5 June 2017

Rwanda Independent Candidates Allege Harassment

Photo: Cyril Ndegeya//The East African
Diane Rwigara says she was always interested in politics from childhood.

Rwanda's independent presidential aspirants are protesting alleged intimidation and harassment of their supporters by government agents, saying this could undermine the credibility of the August 4 polls result.

On Thursday, Diane Shima Rwigara told reporters that up to 10 of her representatives had been arrested and threatened with "treason charges" but later released with no charge.

The EastAfrican has seen her complaint letters to the police and the National Electoral Commission (NEC), citing local authorities and security operatives as being involved in intimidating her representatives as they move around the country collecting the 600 signatures required for one to run as an independent presidential candidate.

"My district representatives and those who show support for me have been harassed and jailed. I have notified the police and the commission and I am still waiting for feedback," she said.

"These are pathetic tactics. If the government is so confident that the people like them as they claim, what are they scared of? Why not let us compete fairly. All this proves that the country needs change and new, young blood."

Other complainantsHer claims are shared by Phillipe Mpayimana, an independent candidate too.

Whereas Ms Rwigara says she managed to get all the 600 signatures required, Mr Mpayimana has failed to get even half the number, with nomination day drawing closer. For them to be cleared to run, independent candidates must have at least 600 signatures from 30 districts -- a minimum of 12 signatures and at least an address in each district.

Mr Mpayimana claimed in an interview that some of his representatives deserted him following intimidation by both the residents and local authorities. He also claimed that several lists of signatures he had collected were stolen in Kamonyi and Rusizi districts.

In Gisagara district, a young man was forced to withdraw his signature by his father, and the following day, my representative was warned to stay away from the residents," he said."We have cases where people are asking for money in exchange for their signatures. They seem not to understand the meaning of democracy. It is like people do not understand that anyone has a right to run for president."

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