Rwan­dans cel­e­brate Kagame’s record 98% elec­tion land­slide

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

KI­GALI: Rwan­dans yes­ter­day cel­e­brated the third term vic­tory of Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame who pledged to con­tinue trans­form­ing the na­tion af­ter win­ning re-elec­tion with a record 98 per­cent of the vote. There had been lit­tle doubt that the 59-year-old would re­turn to the helm of the east African na­tion which he has ruled with an iron fist since the end of the 1994 geno­cide. “I am very pleased. I had hoped for this vic­tory,” said Yvette Uwineza, a 36-year-old com­puter sci­en­tist. “The con­ti­nu­ity is re­as­sur­ing,” she said, cred­it­ing Kagame with de­vel­op­ing the coun­try and cre­at­ing “a bet­ter life for Rwan­dans.”

In­terim re­sults pub­lished by the elec­toral com­mis­sion yes­ter­day gave Kagame an un­prece­dented vic­tory, out­strip­ping the 95 per­cent he took in 2003 and 93 per­cent in 2010. Yes­ter­day’s tally matched the pro­por­tion of peo­ple who sup­ported a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment two years ago per­mit­ting Kagame to run for a third, fourth and fifth term po­ten­tially see­ing him rule un­til 2034.

“I hon­ored your re­quest, and this (elec­tion) con­firms that Rwan­dans made a choice based on the fu­ture they want,” Kagame told thou­sands of sup­port­ers at his rul­ing party’s head­quar­ters in Ki­gali in the early hours of the morn­ing. “We are go­ing to con­tinue with the work we started by ad­vo­cat­ing for a bet­ter Rwanda.”

Of the re­sults so far an­nounced, Kagame had 98.66 per­cent while his two lit­tle-known ri­vals barely made a dent. Frank Habineza of the Demo­cratic Green Party-the only per­mit­ted crit­i­cal op­po­si­tion party-won just 0.45 per­cent of votes, beaten into third place by the lit­tle-known in­de­pen­dent can­di­date Philippe Mpay­i­mana with 0.72. “I ac­cept the re­sult and con­grat­u­late the RPF and Paul Kagame,” Mpay­i­mana told AFP. “I am not go­ing to stop here. I urge all cit­i­zens to join be so we can be­come stronger for the next elec­tion.”

Vi­sion­ary or despot?

Rwan­dans cel­e­brated Kagame’s win in muted fash­ion, with no spon­ta­neous large gath­er­ings in the dis­ci­plined na­tion. In­side a gym­na­sium in the cap­i­tal mu­sic and dancers en­ter­tained hun­dreds of party loy­al­ists who cel­e­brated into the morn­ing. “We are cel­e­brat­ing the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion,” said one young man as he danced. “We are cel­e­brat­ing Paul Kagame!” an­other yelled out next to him.

Kagame has been the de facto leader of Rwanda since, as a 36-year-old, his rebel army routed ex­trem­ist Hutu forces who slaugh­tered an es­ti­mated 800,000 peo­ple-mainly mi­nor­ity Tut­sisand seized Ki­gali in 1994. He was first ap­pointed pres­i­dent by law­mak­ers in 2000. The lanky for­mer guerilla fighter is one of Africa’s most di­vi­sive lead­ers, with some hail­ing him as a vi­sion­ary while crit­ics see a despot aim­ing to be­come one of the con­ti­nent’s pres­i­dents-for-life.

Kagame is cred­ited with a re­mark­able turn­around in the shat­tered na­tion, which boasts an­nual eco­nomic growth of about seven per­cent, is safe, clean and does not tol­er­ate cor­rup­tion. Rwanda also has the high­est num­ber of fe­male law­mak­ers in the world. How­ever rights groups ac­cuse Kagame of rul­ing through fear, re­ly­ing on sys­tem­atic re­pres­sion of the op­po­si­tion, free speech and the me­dia. Kagame’s crit­ics have ended up jailed, forced into ex­ile or as­sas­si­nated. Few Rwan­dans would dare to openly speak against him.

KI­GALI: Tra­di­tional In­tore dancers per­form at the Ama­horo Sport com­plex.—AFP

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