Candidates seeking to represent women, the youth and people with disabilities in next month’s parliamentary elections say they are ready for the polls and only waiting for August 26 to hit the campaign trail.
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) will disclose when and where these candidates will meet their respective electoral colleges and pitch their political agenda.
Depending on the size of the constituency, aspirants running for the 24-women-only seats will have an opportunity to campaign at two or three sites in each of the 30 districts.
Candidates for the youth and those eyeing the special slot for people living with disabilities will also meet their electoral colleges at designated areas with the facilitation of the electoral commission.
But most of the candidates declined to discuss their political agenda with the media, preferring to keep close tabs until the campaign period.
Gaston Rusiha, the head of the National Council for the Disabled, who is one of the 15 candidates eyeing the slot for the disabled, justified his reluctance to talk about what he intended to do for this special interest group, arguing that his competitors might copy his agenda.
“It is still my secret,” he said on Tuesday, a day after NEC released the final list of 410 candidates who will tussle it out in various categories. “I’m keeping my message for the right time and looking forward to addressing the Electoral College once campaigns have kicked off.”
Candidates in this category are bidding to replace outgoing representative Pierre Claver Rwaka, who is not seeking re-election in this category but rather appears on the list of RPF candidates.
Justine Mukobwa, a Kigali resident, is among 23 candidates who are competing for the two seats reserved for the youth.
She, too declined to reveal her political agenda, only saying that her “passion” to serve the youth is the reason she is joining the race.
“I like serving the youth, that’s my passion,” she said.
The two outgoing youth representatives in the Chamber of Deputies, Marie Pelagie Uwamaliya Rutijanwa and Basile Bayihiki are also in the running to fill the 53 openly contested seats on the RPF ticket.
But some candidates were willing to state the broader issues around which their manifestoes would revolve.
Clarisse Mukansanga, who is seeking to represent women in the Western Province, said she would like to stand up against domestic violence once elected.
“I want to help women to speak out against this form of violence. I see it every day and if I get in Parliament I will be in a stronger position to speak out against it,” she said.
Mukansanga, 41, is among 103 candidates competing to occupy the 24 seats reserved for women, which have been allocated to five constituencies in proportion to the number of the population and registered voters recorded in those areas.
The constituencies include the City of Kigali (five candidates to battle for two seats), Southern Province (30 candidates to compete for six seats), Western Province (21 candidates for six seats), Eastern Province (21 candidates for six seats), and the Northern Province (21 candidates for four seats).
For Esperance Nyiranzeyimana, who is also running to represent women in the Western Province, fighting poverty at the grassroots is one of the issues she seeks to address.
She added: “We need thorough policies to bring to an end any form of violation of peoples’ rights,” she said, also citing what she called low levels of education among women in her constituency.
Dates and places for campaigns by candidates for special interest groups are not yet definite, but polls for the youth and the disabled are slated for September 17, while women will pick their representatives on September 18.
The elections to fill the 53 openly contested seats (normally dominated by candidates fronted by political parties) will be held on September 16.
The Chamber of Deputies has a total of 80 members.
Rwanda runs a bicameral parliament system.
By Eugene Kwibuka, The New Times