by Mohammed M. Mupenda
KIGALI, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Rwanda's presidential campaigns officially kicked off Friday. The three candidates are Incumbent President Paul Kagame, Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR), and Philipe Mpayimana, independent candidate.
According to the National Electoral Commission (NEC), the campaigns will end on August 3, one day before the voting day.
Habineza launched his presidential campaign on Friday in Rusizi District, western Rwanda. There are 11 political parties in Rwanda. Besides the ruling party, eight opposition parties backed Kagame in this year's election, according to Kagame at a campaign rally.
Kagame gained landslide victories in the last two presidential elections held in 2003 and 2010 by winning 95 percent and 93 percent of the total votes, respectively.
When Habineza arrived at the campaign venue in the district, he was welcomed by hundreds of supporters chanting DGPR songs.
Habineza, who was born in 1977 in Uganda and returned to Rwanda after 1994's genocide, managed to attract the attention of supporters who came to listen to his manifesto.
DGPR emphasizes on eradicating poverty, land taxes, creating job opportunities for the youths, striving for reduction of unemployment, establishing a national security council and ensuring a better civil-military relations model, promoting economic growth without environmental degradation, championing the respect of all fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the constitution.
"We will end the food shortage and hunger in the country by considering citizen's views participation," Habineza explained the manifesto to the press and supporters at the rally.
"I will make sure that under my party's government, we shall achieve what the RPF (the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front) has failed to achieve," he said.
"We will offer shelter for soldiers and provide health facilities around those houses."
After the first stop of campaign in Rusizi, Habineza moved to Nyamasheke district, western Rwanda on Saturday for the second day of his rally.
Upon his arrival, Habineza, along with his wife Judith Kabarira and his party members, was welcomed by his supporters chanting his name and manifesto. Aime Fabien Kamali, Mayor of Nyamasheke District, in his welcome remarks reminded DGPR of respecting the campaign rules as indicated by NEC.
"We are delighted to welcome you to the district. In the democracy, multiple parties are recognized and DGPR is legalized on Rwandan land," Kamali added.
Despite the low turn up at the rally, Habineza is confident that he will win the election. People know DGPR, which is in people's heart, he said.
Habineza said he will deal with the long standing conflict between Rwanda and countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and France.
"I am ready to engage in talks. France was once our good friend and we had good diplomatic relations that I will reinstate once elected," he promised.
"I will make sure we are living harmoniously with France and the neighboring countries, and what others call enemies for the country, we see them as Rwandans and we are ready to engage in daily talks," he explained his foreign policy.
He also said he will reduce VAT from 18 percent to 15 percent.
Rose Musanabera, 32, from Nyamasheke District told Xinhua that Habineza has a good manifesto but she will wait for other candidates to also present theirs to decide who to vote for. Pascal Rugira, 28, said Habineza's policies can boost social welfare of all Rwandans.
But another participant Vedaste Nsengiyumva criticizes the DGPR's manifesto, saying that the government cannot get money to develop the countries and paying workers without taxing citizens on land and other economic activities.