Rwanda clears two candidates to run against Kagame
Rwanda's election commission on Friday permitted two opposition candidates to run against President Paul Kagame in elections due on August 4, ruling out three other challengers.
National Election Commission (NEC) chief Kalisa Mbanda announced the approval of the Democratic Green Party's Frank Habineza, independent Philippe Mpayimana and Kagame as candidates, while rejecting three other independents.
Habineza's is the only opposition party permitted to operate in Rwanda, long dominated by Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and the only opponent to a 2015 constitutional reform that cleared the way for the president to run again despite having been in charge of the country since 1994.
Last month the NEC approved Kagame and Habineza but rejected the four independent candidates on procedural grounds, saying they had not met the criteria for eligibility, and gave them five days to resubmit their papers.
Of the four, only Mpayimana, a 46-year-old journalist who is little known in Rwanda, was approved.
Kagame took power in Rwanda in 1994 at the head of a rebel army that is credited with ending the genocide that left around 800,000 people dead, mostly ethnic Tutsis.
Mpayimana, who left Rwanda for the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo during the genocide, lived in Congo Brazzaville and Cameroon before settling in France in 2003. He only returned to Rwanda in February to present his candidacy.
Prospective candidates Gilbert Mwenedata, Fred Barafinda Skikubo and Diane Rwigara were barred from taking part after failing to collect the requisite 600 supporting signatures from citizens across the country.
Observers do not expect any serious challenge to Kagame and his RPF party's rule in the coming election.