Main Opposition Candidate Returns
After Years in Exile
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
June 20, 2003.Posted to the web June 20, 2003
Former Rwandan Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu arrived in Kigali
on Friday from Brussels, ending his eight-year exile to challenge
President Paul Kagame in the first post-genocide elections.
Twagiramungu, a moderate Hutu, was prime minister in the first
government installed by Tutsi rebels in Rwanda after the country's
1994 genocide. He resigned after 13 months and has lived in exile in
Belgium since September 1995.
"I am happy to be back in Rwanda after eight years in exile," he told
reporters upon his arrival.
He was received at Kigali airport by hundreds of his supporters who
amidst tight security could not openly cheer for their candidate.
Twagiramungu, however, said that he would formally declare his bid
for the presidency at a later date.
"I am still active in politics, but I will formally declare my stand for
presidency at a later date, I cannot say much at the moment," he told
"There must be an ample atmosphere for Rwandans to freely come
back to their country regardless of their status. Not every opponent
of the government is a genocidaire," he added.
Meanwhile, the stage seems to be set for Rwanda's first post-
genocide elections. The transitional national assembly has been busy
debating two major laws that will pave the way for both presidential
and parliamentary elections. The two laws include one governing the
conduct of political parties during campaigns, while the other sets
guidelines for both presidential and parliamentary candidates.
Rwandans also recently voted overwhelmingly for a new constitution
that would enable multiparty elections slated for August. The elections
are seen as a major test for a country groping for stability following
the genocide and a four-year civil war that preceded it.
Twagiramungu has been quoted from his exile as saying that he would
campaign on restoring national unity to the ethnically divided country
and peace to a region beset by conflict.
He has also promised to implement economic measures that would
improve the lives of the 60 percent of Rwanda's population living below
the poverty line.
Twagiramungu has returned to find his political party, the Mouvement
Democratique Republicain, dissolved for allegedly spreading politics of
ethnicity and breaching national unity. However, he has said he would
run as an independent if his party remained banned.
[For IRIN's recent interview with Twagiramungu,