By Robert Walker BBC Focus on Africa, Kigali
Twagiramungu promised lower taxes and
The main opposition candidate in Rwanda's
upcoming presidential elections - Faustin Twagiramungu - held his first
campaign rally on Saturday.
He is one of three candidates challenging
incumbent President Paul Kagame, the candidate of the ruling Rwandan
Patriotic Front (RPF).
The rally was the first key test of support for Mr Twagiramungu, who has claimed the RPF have tried to intimidate his
Although only a few thousand people attended,
his allies will see today's rally as an encouraging first step on which to
Faustin Twagiramungu's bid for the presidency
was fully launched with his first public rally at Nyamirambo stadium on
the edge of Kigali.
A crowd of around 3,000 supporters gave him a
President Kagame is running for
There was a low-key police presence and Mr
Twagiramungu was greeted on his arrival by the mayor of Nyamirambo and two
Rwandan army generals.
He began his speech with a request for a
minute's silence in memory of the victims of the Rwandan genocide, those
killed in the war in Congo and the assassinated former Minister of
Interior, Seth Sendashonga.
In a hard-hitting speech, Mr Twagiramungu set
out the main elements of his campaign programme.
He made a populist call for fairer taxes -
joking that currently even goats and chickens pay taxes in Rwanda.
He promised to reduce the number of jobless if
And said he would open up state employment to
all, claiming it is currently dominated by RPF members.
Mr Twagiramungu cited cases of individuals he
said had disappeared during the RPF-led transitional government - and
called on the government to explain their fate.
He also called for the release of jailed former
President, Pasteur Bizimungu, and for Rwandan King Kigeli to be allowed to
return from over 40 years in exile.
The address went down well with his supporters,
many of whom caught their first glimpse of the former prime minister since
his return from exile in June.
For his part, Mr Twagiramungu said he was
encouraged with the size of the turn-out and the crowd's reaction.
Attendance was small compared to the packed
rallies addressed by the RPF's candidate - incumbent President Kagame - in
this first week of campaigning.
But it exceeded many expectations given Mr
Twagiramungu's limited campaign resources and the lack of significant
publicity for the event.
The RPF, who until now have been dominant on the
ground in the campaign, will be watching with interest to see how Mr
Twagiramungu's support base develops in the two weeks remaining before the
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