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Rwanda: Rwanda Presidential Election Campaigns Kick Off

By Nasra Bishumba and Sella Oneko

With three weeks to go until elections, two politicians are challenging Rwanda's "big man." While most observers expect Paul Kagame to win, Greens candidate Frank Habineza and Philippe Mpayimana are vying for the post.

The results for the August 4 elections are already clear, President Paul Kagame told supporters at a rally. He is Rwanda's most popular candidate and in 2010, he garnered 93 percent of the votes. "I am happy that we already know what the results are because that decision was made in December 2015," Kagame said.

Kagame was referring to a constitutional referendum which allowed him to stand for a third term. Unlike in neighboring Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Congo Brazzaville, there were no street riots in response to his third term bid.

Read more: Rwanda: Elections 'will not be rigged'

Kagame has been in power for 17 years. First as the transitional president and later through a popular vote. De facto, observers say, he has been in charge since the end of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when Kagame took up the post of vice president and defense minister.

The other two

Kagame's challengers, Frank Habineza and Philippe Mpayimana, are both younger players on the political scene.

The environmentalist Habineza, a former assistant to Rwanda's minister of lands and environment, founded the Democratic Green Party in 2009. While his young party has faced criticism for alleged foreign influence, they have also been a victim of numerous threats in recent years. The party's vice-president, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, was murdered shortly before elections in 2010 and himself spent a few years in exile.

"We want to ensure food security, we thank the government for security but we want to revamp and bring in new things," Habineza told potential voters, while promoting his "zero hunger" agenda.

Meanwhile, independent candidate Mpayimana was received by a small number of curious cyclists, women and journalists in the Eastern Province. They surrounded him as he talked about his plan to improve on social welfare through tax reduction.

"I will put the rights of small scale business people at the forefront because what they are trying to do is to support their families. I cannot for instance ban taxi cyclists when I have nothing to offer to improve their families' welfare."

The former history teacher recently joined politics to show Rwandans that they should not fear politics and take them a step further toward democracy and freedom of expression, he told the Rwandan paper, The New Times.

Three other candidates were disqualified from running, including the only woman, rights activist Diane Shima Rwigara.

Rwandan voices

While Kagame does have a great deal of support within the country, a section of Rwandans were not happy with promises made by any of the presidential candidates. They said that no one has the policy to alleviate poverty and that the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow.

"Nobody is happy to live in bad conditions when there's an alternative," one woman told DW. "You apply for a loan and the bank asks you for collateral. The loans are given to people with houses and the cars. All we want is funding. They should stop giving us empty promises. We are ready to work but there no job opportunities."

Another resident expressed similar concerns. "I work for so little as someone who carries around other people's luggage. And I am expected to use that to support an entire family."

Read more: Rwanda: Fresh start for former FLDR fighters?

While this year's election has attracted criticism from donors, human rights organizations and social media critics, Kagame is also seen by many as a stabilizing figure for the country. Although Rwanda's budget still largely depends on aid (30- 40 percent in 2015), it has stable economic growth rates of 8 percent and has achieved several of its development goals such as reducing poverty levels and improving gender equality. Nevertheless, more than two-thirds of the population still lives below the poverty line.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both accused Kagame's government of creating a climate of fear through attacks on political opposition, independent media and human rights defenders.

Sylivanus Karemera contributed to this report.

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PDP holds expanded National Caucus, BOT, NEC meetings July 17 – Vanguard

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South Africa: D-Day for Submissions On Secret Ballot

Photo: GCIS

Parliamentary Speaker Baleka Mbete (file photo).

Political parties and MPs had until Friday to submit reasons for and against the use of a secret ballot to Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete in the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma.

Mbete two weeks ago scheduled the Democratic Alliance's request for a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma for the first week of August, following the Constitutional Court order that she has the power to decide on a secret ballot.

She requested that all parties take advantage of the National Assembly rules and register their viewpoints on a secret ballot formally by July 14.

Her decision will be taken thereafter, after considering all viewpoints and all factors, to come to a "well-informed and logical decision".

Opposition parties held a joint press conference on Thursday in Pretoria to say they did not want Mbete to preside over the debate.

The parties represented were the ACDP, APC, COPE, DA, EFF, IFP and the UDM.

"We note her instructions to the ANC MPs to vote in favour of their president; the Speaker is patently biased and therefore compromised," a joint statement read out of by UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said.

"She cannot preside over the debate. To add to this, Ms Mbete will act as president in the event of the success of the no-confidence-vote which makes her even more conflicted."

The parties also called on all South Africans to converge in Cape Town and march to Parliament in support of their call to remove the "incompetent president at the helm".

"Those who are not able to make it to Cape Town must engage in activities in their villages, townships and towns."

They also criticised Mbete for accusations she made that certain judges are biased against the ANC.

Her comments undermined her duty to act as a liaison between Parliament and the other arms of State, and was failing to separate her role as head of the National Assembly and ANC national chairperson.

'Motion will be defeated'

The parties would express their viewpoints in their submissions.

"However, we reinforce the ruling that it is within her discretion to make a determination. We hope that for once, she will be impartial and take a decision for the benefit of South Africa."

Acting ANC caucus spokesperson Nonceba Mhlauli told News24 on Friday the party would also submit its recommendation to the Speaker before the end of business on Friday.

Their submission would not be different to the stance chief whip Jackson Mthembu took, following the Constitutional Court's order on June 22, she said.

They will support whichever decision the Speaker takes, confident in the fact that either way, the motion of no confidence will be defeated.

The party will not support an opposition-sponsored motion to remove its own president, Mthembu had said.

ANC MP Dr Makhosi Khoza also revealed two weeks ago that she had written to the Speaker requesting a secret ballot, citing her safety and recent death threats she has received, as her reasons.

The motion will take place on Tuesday, August 8.

Source: News24

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US seeks to recover $144 million in Nigeria oil industry bribery case – CNBC

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UN identifies 38 new probable mass graves in DR Congo

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Start the conversation, or Read more at Egypt Today.

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