Nairobi: Rwanda’s Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jean Damascène Ntawukuriryayo will run against President Paul Kagame in elections slated for August 9, the chairman of his party said Tuesday.
Ntawukuriryayo, a Hutu who was active in politics before the 1994 genocide, and a former infrastructure and health minister under Kagame, was chosen by his Social Democratic Party (PSD) as its flag bearer at a congress on Saturday.
Asked to confirm news of the choice, published on a Rwandan government website, PSD chief Vincent Biruta said: "It`s true".
Kagame has officially been designated flagbearer for his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Ntawukuriryayo is the second candidate from a registered party to be declared.
Traditionally, since the 1994 genocide, none of the political parties registered in Rwanda has had major ideological differences with any of the others. All say they are working for national unity.
After his designation, Ntawukuriryayo said the PSD had what it takes to win and also emphasised the need to maintain unity and reconciliation and to fight against genocidal ideology, all ideas central to the programme of the RPF.
There have long been nine parties registered in Rwanda. A tenth, the opposition PS Imberakuri was recently registered.
Two other opposition parties, the Democratic Green Party and United Democratic Forces (UDF) of Victoire Ingabire, have so far not succeeded in registering.
A joint statement from the Green Party, PS Imberakuri and UDF derided the idea of having Ntawukuriryayo run against Kagame.
"His Social Democratic Party (PSD) has been sleeping in the same bed with the RPF since 1994, and in 2003 elections PSD backed the RPF candidate," the statement said.
At "the right time the stooge candidate urges his supporters to vote for the incumbent (Kagame)," the opposition parties continued.
"PSD is an RPF satellite ... and has never been in opposition since 1994. It is just coming in to escort and give legitimacy to the RPF candidate and hoodwink the international community that the elections are free and fair," they said.
Kagame`s former mainly Tutsi rebel RPF defeated the Hutu troops and militias held responsible for killing some 800,000 people, most of them Tutsis, between April and June 1994.
He became defence minister in 1994 and president in 2000.