Mbanda Submits Presidential Candidacy, Declares “The Position is Not Vacant”

Jean Daniel Mbanda

On Thursday, May 30, 2024, Jean Daniel Mbanda, an independent candidate, submitted his application to the National Electoral Commission (NEC) for the presidential elections scheduled for July 2024. Mbanda, who had previously expressed interest in the presidency in 2017, withdrew after a key supporter, Christine Iribagiza, was brutally murdered.

Mbanda explained, “In 2017, I came to Rwanda, declaring my intention to collaborate with the current government and its leader. However, nothing has changed. Running for office is the best way to support the President. We don’t want him to face opponents claiming there are no other challengers. I’m here to refute that.”

In a press briefing outside the NEC office, Mbanda stated that his candidacy aims to support the current government and the President in maintaining unity. His interaction with the media was intense, with some perceiving it as an attempt to deflect difficult questions. He affirmed that the presidency is not up for grabs: “Le poste n’est pas vacant.”

Mbanda noted that gathering the required signatures was challenging but educational. He observed that Rwandans are politically astute and praised the NEC’s organization of the election process, stating, “I am usually very critical, but I found no fault in the election preparations. The citizens are politically mature. One resident asked if signing for me would prevent them from voting for their candidate. I explained that these signatures allow me to compete.”

At 71, Mbanda has a long history in Rwanda, having served as a member of parliament and involved in the national football association. He was a PSD party member and ran unsuccessfully for the presidency of the Rwanda Football Federation (FERWAFA), alleging electoral fraud against the winner, Degaule Nzamwita.

Mbanda has been a controversial figure, notably writing on a social media platform frequented by Rwandans that he did not understand why Colonel Théoneste Bagosora was imprisoned. The Rwandan government considers Bagosora a mastermind of the 1994 Genocide. Mbanda claimed that Bagosora saved his life and 16 other Tutsis in 1994.

Despite his diverse career, Mbanda is currently an independent presidential candidate for the upcoming July 2024 elections. Political analysts suggest that Mbanda’s statements are subtle criticisms of President Kagame’s administration, implying that the election results are predetermined without directly causing conflict.

Living in Canada, where his family resides, Mbanda reportedly had his passport revoked, preventing him from leaving the country. Running for president might be his way of safeguarding himself against potential future repercussions.

The NEC concluded the acceptance of presidential candidacies on May 30, 2024, having received applications from nine candidates, including seven independents.