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1 killed in stampede as Rwanda’s Kagame begins campaign for reelection

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Attendees of a reelection rally for Rwanda’s long-time President Paul Kagame prompted a stampede that killed at least one person and injured 37, officials said Monday.

The stampede took place in Rubavu in remote western Rwanda on Sunday when attendees pushed to get closer to Kagame as he was about to leave the event. Four of the injured people were in serious condition, the local government said in a statement Monday.

Kagame, who has been Rwanda’s de facto authoritarian ruler or president since 1994, is widely expected to win reelection in the July 15 election. He won the last election with nearly 99 percent of the vote.

Kagame’s RPF-Inkotanyi party said in a statement that it was “deeply saddened” by news of the victim in Rubavu, a city in Rwanda’s Western Province.

Official campaigning started on Saturday and will end on July 13. Kagame’s opponents are long-time opposition figure Frank Habineza, of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, and independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana — the same opponents Kagame faced in 2017.

Kagame’s campaign events are usually crowded and boisterous, with supporters ferried from different parts of the country. Those of his opponents are regularly dismal affairs with few people, underscoring the perception among Rwandans that Kagame is unbeatable.

Kagame took power after his forces stopped the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists in 100 days of violence.

Rights activists and others say Kagame has created a climate of fear that discourages open and free discussion of national issues. Critics have accused the government of forcing opponents to flee, jailing or making them disappear while some are killed under mysterious circumstances.

By IGNATIUS SSUUNA
Associated Press

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