Diane Rwigara Wants to Continue in Politics Despite Rejection of Her Candidacy for Rwandan Presidential Elections

Diane Shima Rwigara

Diane Rwigara, who aspired to be a presidential candidate in Rwanda’s upcoming elections, told the BBC that despite the rejection of her candidacy, she will continue her political activities and fight for rights. Last weekend, the Rwandan Electoral Commission announced the final list of three approved presidential candidates, while six others, including Rwigara, were disqualified.

The Rwandan Electoral Commission stated that Rwigara did not meet the following requirements:

  • No criminal record certificate
  • Lack of proof of original Rwandan citizenship
  • Failure to gather the necessary 600 signatures from at least 12 districts out of 30
  • Insufficient accompanying documents for her candidacy

In an interview with BBC Gahuzamiryango, Diane Rwigara, who faced her second rejection after her first attempt in the 2017 elections, claimed she had provided all the required documents. She stated, “I know I submitted everything they asked for, including valid signatures, but in the end, they said I couldn’t be on the list of candidates. To me, it’s just an excuse; they didn’t want me on that list and had to find reasons to exclude me.”

Diane, the only woman who sought to be a presidential candidate, expressed her disappointment at being barred from the race. “I knew that this year they would allow me to campaign, but nothing changed.” She added, “Obtaining the required documents takes time, effort, and involves significant investment… When you end up not getting what you wanted, it is heartbreaking.”

On social media platform X, Diane suggested that the incumbent president did not want her to run, writing, “Paul Kagame, why won’t you let me run? This is the second time you have stripped me of my right to campaign.” President Paul Kagame, who is also a candidate seeking his fourth term, has not commented on Diane Rwigara’s allegations.

Diane Rwigara mentioned that she is uncertain whether she will run again in the next five years, stating, “There’s still time.” However, she affirmed her commitment to continue her political activities in the meantime. “Even though it’s very difficult to engage in politics in Rwanda, I will continue as best as I can until we achieve what we desire as Rwandans. People should have equal opportunities to express their opinions, and some of us should have the right to participate in politics in our country.”

Opposition members argue that pursuing a political path different from the ruling party’s is not tolerated in Rwanda and that the political landscape is tightly controlled. The government, however, claims that no one is prevented from engaging in politics freely. A report from last year by the government-run Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) stated that political and civil liberties of citizens are rated at 88%.

Last week, Diane Rwigara posted a message on X that some interpreted as distancing herself from her mother, following interviews her mother had given on YouTube. In these interviews, Adeline Mukangemanyi, who was abroad at the time, criticized the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR-Inkotanyi) and accused it of being responsible for the death of her husband Assinapol Rwigara in 2015. The police had confirmed that his death was caused by a road accident.

Diane clarified to the BBC, “I did not distance myself from my mother. I said, ‘What my mother says in her interviews are her personal opinions; my brothers and I are not associated with them.’ That’s what I said. What she says is her own, and I have my own opinions.”

She further explained that this does not indicate any discord within their family or that she fears repercussions in Rwanda due to her mother’s statements. “We cannot think alike; she has her opinions, and we have ours. They are different.”

The rejection of Diane Rwigara’s candidacy for the second time highlights the ongoing challenges and constraints faced by opposition figures in Rwanda’s political landscape. Despite these obstacles, Rwigara remains determined to continue her political activities and advocate for equal rights and opportunities for all Rwandans. As Rwanda moves towards its presidential elections, the dynamics of political participation and freedom continue to be a critical area of concern and scrutiny.