Wild celebrations have broken out in the capital Kigali as early results have indicated that incumbent President Paul Kagame is headed towards a landslide victory. The festivities signal an end to a period of political tension that has been induced by the closure of media houses and countless arrests across the country. The country’s electoral commission chairman, Chrysologue Karangwa confirmed to New Africa Analysis that figures displayed on a large screen which informed crowds at the celebration that Kagame is in the lead, having won 93.2% of the votes cast in 14 out of Rwanda’s 30 polling districts were accurate. While the main opposition candidate Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), was second with 4.2% of the vote. [protected]
Kagame dedicated the victory to crowds of supporters at the country’s main stadium saying, ‘you have made the right choice….this is your victory and the victory of all Rwandan people’. He insisted on election day Monday 9th August that the election had been democratic and dismissed allegations that the opposition had been excluded from the electoral process. Three candidates had been barred from the election earlier because they failed to register their parties; they subsequently denounced the poll as a sham.
Kagame has been the Rwandan head of state since the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) – his Tutsi-dominated rebel group turned political party – overpowered Hutu extremists after the genocide. He has been praised for his efforts to rebuild the countries institutions and for overseeing robust economic growth.
However, critics maintain that the lack of serious political opposition and overtones of repression in the lead up to the election have marred his image. Several senior army officers have been arrested in recent months and one general, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, narrowly survived an assassination attempt in exile in South Africa. An opposition journalist who claimed to have uncovered evidence of the regime’s involvement in the attempted murder was shot days later.
The disturbances leading on to the elections drew a substantial amount of attention from human rights groups and foreign diplomats. ‘The nation he leads with Western assistance has become more efficient and neatly run than other central African countries. But we must not suppose that it is a free society,’ former US ambassador to Burundi Robert Krueger wrote in Foreign Policy review just ahead of the election. Human Rights Watch noted that in the six months ahead of the election campaign ‘a worrying pattern of intimidation, harassment and other abuses’ emerged. It is hoped that political stability will return to the country once the final result is called; and that the president will do all in his power to unite the country and not use his newly elected status to supress his opponents. [/protected]