Bernard Ntaganda

Rwanda Blocks Opposition Candidate from Election Participation

Rwandan court denied Bernard Ntaganda’s appeal to overturn his prior convictions, making him ineligible to challenge President Paul Kagame in the upcoming July elections.

Ntaganda, a 55-year-old critic of Kagame, had requested the High Court in Kigali in February to nullify convictions from more than a decade ago. He becomes the second opposition figure barred from competing in the July 15 election against Kagame, widely expected to secure a fourth seven-year term in office.

A three-judge panel rejected Ntaganda’s appeal, citing his failure to pay court fees linked to the previous case. The court decision mentioned Ntaganda’s non-compliance with laws mandating individuals to formally request the removal of their convictions.

Ntaganda, a lawyer and founder of the PS-Imberakuri party, claimed he had evidence of fee payment but anticipated the court’s ruling. According to Rwandan legislation, anyone sentenced to over six months in prison is prohibited from holding public office.

In March, a court similarly upheld prior convictions against Kagame critic Victoire Ingabire, disqualifying her from the July race. Despite Rwanda’s economic progress under Kagame’s leadership post-genocide, he faces criticism for human rights violations, oppression of dissent, and restrictions on free speech.

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