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FACTBOX-Key political risks to watch in Rwanda

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 18 Apr 2013 10:35 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Jenny Clover

KIGALI, April 18 (Reuters) - Rwanda's help in transferring a Congolese warlord to court in The Hague suggests it may be taking practical steps to shake off accusations from Western donors that it has been backing Congolese rebels, charges that have cost it valuable aid flows.

Bosco Ntaganda, a member of the M23 rebel group wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, turned himself in to the U.S. Embassy in March and asked to be taken to The Hague. Rwanda helped to facilitate the transfer.

That support could burnish the credentials of President Paul Kagame, who has been praised for rebuilding Rwanda's shattered economy after the 1994 genocide, but accused by internal critics of acting like an autocrat and stifling dissent.

REBEL LINKS AND AID

Rwanda has repeatedly denied backing rebellion in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a mineral-rich region where it has a history of meddling. U.N. experts say traders in Rwanda have profited from mineral smuggling from there.

Rwanda and 10 other African states signed a deal in February to end the violence in Congo's east, although there have been flare-ups since. A split in the M23 has raised hopes that the faction seen as most supportive of the deal will prevail.

It is not clear how Ntaganda made his way to Kigali; he may have handed himself in for fear that his war crimes charges could make him a pawn in any peace deal.

What to watch for:

- Will donor countries resume budgetary support? Before the Ntaganda incident, Germany and Britain had released ${esc.dollar}30 million but said they would not channel it to the state budget.

- Signs of improvement in relations between Uganda and Rwanda, strained by Rwanda's alleged links to M23.

POLITICAL OPPOSITION

Praised internationally for steering Rwanda and its economy towards recovery after the genocide, critics say Kagame has employed an authoritarian style that has sacrificed media and political freedoms, accusations that he denies.

Opponents say independent parties have been barred from registering, citing the cases of the Democratic Green party and the FDU-Inkingi party of jailed opposition figure Victoire Ingabire.

Ingabire, who returned from exile in 2010 to contest a presidential election, was barred from running after being accused of crimes that included seeking to minimise the genocide. She was jailed in October for eight years and is appealing.

What to watch for:

- Will more opposition parties be allowed to register ahead of parliamentary elections this September?

- Will Ingabire's appeal be successful?

- Will the West put any pressure on Kagame's government through aid or other means to open up the political space?

KAGAME'S AMBITIONS

Kagame won the 2010 presidential election by a huge margin, handing him a second seven-year term which, according to the constitution, should be his last.

Several articles in pro-government newspapers have raised the prospect of extending his time in office, a move that would anger critics who want to keep the two-term limit and reduce each term to five years.

Kagame has brushed off speculation that he will run for a third term, but has not completely ruled it out if Rwandans want it.

What to watch for:

- Any changes in Kagame's language about a third term that gives a clearer indication of his intentions.

- Reaction of Western donors if Kagame explicitly states he will seek a third term. (Editing by Edmund Blair and Kevin Liffey)

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