, KIGALI, Jul 20 – Rwandan President Paul Kagame said Tuesday he was confident of re-election on August 9 as he kicked off a campaign already tarnished by a string of political assassinations and arrests.
The 52-year-old leader, who has ruled Rwanda since his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) ended the 1994 genocide by extremists from the Hutu majority against his Tutsi minority, insisted the country was free to choose.
"Rwandan voters have the freedom to decide. But we have to seek their support and explain how we deserve their support," Kagame told reporters in Kigali on the first day of the three-week official campaign.
But with the main opposition parties already effectively out of the running, few people, including Kagame himself, appeared to have any doubt on the outcome of the vote.
"I\’m very confident that Rwandans will choose to work with RPF but I don\’t take anything for granted," Kagame said.
The RPF is planning to spend two million dollars on the campaign, all from "voluntary contributions", according to Kagame\’s campaign coordinator Christophe Bazivamo.
Challenging Kagame are Deputy Speaker Jean-Damascene Ntawukuriryayo, running for the Social Democratic Party, as well as the Liberal Party\’s Prosper Higiro and the Party of Progress and Concord\’s Alvera Mukabaramba.
Those three movements supported Kagame during the 2003 presidential election and are described by other parties as the RPF\’s "political satellites", token opposition used to maintain a facade of pluralism.