Three more prospective candidates were disqualified from running. Among them was the only woman to put herself forward, women’s rights activist and Kagame critic Diane Shima Rwigara.
Within days of announcing her plans to stand against Kagame, nude photos of her — photos that she says were altered — began to circulate on the Internet. The Rwandan Electoral Commission later ruled that Rwigara had not collected enough signatures to support her candidacy. She disputed that ruling.
Kagame, who has been President for 17 years and turns 60 this year, is eligible to stand again thanks to changes to the country’s constitution — overwhelmingly approved in a 2015 referendum — that allow him to seek up to a fifth term in office, and potentially remain in the post until 2034.
Kagame, a Tutsi who became President in 2000 after stints in other government posts, pursued those responsible for the genocide across the border into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire). A 2010 report commissioned by the United Nations found the Rwandan military did not discriminate between Hutu fugitives and refugees and that the majority of those killed posed no threat to the attacking forces.
Fellow rights group Human Rights Watch highlighted restrictions on freedom of speech and said the Rwandan government had limited the ability of opposition parties and civil society groups to operate freely in the run-up to the vote.
Pro-government views dominate the country’s media, and journalists who question the official narrative are harassed or detained, it added.
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