Rwanda’s presidential election next month will be held under “a climate of fear” following two decades of often deadly attacks on political opponents, journalists and rights activists, Amnesty International charged Friday, calling for serious political reforms in the East African country. “Since the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front took power 23 years ago, Rwandans have faced huge, and often deadly, obstacles to participating in public life and voicing criticism of government policy,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, an Amnesty official in East Africa. “The climate in which the upcoming elections take place is the culmination of years of repression.” Many killings and disappearances, including some recent ones, have been blamed on the government of President Paul Kagame, who has been his country’s de facto leader or elected president since the end of the 1994 genocide.
Kagame is credited with leading Rwanda to stability and impressive economic growth but critics say he is an authoritarian who is intolerant of legitimate opposition.
In next month’s election, scheduled for Aug. 4, Kagame is running against Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, according to a provisional list published by the country’s electoral commission. Other nominees, including Diane Rwigara, are still awaiting approval. A final list of candidates is due to be published Friday amid accusations the electoral commission is deliberately frustrating legitimate opposition candidates.