Aug. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Rwandan President Paul Kagame defended the country’s political system and criticized foreign media for saying there is no democracy in the East African nation.
Kagame, who has ruled for the past 10 years, also accused opposition leaders including Victoire Ingabire of promoting division among voters ahead of elections on Aug. 9. He spoke at a gathering in Gichumba, northern Rwanda, attended by 150,000 people, according to Ignatius Kabagambe, a director in the Information Ministry.
“When people choose what they want, that is democracy. When they reject negative forces and divisionism, that is democracy. When they choose the leadership they want that is democracy,” Kagame said. “Whoever does not like the Rwanda way of democracy should go and hang.”
Kagame led the rebel forces that in 1994 ended the genocide of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus. He came to power in 2000 after President Pasteur Bizimungu was deposed, and then won a seven-year term in September 2003 after Rwanda’s first democratically contested multiparty elections.
In the run-up to next week’s vote, at least two prominent opponents of Kagame have been killed. A third survived a shooting in South Africa in June. The Rwandan government denies any involvement in the incidents.
Ingabire, leader of the opposition United Democratic Forces, says she has been unable to register as a candidate for the elections because she has been under house arrest. She has called for the election to be postponed.
Kagame praised the attendance at today’s rally as a sign of support for the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front’s policies.
“I am so happy you came in large numbers, which means you love your country and its prospects for democracy,” Kagame said. “Foreigners who write that there is no democracy in Rwanda should come and see.”
Kagame has overseen a period of economic growth, with the World Bank’s Doing Business 2010 report ranking Rwanda as the world’s top “business reformer.” The coffee-based economy is projected to grow 5.4 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund said on July 9.
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