Accessibility links

Rwandan President Heads Toward Re-election in August Vote


FILE - Supporters of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) cheer during a rally by Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Nyanza, Rwanda, July 14, 2017.

Normally, African election campaigns like the one taking place in Rwanda generate a lot of "noise," meaning tension and worries of unrest, according to Moody Awori, head of the East African Community team tasked with observing the August 4 presidential vote.

In Rwanda, however, "I have not seen that, I have not heard that and, in fact, sometimes it is difficult to know that an election campaign is going on," he said. "To me, that is a plus."

Of course, a campaign is taking place. Incumbent President Paul Kagame has attracted huge rallies in the capital, Kigali, and everywhere else he goes. His opponents, opposition party leader Frank Habineza and independent Philippe Mpayimana, have drawn crowds too, although not nearly as large.

FILE - Frank Habineza speaks to a reporter at his offices in Kigali, Rwanda, March 25, 2014.
FILE - Frank Habineza speaks to a reporter at his offices in Kigali, Rwanda, March 25, 2014.

The events have been peaceful and free of threatening rhetoric, in part because Kagame is expected to win in a landslide. He won the 2003 and 2010 polls with more than 90 percent of the vote, and there is no indication this year's result will be much different.

Several rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have said Kagame's re-election bid comes in a climate of fear that resulted from two decades of crackdowns on the political opposition, media and activists.

FILE - Philippe Mpayimana speaks to the media during his first press conference in Kigali, Rwanda, Feb. 4, 2017.
FILE - Philippe Mpayimana speaks to the media during his first press conference in Kigali, Rwanda, Feb. 4, 2017.

Kagame commented on the accusations at one of his campaign stops in western Rwanda, saying that those who say there is a climate of fear and that people are being forced to attend rallies have yet to "get used to the new Rwanda."

Kagame has ruled the country with a firm hand since his forces ended Rwanda's 1994 genocide, which killed an estimated 800,000 people. He is widely credited with helping to bring peace to the country and spurring on economic growth that has led to a falling poverty rate.

Diplomats don't usually make election predictions, but in May, a European Union official in Rwanda said Kagame was likely headed toward re-election.

FILE - Rwanda's President and RPF Chairman Paul Kagame gives a press conference after presenting his credentials as presidential candidate for the upcoming elections in Kigali, June 22, 2017.
FILE - Rwanda's President and RPF Chairman Paul Kagame gives a press conference after presenting his credentials as presidential candidate for the upcoming elections in Kigali, June 22, 2017.

Michael Ryan, head of the European Union delegation in the country, told reporters, "I think you would not lose any money if you bet on Mr. Paul Kagame."

While the EU declined to send a mission to monitor the election, the East African Community picked Awori, a former Kenyan vice president, to head its team of 30 election observers in Rwanda.

The team will observe the concluding stages of the campaigns, as well as observe the voting and counting process on and after August 4.

"The community attaches great importance to the promotion of democracy, which will in turn guarantees political stability in the region," Awori told VOA's Central Africa service Thursday in Kigali.

He said that on election day, the EAC will deploy teams around the country, sampling all 30 districts to assess the level of preparation for the vote, as well as the polling process.

"I am looking forward to seeing a free, fair and transparent election," Awori said.

Kenyan elections

Separately, the seasoned Kenyan politician dismissed fears of election problems in his home country.

"There won't be problems. What I see now is simply healthy and things will work out quite well," said Awori.

Kenyans go to the polls on August 8.

XS
SM
MD
LG