Opposition party cites itself as proof of political diversity

Friday August 19 2022

Newly-elected member of parliament and an opposition party leader Frank Habineza is committed to holding the government accountable. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

By Ange Iliza

In September 2018, the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, the only registered opposition party made history when it won two MP seats after garnering five per cent of the votes cast in parliamentary elections.

At the time, the Green Party said it was a sign. Rwanda’s main opposition will now have parliamentary seats for the first time, in what the party termed as “a sign” that political space was opening up.

Your party recently experienced some infighting. What happened?

The clashes have ended, and we have addressed the issue. We had two members in our committee who were conspiring against the party. We investigated the issue and found that they were in touch with opposition groups outside Rwanda, including RANP Abaryankuna (Rwandan Alliance for The National Pact) said to be based in Mozambique, which has a different cause from ours. So, we dismissed both.

The Democratic Green party of Rwanda is more stable than ever. Membership has grown more than 20 percent from 40,000 members in 2018 despite Covid-19. We now have committees in 11 districts, and we plan to continue expanding. We have achieved over half of what we promised Rwandans in the 2017 elections, and still progressing.

You have worked with the government for four years in parliament. What has
been your experience?


In the past, we would need external interventions from the international community to address some issues with the government, for instance in the case of the disappearance of our secretary, Jean Damascene Munyeshyaka, and efforts to locate him. We no longer need other parties’ interventions. We can discuss issues with relevant institutions and express our ideas in the parliament.

There is, however, room for improvement, especially with grassroots leaders who are still complacent in giving us audience with citizens. There have been cases where we have been denied operating in some sectors.

Rwanda is often accused of silencing its opposition and violating human rights. You have been leading an opposition party inside Rwanda for almost 10 years now. What is your take on these allegations?

There has been tremendous progress in terms of political diversity in Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic Party of Rwanda is a living proof of that progress. It took us more than five years to get to the parliament and there will be more we will achieve together in the future.

Constructive opposition and healthy debate seems to be overridden by other outspoken and confrontational opposition parties, which threatens democracy and even the security of Rwandans.

Do you plan to run again in the 2024 presidential elections?

Yes, we plan to place a candidate in the 2024 presidential elections. We will confirm the nominee after voting for the president of the party next year. We stand a better chance of winning the election than we did in 2017 because now we have experience in the political arena spanning more than 10 years by 2024.

Dr Frank Habineza entered Rwandan politics on August 14, 2009, by publicly declaring the formation of the Opposition Democratic Green Party of Rwanda an alternative to the dominant ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front of President Paul Kagame. He is also the  resident of the African Greens Federation, a coalition of 30 political parties and movements across Africa.

He represents Africa on the Council of Global Greens and is now a member of its Executive Committee.

Dr Habineza was born in Mityana, Uganda in 1977, where his parents stayed as political refugees. He attended the National University of Rwanda (1999-2004), graduating in Political and Administrative Sciences with a major in Public Administration.

After several appointments and a journalism practice, he resigned from all civil society activities when he joined active opposition politics.

In August 2010, he fled Rwanda for refuge in Sweden, where he stayed with his wife and three children. He returned in September 2012 and continued the democratic struggle and finally managed to get the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda officially registered in August 2013.