Incumbent Kagame poised to win re-election
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Rwandan President Paul Kagame is expected to overwhelmingly win a second term as the country votes in a presidential poll marked by the virtual absence of a political opposition.
"Rwanda's new politics are not the politics of the Hutu, the Tutsi or the Twa but the politics of all Rwandans," Kagame told a feverish crowd of supporters on the last day of campaigning, referring to the country's main ethnic groups. "The justice I have put in place is for all Rwandans."
But despite the widespread support that Kagame enjoys at home, there is growing disquiet among international observers and some Rwandans about the democratic process in this central African nation.
War hero to politician
Kagame was just 36 years old in 1994 when his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebel army routed the forces behind the genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 people. He then went on to serve in the government during Rwanda’s transition period after the war.
In 2003, in the fist presidential election after the genocide, 95 percent of Rwandans gave Kagame their support. The international community has since praised Kagame for the solid economic growth that the country has seen and his bold vision to turn Rwanda into an IT hub and middle-income nation in the next ten years.
For Professor Bernard Rutikanga, who teaches history at the National University of Rwanda in the southern city of Butare, Kagame enjoys mass appeal because he has delivered on his promises to bring stability and fight graft.
"He walks the walk. Even people in the government are going to jail for corruption. People in Rwanda recognise that [Kagame] is doing what he said he would do," says Rutikanga.
Kagame is running against three smaller parties, but all have links to the RPF. Candidates Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo, Prosper Higiro and Alvera Mukabaramba are all campaigning vigorously, but their positions on many key issues are remarkably similar to Kagame’s.
Rwanda's Electoral Commission said on Sunday that the two-and-a-half-week electoral campaign was free of any violent or disorderly incidents.
The European Union has sent four experts, but they will only draw up a report for internal EU use.
The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) called on “all Rwandan political parties, all human rights groups and the citizens to rise and reject this electoral masquerade robbing them of their basic rights.”
It also accused the Rwandan government of being behind the killings of independent journalists, as well as the detention of opponents and lawyers and attempting to eliminate exiles.
Some elements of the Democratic Republic of Congo-based FDLR are being sought by Kigali on charges of taking part in the genocide.