By Geoffrey Kamali and Grace Matsiko in Kigali
THE most prominent of all contenders to the Rwandan presidency is, needless
to say, the incumbent, Major General Paul Kagame.
He has been at the centre of the country's political set-up since the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) shot to power to stop the genocide that threatened to wipe out the whole country's population in 1994.
Over the last nine years, he has led his country to recovery. He has held the most flamboyant campaign, erecting electronic billboards, traversing the country and his posters are the only visible sign of campaigns.
Kagame, who was born in the western region of Gitarama in 1957, left Rwanda with his family and settled in Uganda during his childhood. He studied in prominent Ugandan schools, among them Ntare School in Mbarara.
Kagame comes from a family of four. His brother, Joseph Rutagambwa, a former NRA political commissar died in a motorbike accident in Kasese in 1985 during the National Resistance Army war.
The major general has two sisters, Marris who looks after their mother, Esteria Rutagambwa at their private home in Nyarutarama, a posh Kigali suburb and Beatrice, married to a businessman. Their father, Rutagambwa, died many years ago when they were still young. The children were brought up single handedly by the mother who is currently ailing.
Kagame is a proud father of four children. Two boys and two girls. Ivan, a replica of the father is in senior one at Green Hills Academy, an international school where the rest of the children go. The second born is nine years old.
â€œHe has made his children study in local schools as a confidence building measure among the population unlike the past Presidents who sent their children to Belgium and France,â€ an aide said.
Though considered anti-social by most people, Kagame visits Cardillac discotheque once in a while where he freely mixes with the public.
Last Saturday, two days before the elections, he led a group of campaign managers and cabinet ministers to the disco and left at 4.00a.m.
His friends say, when happy, Kagame drinks one glass of wine. they said he last tested a beer from Uganda in 1998.
His taste for Chinese cuisine forces him once in a while to move from State House to Flamingo Restaurant.
His love for sports is unwavering. He plays tennis and competes in the local tennis events. Once in a while he joins his commanders for tennis at the Army Sports Centre at Nyarutarama.
The career soldier joined the National Resistance Army(NRA), led by Yoweri Museveni in the late 1970s and later after taking power, rose to become Uganda's military spy chief in 1986.
In Uganda's intelligence service, he was referred to as a no nonsense man.
He often issued detention orders for stubborn soldiers and some would remain in jail for months without trial, an act that contributed to discipline in the force.
In 1990, Kagame was recalled from a military course in the United States to take over leadership of the RPA after the death of his compatriot, Fred Rwigyema.
These were Rwandan refugees fighting to return home. His post-genocide transitional government has since emphasised national unity by abolishing ethnic grouping in the national identity cards.
However, critics, among them his main rival, Faustin Twagiramungu, have accused him of being intolerant to dissent, cracking down on opponents and forcing the masses to support him.
It could be because of his type of leadership, that the opposition has remained largely weak often taking backstage on every issue. There is talk in Rwanda military that Kagame holds a radio call even in State House where he constantly monitors activities of his commanders and intervenes where necessary.
His government, Rwanda led to the overthrow of Zaire's dictator, Mobutu Sseseseko and later Laurent Kabila and the fighting between Ugandan forces and the RPA in Kisangani, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
When not in political meetings or meeting his commanders, Kagame has love for cows and owns a farm of Friesians.
Promote democratic governance
Improve Rwanda's relations with neighbouring countries
Bring to justice all the perpetrators of 1994 genocide.
Pursue reconciliation and unity
Fight corruption and embezzlement of public funds
Modernisation of agriculture.
Education for all
Improve welfare of the citizenry through poverty eradication
Empowerment of youth and women
Encourage foreign investment into Rwanda
Source for foreign markets for Rwandan goods
Protect Rwanda's fragile environment
Build more hospitals.
Freedom of the press
Promotion of sports
Rwandaâ€™s top brass tussle it out