2024, the iconic opponent to the RPF regime, Victoire INGABIRE, suddenly resurfaces in the electoral debate after having been excluded from the 2010 elections and imprisoned for eight years, only be released by presidential pardon in September 2018.

Indeed, it was in the early hours of Wednesday, February 14, 2024, that Victoire Ingabire appeared before the High Court of Kigali, in order to be heard on her request for rehabilitation into her civil and political rights, with the aim of running in the legislative or presidential elections scheduled for July.

Since she was sentenced to 15 years in prison, even though the sentence has been declared irregular by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights[3], Ms. Victoire INGABIRE was automatically deprived of her civil and political rights, as provided for in the Rwandan criminal code, for any person sentenced to more than one year of imprisonment.

In order to be able to run for any election, or even to claim to occupy any public position, Ms. Victoire INGABIRE must first request and obtain the reset of her criminal record, which is also known as full rehabilitation of her citizen rights, that she was not granted upon her release in 2018.

The decision of the High Court of Kigali, supposedly independent, will be rendered on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, in public session, certainly in front of an audience of journalists and observers still surprised by the approach of Mrs. Victoire Ingabire, that many describe as a lost case.

What scenario can we expect?

In Rwanda, everyone knows that Justice is far from being independent of political power, especially when it can be used to silence any critical voice or to remove one or another competitor to the State-party’s candidates.

So, for what reasons, this time, would the RPF finally leave the field open to an opponent of the caliber of Victoire INGABIRE?

Firstly, for several years, the Rwandan Government has faced increasingly insistent criticism of the lack of freedom to which Rwandans are victims, whether from the press, from human rights activists as well as from the political class.

Authorizing Victoire INGABIRE to regain her civil rights and run in elections of her choice would be the ideal response to these criticisms, even if it is not the RPF’s habit to concede anything.

Secondly, in view of past elections won against anecdotal candidates, the RPF, and even Paul KAGAME, would have everything to gain if they could win the 2024 elections with the same scores as previously, but this time, against credible candidates.

What could be better than letting an iconic opponent present herself freely and then manage to obtain an electoral score close to unanimity?

These two scenarios, predicting the rehabilitation of Victoire INGABIRE on March 13, 2024, are unfortunately no match with the third, which excludes any probability of seeing the RPF open the Rwandan political space without being forced to do so.

Indeed, it has been almost 30 years since the RPF represses in terror, even in blood, anyone who attempted to bring political diversity to a country in which it nevertheless claims to benefit from popular legitimacy.

Will Victoire INGABIRE participate in the July 2024 elections at the risk of the RPF, or on the contrary, in its favor?

Answer on Wednesday March 13, 2024, around 10a.m. Kigali time.

Gustave Mbonyumutwa


[1] https://www.jambonews.net/actualites/20170831-rwanda-diane-rwigara-ex-candidate-a-lelection-presidentielle-et-4-membres-de-sa-famille-portes-disparus-2/

[2] https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2010/10/14/l-opposante-rwandaise-victoire-ingabire-arretee-a-kigali_1426379_3212.html

[3] https://www.jambonews.net/actualites/20181214-rwanda-cadhp-kigali-condamne-a-indemniser-victoire-ingabire/



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