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"Kagame Generation" - Balancing Unconditional Presidential Support and a Desire for Change

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Mbeki edmond

Jul 5, 2024

 The president holds rallies before tens of thousands across the nation

Supporters at a Kagame rally display expressions of uncertainty and reluctance.

As the Rwandan presidential election approaches in July, Paul Kagame is set to run for his fourth term. A pivotal figure who ended the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis, Kagame positions himself as a paternal leader, ensuring stability and prosperity for millions. For 24 years, he has consistently been re-elected with no less than 93% of the vote.

Most Rwandans, under thirty, have only known him as their president. However, many observers describe Kagame's regime, with only one tolerated dissident party, as authoritarian. While the overwhelming majority of the youth support the presidential party blindly, some seek change.

This article explores the "Kagame Generation."

As the July 15 presidential election nears, Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) is actively campaigning. The president holds rallies before tens of thousands across the nation. Re-elected in 2017 with 98% of the vote, the FPR’s undisputed leader inspires trust and loyalty among his supporters. Under his leadership, Rwanda has developed significantly, becoming one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa.

However, the government faces regular accusations from human rights organizations of silencing critics. Only one opposition party, the Democratic Green Party, is allowed to contest him.

At large FPR rallies, a majority of attendees are young, reflecting the nation's demographics. These under-30s did not experience the Tutsi genocide, which Kagame ended in 1994. They have only known one president.

In this report, a team of journalists followed three young people representing the "Kagame Generation." They met Bénigne, a young party member who praises the president’s 24-year tenure and actively participates in party activities.

In Kigali, the journalists also interviewed Mutesi, a young entrepreneur running an alcohol shop, who shares her story of striving in a country with a high youth unemployment rate of nearly 20%. Finally, they followed Jean-de-Dieu, leader of the youth in the Democratic Green Party, the only permitted opposition. These three young voices represent the generation heading to the polls in mid-July.

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