Referendum: 98% say 'yes'


President Kagame casts his vote at APE-Rugunga polling station in Kigali yesterday. (Village Urugwiro)

Citizens have overwhelmingly approved the revised Constitution with preliminary results showing that 98.1 per cent voted “Yego” (Yes) from yesterday’s referendum.

The preliminary results, announced last night by the National Electoral Commission (NEC), are from 21 districts out of 30 that make up the country, representing 70 per cent.

The officials said it was a hint of the trend in the remaining nine districts to be tallied indicating that Rwandans may have approved the revised Constitution.

“We have seen the will of the people. It’s clear that what the people want they can achieve.

They called for the change of the Constitution and they have made it,” said Prof. Kalisa Mbanda, the NEC chairperson, while announcing the preliminary results.

Local Governance minister Francis Kaboneka (L)and Gasabo mayor Stephen Rwamulangwa (C) joined citizens in celebrating the results at Petit Stade.  (Faustin Niyigena)

On average, most of the tallied districts voted in favour at about 98 per cent, with the urban districts in Kigali City returning the lowest “Yego” votes even though they still surpassed 90 per cent.

Some 6.4 million Rwandans were expected to vote in the poll.

About 68,000 electoral volunteers across the country facilitated the process at nearly 2,600 polling sites in a vote that would allow President Paul Kagame to seek re-election when his term expires in 2017.

Saturday Times observed that voters at various polling stations started lining up for the poll early in the morning yesterday as they waited to cast their votes to approve or dismiss the Revised Constitution.

The revised supreme law of the country reduces presidential term limits from seven to five years renewable only once.

But the change will be preceded by a transitional presidential term of seven years for which any presidential candidates, including President Kagame, will be eligible.

Some of the citizens celebrate the results with dance. (Faustin Niyigena)

Parliament has said the change was done in respect to people’s request to safeguard progress made and build a strong foundation for the country’s stability.

More than 3.7 million Rwandans (59 per cent of eligible voters) had petitioned the House to review the law to allow President Kagame to continue his stewardship of the country beyond 2017.

While interacting with journalists shortly after casting his vote at APE-Rugunga polling station in Kigali yesterday, President Kagame said the referendum was the choice of Rwandans who have the right to determine their future.

“What is happening is people’s choice,” he said, adding that Rwandans “have their future in their own hands.”

President Kagame cast his vote alongside First Lady Jeannette Kagame and daughter Ange Kagame.

A few other changes were also made in the Constitution, including the revision of Senators’ and President and vice President of the Supreme Court terms of office from eight years non-renewable to five years renewable once, except for senators who are former Heads of State as they are not subject to term limits.