Dr. Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo and his Social Democratic Party, or PSD, certainly don’t make it easy for you to find their political rallies. Late morning, I headed east out of Kigali with Reuters correspondent Hez Holland. The rally was scheduled to take place in Rwamagana, some 35km or so from the capital. Mid-journey, the location changed. An SMS message told us it would now take place in Rugende. That’s Rugende pictured above. It’s little more than a Gapco petrol station and a smattering of houses. A half hour wait, more phone calls and we’re told to head up the “10km track in front of you”.
That 10km was closer to 30km and was solid dust, bumps and road works for the entire length. A lot of fun to drive, but hardly the most practical place to get to. We arrived as Ntawukuriryayo was in mid-speech, in front of a crowd of approximately 400 people, sitting on white plastic chairs under the shade of a tent. The mid-day sun, white hats, white tent and white chairs conspired to make any photographic ambitions I might have had a bit of a no-no. The kids below had the right idea, lying in the shade of one of the PSD trucks.
Of all the opposition candidates in this election, Ntawukuriryayo is the only runner who is remotely convincing. (By the by, one western diplomat I spoke to said they’re not even bothering to look at the campaign of the fourth candidate, Alvèra Mukabaramba and the Democratic Republic Movement). Ntawukuriryayo is largely responsible for bringing health insurance to Rwandans. However, with a paltry 400 supporters in attendance in Karenge – compared to Kagame’s 100,000+ spectaculars – only the most optimistic/blinkered/deluded would believe he stands a realistic chance come August 9.
During the small press huddle, Ntawukuriryayo deflected questions about the relative lack of support he has garnered in comparison with the President’s mammoth gatherings. He insisted the number of people attending the rally is not important. Those that do attend act as “messengers” to their own communities. In addition, he refused to compare PSD and RPF,
“For me, I have been against those comparisons. The classic one saying, Oh people who have been working together can’t compete in any election. We have been competing in the legislative elections in 2003… and today we are doing the same…”
“…I have never compared what I am doing with others. They do their business, I do mine. Then I will wait for the final decision which is going to be given by the people.”
Like all the parties, it is very difficult to find out how many supporters they each have. When asked how many supporters PSD has, Ntawukuriryayo replied,
“Count yourself here. I am not here to disclose on numbers. Look to the people and ask them. Ask them if they will vote for PSD or if they are going to give the message to others.”
He said that people need to read the PSD party manifesto to see how they differ from the RPF. However, Rwandans will only really see the differences when the manifesto is implemented,
“If people would read our manifesto… they should see the difference. And sometimes, the difference comes when you implement. So, we are going to show the difference when we are going to be elected.”
I might attempt to upload a segment of audio from the interview, but Internet connections are not playing nice. The New Times also has a summary of the rally,
“Karenge has the best banana plantations in the country…I want all areas in the country that are suitable for bananas to look up to you,” he said. “I will also end teachers’ poor payment once and for all, hence improving education in the country. Vote for me-give me your vote and develop Rwanda.” link
Photographs taken from the Kigali Wire Flickr account.