Controversial Practices of the RPF-Inkotanyi During the Electoral Period

Rwanda is preparing for a new presidential election, scheduled for July 15. As electoral campaigns kick off this weekend, the ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi), faces criticism for its fundraising practices among citizens. Nathalie Munyampenda, the commissioner in charge of discipline within the RPF, addressed these allegations during a press conference this Friday.

The RPF-Inkotanyi has been accused of imposing financial contributions on various groups, including merchants, entrepreneurs, and certain public sector employees. These accusations are not new but have gained particular prominence during the electoral period. Munyampenda defended the practice by stating that party members must voluntarily contribute, but she also emphasized that any coercion would be punished according to party rules.

Despite Munyampenda’s assurances, reports of forced contributions continue to surface. Journalists at the conference pointed out that the RPF seemed already to be campaigning for its presidential candidate, Paul Kagame, through songs praising his achievements, released by artists before the official start of the campaign.

Wellars Gasamagera, the RPF-Inkotanyi’s secretary-general, downplayed the significance of these songs, stating that they were produced independently by artists and not commissioned by the party. However, some analysts believe that these artists seek financial rewards by energizing crowds at RPF and candidate campaign events.

Accusations of harassment against non-RPF-affiliated candidates have also been raised. These incidents often involve members or local officials of the RPF. Munyampenda affirmed that the party would not tolerate any intimidation of legitimate candidates and would take disciplinary action against offenders.

The electoral campaign officially begins this Saturday, June 22. The RPF-Inkotanyi, allied with five other parties, supports Paul Kagame’s candidacy for a fourth presidential term. Opposing him are Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent candidate, both running for the second time. In the 2017 elections, Kagame won a landslide victory with 98% of the vote, compared to 0.73% for Mpayimana and 0.47% for Habineza.

The Rwandan opposition continues to face significant challenges. Opposing candidates often navigate an environment of intimidation and constraints, hindering their ability to conduct effective campaigns. The massive support for the RPF and Kagame, along with the party’s tight control over local structures, pose considerable obstacles to any genuine democratic competition.

The RPF’s controversial fundraising and electoral campaign practices raise important questions about the state of democracy in Rwanda. While the party claims to promote voluntary contributions and discipline among its members, allegations of coercion and intimidation persist. This situation reflects a tension between the desire to maintain the appearance of a democratic process and the reality of authoritarian control over the political landscape.