In Rwanda’s northern Rulindo district, residents look over a hill on to three tents pitched ahead of an opposition rally.
Campaigns are gaining momentum ahead of elections on August 4.
Frank Habineza, the presidential candidate for the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DPGR) the only registered opposition party will stand against President Paul Kagame who is running for a third term.
Kagame is widely admired by many for restoring stability to the East African nation after its 1994 genocide, presiding over rapid economic growth and creating a relatively corruption-free government.
But rights activists say those achievements have come at the expense of civil liberties.
Constitutional changes, which technically allow Kagame to stay until 2034, were approved in a 2015 referendum by a 98 percent majority that the opposition and Western diplomats said was suspiciously high.
“That is one of the reasons why we are standing it is to make sure that we bring liberty and total democracy to Rwanda because people in Rwanda, they still feel that no other leader can lead them and they were saying in 2015 that only one person would lead them again because they do not know what will happen tomorrow, but we are telling them that, No! That is not true. We should move forward. We can be better,” said Habineza. We can work without fear so we are trying to make sure that everybody can be free, can be happy to not fear to join any political party, should be free to say what they want but also should respect the law,” said Habineza.
“We can work without fear so we are trying to make sure that everybody can be free, can be happy to not fear to join any political party, should be free to say what they want but also should respect the law.”
Habineza was elected to oppose Kagame at a party congress of about 400 members. His platform includes investing in agriculture, increasing salaries for the security forces and ending political detentions.
He says his tiny party faces sabotage and intimidation from the ruling party and accuses the ruling party of putting pressure on his supporters, but is confident that he can unseat Kagame at the ballot.
“We do have much hope because we know that the people of Rwanda want change. People of Rwanda have seen the same government for the last 23 years. They want to see a new government and we have good policies, better policies than the current government and also we promised Rwanda, Rwandans, a better hope so we know that Rwandans will vote for us and we shall win this election,” he said.
According to the final list, Kagame will run against Habineza and independent candidate, Philippe Mpayimana after Diane Shima Rwigara, a 35-year-old accountant and the only female presidential candidate was disqualified by authorities saying she failed to meet requirements.