Kigali High Court to Decide on Rehabilitation Request by Social Party Imberakuri’s Founding President, Me Ntaganda Bernard

Me Bernard Ntaganda

On May 5, 2024, in Kigali, the High Court of Kigali communicated its plans to rule on the rehabilitation request of Me Ntaganda Bernard, the founding president of the Social Party Imberakuri. This decision, scheduled for May 10, 2024, at 9:00 am, is critical as it occurs merely 20 days before the deadline for submitting sponsorship lists for independent candidates for the upcoming presidential election on July 15, 2024.

Me Ntaganda Bernard initially submitted his request for rehabilitation on March 4, 2019, following a conviction by the Supreme Court in a trial he describes as expedited and unjust. He was accused of several crimes, which he claims were fabricated by the Prosecutor’s Office to block his candidacy in the 2010 presidential election. In response to what he perceives as dilatory tactics by the High Court of Kigali, Me Ntaganda re-submitted his request on February 26, 2024.

The timing of the High Court’s decision is seen by some as deliberate, given the limited period it allows for Me Ntaganda to collect the necessary signatures from supporters across all Rwandan districts—a requirement for his candidacy. Observers suggest that the handling of this case reflects the broader issues of judicial independence in Rwanda, with allegations that judges face pressure from the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

The Social Party Imberakuri has issued a strong statement against President Paul Kagame, urging him to reflect on the situation and facilitate an inclusive election process. The party has also appealed to international supporters of the Rwandan government, including France, the USA, Germany, and Great Britain, to influence the Rwandan leadership towards a more open electoral contest.

This upcoming decision not only determines the political future of Me Ntaganda but also tests the independence of Rwanda’s judiciary amidst international scrutiny. The exclusion of significant opposition figures like Me Ntaganda could cast long shadows over the legitimacy of the upcoming election and the political landscape in Rwanda.