KIGALI - Rwandan President Paul Kagame has won a third term as president with nearly 99 percent of votes from Friday’s election. More than 6.6 million votes were cast for the incumbent president and just over 80,000 cast for the two opposition candidates. Turnout was about 96 percent.
At Rwanda’s election commission headquarters in downtown Kigali, a Rwandan electoral official reads the results of each district. The commission’s executive secretary, Charles Munyaneza, said they were very satisfied with the process of the vote.
"We are satisfied that you can see Rwandans stand up in a very, very high number," he said. "You could see the calmness, you could see the cleanness at the polling stations, you could see people are celebrating."
Indeed, as results started coming in on Friday night, just hours after the polls closed, thousands of Kagame supporters, donors, and fellow party leaders gathered at the national headquarters of the president’s Rwandan Patriotic Front political party. Kagame supporter Ester Kabaera, a 55-year-old businesswoman, said it was obvious he was going to win.
"We came this country when there was nothing and we’ve made a lot change, we’ve united Rwandans who have been divided for so many years," she said. "We’ve built the nation, we’ve built the roads, there is infrastructure, schools, university. "
Another Kagame supporter at the event, 30-year-old medical student Fred Namania, said he is “extremely happy” about the results.
"Of course president Kagame has done a lot of things for this country. He picked this country from ashes. Actually it was a failed state. But now we’ve seen some progress that’s helped all kinds of people, people from all walks of life," he said.
Opposition presidential candidate Frank Habineza, of the Green Party, told VOA that some of his party’s observers had been denied access to polling stations. At a press conference on Saturday, he admitted the results weren’t as "pleasing" as he expected but congratulated President Kagame on his victory. He also thanked his supporters.
“You demonstrated much love for our manifesto and you believed just like me, that there could be some improvements and changes on what has been done in this country," he said. "You all have given me more courage and confidence to continue a more democratic struggle for our beautiful country.”
Jean-Claude Karayenzi, a banker who voted for Kagame, said he’s not surprised the opposition fared so poorly.
“They had nothing to sell to the country. So maybe that’s why people will see the results and maybe that’s why people didn’t follow them,” he said.
The East African Community sent 45 international observers to monitor the polls. The head of the observer mission, Kenyan Moody Awari, described the election process as “really successful.”
“The elections have been conducted in a peaceful atmosphere within a framework that satisfactorily meets the international, continental, and regional principals of democratic elections,“ said Awari.
Opposition candidates have until Thursday to contest the election results with the judicial system, before the vote becomes finalized.