|Deo Mushyayidi an Opposition Leader in Rwanda being kidnapped|
Posters with the stern face of President Paul Kagame look down from billboards, shop windows and electronic advertising panels. Under each is the slogan “Umusingi W’ubumwe, Demokarasi N’amajyambere” – Unity, Development and Democracy. Rwanda has made unmistakeable strides on the first two promises. The third is less certain.
With the country’s second presidential election since the country’s 1994 genocide in full swing, Mr Kagame has been accused of crushing dissent ahead of the August 9th poll, with opposition politicians and independent journalists murdered in recent weeks.
The latest was that of Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, a former chief-of-staff of the Rwandan army, who set up the opposition Green Party last year. Police said he was killed in a financial dispute, but Human Rights Watch said its own findings indicate his murder “may have been politically motivated”. Meanwhile, opposition leader Victore Ingabire and her FDU-Inkindi party have been prevented from running, with Ms Ingabire accused of denying the genocide and abetting terrorism. Bernard Ntaganda, leader of the Social Party, has been behind bars since June 24th.
On Tuesday, a Rwandan court opened the trial of Deo Mushayidi, a former member of Mr Kagame’s ruling party and now an opposition leader. He is charged with collaborating with a terrorist group, spreading rumours to cause civil disobedience and promoting genocide ideology.
Mr Kagame will now take on Damascene Ntawukuliryayo from the Social Democratic Party (PSD), Prosper Higiro from the Liberal Party and Alvera Mukabaramba from the smaller Party of Progress and Concord (PPC) in the vote. However, all three parties supported Mr Kagame during the 2003 presidential election, raising suspicions that they are just a token opposition being used to maintain a facade of pluralism in the tiny east African nation.
Mr Kagame can point to real progress since his 2003 election. The economy grew by 8.6 per cent last year. There is negligible corruption, a report from anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International said last week. Reports of bribery are almost nonexistent.
Primary school enrolment stands at 92 per cent, the highest in the region, says the UN, and parliament has the highest proportion of female representation in the world, with 55 per cent of seats.
“Before the RPF there was no peace,” says one man, sitting underneath a poster for Mr Kagame’s party in his bakery, south of Kigali. “They have brought stability and prosperity.” Others were less certain. “This election is just for you in the West,” said another man. “They want you to think that there is democracy here. But look around you. You can see that there is no choice.”