Rwanda's President to First Opposition Lawmakers: Work With Us

(Bloomberg) -- Rwandan President Paul Kagame urged the nation’s first opposition lawmakers in a quarter-century to work with the government in transforming the country, days after pardoning a high-profile political opponent.

Kagame spoke Wednesday at a swearing-in ceremony in the capital, Kigali, that included four lawmakers from opposition parties. Their election in a Sept. 3 vote marked the first time a party not in the Rwandan Patriotic Front coalition had won seats since the country’s 1994 genocide -- a development that one opposition leader dubbed a victory for democracy.

“We have new members of parliament and new parties,” Kagame told the assembly. “They are joining parliament to work together and collaborate toward transforming this country.”

The East African nation has been repeatedly accused by rights groups of cracking down on political opponents and the media under Kagame’s rule. Authorities reject the criticism and point to the landlocked country’s economic revival since the coming to power of the ex-rebel leader, who ended the genocide in which about 800,000 people died. Authorities say the economy will grow about 7.1 percent this year.

Kagame on Sept. 14 pardoned about 2,140 people from Rwanda’s jails. They included opposition leader and one-time presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire, who was jailed for 15 years in 2013 for conspiring against the government, and Kizito Mihigo, an activist and musician serving 10 years.

“To build our country, we made the decision to rehabilitate our citizens and enable them to contribute to our country,” Kagame said. But he warned that there would be “no room” for Rwandans who “take us backward.”

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