NYARUGENGE - As Rwandan voters look forward to electing their representatives to the Chamber of Deputies come September this year, the head of the European Commission in Rwanda has said that democracy reigns in the country. “Yes, there are democratic essentials in Rwanda,” David MacRae said last evening after a journalist asked whether the European Union (EU) believes democracy had taken root in the country. This was during a press conference at the Ministry in Finance headquarters in Nyarugenge, Kigali after donors signed an agreement with the Government to release $10.2 million (about Frw5.5 b) towards the 2008-2011 electoral activities in the country.
Election officials say the donors – grouped under what is known as Joint International Basket Fund Partners Group – were to immediately deposit $4.1 million on the National Electoral Commission (NEC)’s bank account to help finance the September parliamentary elections.
In the 2003 general elections, the Government financed the process single-handedly after the EU and other donors withheld their funding.
Asked why there has now been a change of heart, MacRae – who was uncomfortable to admit that development partners pulled out when their support was needed most in 2003 – said that NEC was currently more prepared to receive the funding than five years ago.
“In 2003, the electoral commission wasn’t as ready as it is today to engage with us. We are now impressed with the situation,” the envoy, who was flanked by five other diplomats representing some of the country’s main development partners, said.
“As Rwanda develops and as institutions develop, we want to share the same commitment. Secondly, we also want to ensure that there are sufficient resources at the disposal of the electoral commission for it to conduct elections appropriately,” he added.
MacRae went on to say that if the EU thought there was lack of a level playing field in the political domain, it wouldn’t have come out to support NEC in organising the elections.
The contributors towards the election basket fund are the EU, UK, Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands.
UNDP, which is providing technical support to NEC in the run-up to the September parliamentary polls, was represented at the function by its Country Director, Anthony Ohemengboamah.
This year’s elections will cost an estimated Frw6.6 billion.
NEC had already secured Frw4.8 billion from the State’s 2008 budget.
The forthcoming polls are part of a series Rwanda will hold within four years, the next being the 2010 presidential elections and then the senatorial and local government polls slated for 2011.
Finance Minister James Musoni saluted the Joint International Basket Fund Partners Group and the UNDP for their support, adding that NEC will use the funds to organise and conduct free and fair elections during the next electoral cycle spanning four years.
NEC president Prof. Chrysologue Karangwa said that the money would be used in among other things securing modern electoral kits, educating voters and enabling smooth electoral exercises.
“Their support is a manifestation that they have confidence in our democratic processes,” said the man who has been at the commission’s helm for many years.