The Electoral Commission on Tuesday announced that Rwandans would go to the polls on July 15, 2024, to elect their next deputies and president, with current head of state Paul Kagame up for a fourth term.
Paul Kagame, 66, has been the de facto leader of this Great Lakes country since the end of the 1994 genocide. He was returned to power with over 90% of the vote in the 2003, 2010 and 2017 elections.
“Throughout the country, the date for the election of the President of the Republic and 53 deputies from a list proposed by political organizations or for independent candidates is July 15, 2024,” said the National Electoral Commission on X (ex-Twitter).
Candidates will be able to campaign from June 22 to July 12, it added.
Twenty-four women parliamentarians, two youth representatives, and one representative of Rwandans with disabilities will also be chosen by electoral colleges and committees on July 16, the Commission said.
In March, the government announced that the presidential and legislative elections would be held on the same day.
In September, Paul Kagame announced his candidacy for a fourth term. “I am happy with the confidence Rwandans have shown in me. I will always serve them, as long as I can,” he told the French-language magazine Jeune Afrique.
He made controversial constitutional amendments that enabled him to win a third term and could allow him to govern until 2034.
He was re-elected head of his party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), at its national congress in April.
For the time being, only the leader of the opposition Green Party, Frank Habineza, has also announced his candidacy for 2024.
Rwanda presents itself as one of the most stable countries on the African continent, but several human rights groups accuse Paul Kagame of governing in a climate of fear, stifling dissent and freedom of expression.
Rwanda is ranked 131st (out of 180 countries) in the Reporters Without Borders 2023 World Press Freedom Index.
Kagame was just 36 when the RPF ousted the Hutu extremists from power, accused of being responsible for the genocide which, according to the UN, claimed some 800,000 victims, mainly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus, between April and July 1994.
During his years in power, many opponents, including members of his party, were imprisoned, killed, or fled into exile.
In 2021, Paul Rusesabagina, hero of the film “Hotel Rwanda” and an outspoken critic of Kagame, was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment for “terrorism”, following his arrest the previous year in murky circumstances.
Released from prison in March 2023 and sent to the USA after a presidential pardon, Paul Rusesabagina published a video message in July, claiming that Rwandans were “prisoners in their own country”.
Asked in July 2022 whether he would run for another term, Paul Kagame replied: “I plan to run for another 20 years, I have no problem with that”.