- Title: Campaigns launch in Rwanda ahead of August polls.
- Date: 18th July 2017
- Summary: VARIOUS OF SINGERS AND DANCERS OM STAGE AT RALLY
- Embargoed: 1st August 2017 15:58
- Keywords: Election Kagame August 4 1994 Economy campaigns rally
- Location: KIGALI AND RUHANGA, RWANDA
- City: KIGALI AND RUHANGA, RWANDA
- Country: Rwanda
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA0056Q8UUZB
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: AUDIO QUALITY AS INCOMING
The ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) launched the re-election campaign for its leader President Paul Kagame on Friday (July 14) with a rallies in Ruhanga - the heartland of his support base and the capital city, Kigali.
Kagame, who is running for a third term after Rwandans voted overwhelmingly to support changes to the constitution that would allow him to extend his term in office until 2034, has been president since 2000 but effectively in control since his rebel force marched into Kigali in 1994 to end a genocide.
He is widely admired for restoring stability to the East African nation and presiding over rapid economic growth and creating a relatively corruption-free government.
"We are moving forward and we already put one pace ahead. But now it is up to you to put another step ahead. That is my dream," he said at a rally in Ruhanga.
Kagame will run against the opposition Democratic Green Party's Frank Habineza, whose platform includes investing in agriculture, increasing salaries for the security forces and ending political detentions.
There is also an independent candidate - Philippe Mpayimana.
Kagame is widely expected to retain his seat.
"They (the journalists) are writing and saying that the elections in Rwanda are not important because it is already known who is going to win. Me, I'm proud that the result is already known," he said to a cheering crowd.
"As women we have progressed. For the moment I produce pottery. I do all kinds of jobs to survive and I still work on the land. We come from very far but thanks to Kagame we can progress and we are safe," said a supporter, Nyiranduntitgutse FranÃ§oise.
Despite being poor in resources, Rwanda is a rising star in Africa for donors and investors and Kagame has been feted as a visionary leader and African icon.
However, activists say development has come at the expense of civil liberties and media freedoms. Kagame is also accused by critics of being authoritarian and trampling on political freedoms.
Some of his political opponents have been killed after they fled abroad, in cases that remain unsolved. The government denies any involvement.
Gatete Nyiringabo is a blogger and political commentator in Rwanda.
"Right, so you see when you call someone a dictator, it is a very subjective thing. How do you define a dictator? Is there citizen participation in decision making in Rwanda? Yes there is. Is there community assessment of leaders? Yes there is. Do we have independent judiciary? Do we have a parliament? Do we have institutions that work? Yes there is. So when you say someone is a dictator, unless you set up your own definition of a dictator, it's not here nor there like they would say in law. People usually do that for disparaging purposes. It makes no sense," he said.
Rights groups say the government and the ruling RPF have become increasingly intolerant of dissent and criticism.
The Democratic Green Party is the only registered opposition party in the country.
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