Rwanda: President Kagame Submits his candidature to the National Electoral Commission for Fourth Presidential Term

On Friday, May 17, 2024, President Paul Kagame submitted his nomination papers for a fourth term as President of Rwanda. Kagame, accompanied by his wife Jeannette Kagame, the Secretary General of the RPF-Inkotanyi party, and other officials, was received by Oda Gasinzigwa, the Chairperson of the National Electoral Commission. Unlike previous election cycles, there was no fanfare or large crowds as he headed to the commission.

The period for submitting nominations for the presidential and parliamentary elections began today and will last nearly two weeks. Other expected candidates include Frank Habineza from the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and independent candidate Diane Rwigara, both known for their opposition to the current government.

Out of the more than ten recognized political parties in Rwanda, only the RPF-Inkotanyi and the Democratic Green Party have announced presidential candidates. Other prominent parties, such as the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Liberal Party (PL), have declared their support for the RPF-Inkotanyi candidate.

Paul Kagame, 66, who officially became President in 2000 but has been a de facto leader since 1994, is running for a fourth term. In his previous three terms, he won with over 90% of the vote, and many expect similar results this year. Opponents like Victoire Ingabire and Bernard Ntaganda, who had expressed their intent to run, were barred due to legal reasons tied to their past imprisonments.

Approximately 9.5 million people, including two million new voters aged 18 and above, are eligible to vote in the upcoming elections in July. The National Electoral Commission has announced that the final results will be published on July 27, 2024.

Kagame’s long tenure and repeated high election margins have drawn both domestic and international criticism, with concerns about the fairness of the electoral process and the suppression of opposition. The exclusion of candidates like Ingabire and Ntaganda highlights the contentious political climate in Rwanda, where legal and political obstacles often hinder opposition efforts.

The Rwandan government maintains that the electoral process is transparent and that all candidates are treated fairly. However, critics argue that the political landscape is heavily skewed in favor of Kagame and the RPF-Inkotanyi party