The Rwanda National Congress, an exiled opposition group operating from Washington, last week held elections that injected fresh blood into the party’s leadership.
However, the party announced that it will not participate in the 2017 presidential elections because it wants to unite Rwandans first before pushing for regime change.
Save for Dr Theogene Rudasingwa, a former director of Cabinet in President Paul Kagame’s office, the opposition group said former officials will serve the party in other capacities.
Dr Gerald Gahima, former prosecutor general and former army chief of staff Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa have been left out in the new line-up.
Observers said that omission of the two former senior state officials who still cause unease in Kigali could be a calculated move to remove “most wanted men” from the party’s leadership.
But the new RNC officials maintained that Dr Gahima and Mr Nyamwasa are still party leaders, even without portfolios.
“Gen Nyamwasa, Dr Gerald Gahima and Joseph Ngarambe are founding members of the RNC,” said Dr Rudasingwa, the party’s co-ordinator.
“They have been, and remain, our active leaders. They do not need formal positions to give guidance and lead in all we do.”
New line up
The new line up comprises Dr Emmanuel Hakizimana, a lecturer of economics in Canada, as secretary general. He was a lecturer at the National University of Rwanda before going into exile.
Dr Hakizimana has not been indicted by Kigali like other former RPF officials in the RNC ranks, but he is not known in Rwanda as a politician.
Dr Rudasingwa, the new co-ordinator, though well known, cannot set foot in Kigali for fear of being arrested.
There are 11 political organisations in the country. Nine of these are working under the aegis of the Political Forum, which has been accused of working with the ruling RPF.
FDU-Inkingi and PS-Imberakuri of the jailed opposition leaders Victoire Ingabire and Bernard Ntaganda respectively are not registered and therefore cannot participate in elections.
Mr Ntaganda is expected to finish serving his jail term in June. Another group of opposition parties including RNC, which caused excitement in and outside Rwanda when it was launched in 2010, operate from exile and their operations within the country are clandestine.
Exiled groups and unregistered parties cite harassment of opposition leaders as a hindrance to democratic growth, but the government says some opposition groups lack ideology and are working with dangerous groups like the FDLR.
“We already have activity in Rwanda; of course clandestine since the regime has made it clear RNC members must be in jail or be killed,” Dr Rudasingwa said in reference to arrests of opposition leaders and the recent killing of ex-spy chief Col Patrick Karegeya in a South African hotel. Rwanda government has distanced itself from the murder of Col Karegeya.
*Culled from East African