Opposition Candidate Twagiramungu Complains of Harassment of His Supporters

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

August 5, 2003
Posted to the web August 5, 2003


Opposition candidate for Rwanda's presidency, Faustin Twagiramungu, has expressed concern over the 25 August poll being free and fair, saying that supporters of incumbent President Paul Kagame were making his supporters "fearful" of openly backing him.

He told reporters on Tuesday in the capital, Kigali, that local government officials and Kagame's supporters were harassing his supporters and had detained some of his agents who were on the campaign trail across the country.

Twagiramungu, 58, is considered the strongest opponent to Kagame in the country's first presidential poll after the 1994 genocide of 1994. Two other candidates are also contesting the presidency.

He said he had received reports that the police had arrested some of his agents "under the guise of fomenting ethnic divisions within the population to win him votes".

"Ethnicity is being used as a shield to openly silence, intimidate and harass my supporters," he said. "I don't mind RPF [Rwanda Patriotic Front] supporters backing their candidate [Kagame] but let them stop harassing my campaign agents."

Without giving the number of his supporters who have been detained, Twagiramungu said that his supporters from the southeastern province of Kibuye, the northern province of Ruhengeri and the western provinces of Kibungo and Umutara were the most harassed.

Twagiramungu, a moderate Hutu who was prime minister for 13 months in the first government after the 1994 genocide, also said local officials were sabotaging his efforts by denying him a venue to begin his campaign.

"Whenever I book a venue, I am told that the RPF has taken the place," he said. "I have decided to redesign my campaign programme, which I will be announcing soon."

Only Kagame has held rallies since the campaigning period was declared officially started on Friday. Twagiramungu and the other two candidates are yet to hold any rallies, with some citing lack of resources and campaign venues as the main causes of their delay.

Police spokesman Tony Kuramba told IRIN that Twagiramungu's claims were unfounded, and that the police had only questioned some politicians involved in talk or acts of fuelling ethnic divisions between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi communities.

"We have been questioning people who are spreading politics of ethnicity," Kuramba said. "We do not care whether they are Twagiramungu's supporters or not. The laws are quite clear on the issue of fomenting ethic hatred."