Wrangles in Rwanda’s main opposition party could hand a walkover to the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections in 2023. And the dominant party in the country could ride on that to the presidential elections in 2024, leaving opponents politically dead.
The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, led by Frank Habineza, is the only opposition party in the country not in a ruling coalition of the RPF.
Habineza unsuccessfully contested against President Paul Kagame in the 2017 presidential elections, managing a paltry 0.48 percent of the vote. He is currently under pressure after dismissing some members he accused of “harboring treacherous plans of destroying the party from within by creating another political party.”
“We had two members in our committee who were conspiring against the party. We investigated the issue and found they were in touch with opposition groups outside Rwanda, including RANP — Abaryankuna (Rwandan Alliance for The National Pact) which has a different cause than us. So, we dismissed both…” Habineza told The EastAfrican. The RANP are said to be exiled in Mozambique.
However, the duo contested his version. Ferdinand Mutabazi and Jean Deogratius Tuyishime who were dismissed by the party claim the disagreement is linked to Habineza’s leadership.
Both were influential leaders of the officially registered party with 400,000 members wanting to contest in their internal election to lead the party in 2023.
Mr Mutabazi represents the party in Southern Province while Mr Tuyishime represents the party in the Northern Province.
In a separate interview, Ferdinand Mutabazi, told The EastAfrican that the dismissal was based on factless accusations and that Habineza was threatened by his “growing influence” in the party.
Mutabazi says he plans to sue the party president for defamation and run against him in the next parliamentary election either as a private candidate or another party’s candidate. He did not deny or admit to planning to form another political party. He denied all the allegations and counter-accused Habineza of being “a paranoid, self-centred leader who leads the party as his own company”.
Observers say the infighting puts the party on the verge of splitting. Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a researcher, and political analyst says the splitting and intra-conflicts hurt the parties and their influence in Rwanda’s political space.