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Rwandans vote for president

August 9, 2010 - RWANDA

President Paul Kagame is widely expected to win a second seven-year term on Aug 9. He is credited with establishing stability, rebuilding the small central African nation after the 1994 genocide and for an economic growth rate that makes the landlocked central African nation the envy of the continent. Alleged moves by his ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front to shut down dissent and potential rivals, who include opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, could taint his win and revive Hutu-Tutsi tensions.

An estimated 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis, were killed in bloodletting between the country's two main ethnic groups that lasted 100 days from 6 Apr 1994. Genocide deniers and apologists face criminal charges. Rwandans concede that this curbs free speech but point to German laws that make Holocaust denial an offence. Since the genocide, the government has tried to forge a sense of national identity among its citizens that does away with Hutu and Tutsi labels. Human rights organizations accuse the government of using the genocide as a pretext to bar potential presidential rivals. Ingabire, a Hutu exile who returned recently from the Netherlands, heads one of Rwanda's emerging opposition parties, UDF-Inkingi. She has been charged with promoting genocide ideology, ethnic division and collaborating with Rwandan rebels in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, some of whose leaders were implicated in the 1994 bloodshed. According to Reuters, Rwanda denies there is a political crisis in the run-up to the election, despite the arrest of top military officers and an alleged clampdown on opposition and independent media. Kagame won 95 percent of the vote in 2003.

Amnesty calls for 'fair' trial of Rwanda opposition chief (AFP 28 Apr 2010)

Rwanda: 2010 Elections Set for August 9 (AllAfrica 15 Sep 2009)

Rwanda denies political crisis before August vote (Reuters/WP 27 Apr 2010)

Date written/update: 2010-08-09