Rwandans who turned up to cast their votes in yesterday’s Parliamentary polls arrived at polling stations hours before voting started at most polling stations upcountry. This was the second legislative elections after the 1994 Genocide.
In Byumba Sector, in Gicumbi District, Huye and Gisagara, enthusiastic residents lined up at various polling stations as early as 5.00 am.
Voting kicked off at 6.00 am and long lines formed at all the polling stations. By 11 am polling stations were almost empty. There was a big turnout and voting was peaceful at all the polling stations visited by our reporters.
At the polling stations, election observers from the civil society and the European Union (EU) and the African Union were present.
In Rulindo district, in just a spell of 45 minutes, most voters had finished to cast their votes. All the voters in Muduha village, Butangampundu sector in Rulindo had finished voting within the first 45 minutes, and in the following three hours, 90 percent of the voters had finished casting their votes, Julius Nkusi, the president of the electoral commission in the Northern Province, said after touring the polling stations. He described the exercise as peaceful, free and highly participated.
Nkusi said that the voters’ punctuality, order and discipline exhibited during the elections were a clear manifestation of democracy.
The electoral commission officials at polling stations first took oath of transparency and integrity, as prescribed by the electoral commission before opening ballot boxes.
In Musanze district, there were 73 polling stations. There were political party’s polling agents at all stations except for the Liberal Party (PL) which lacked some representatives at some polling stations.
JMV Harerimana, the only independent candidate also did not have representatives at the polling stations.
Justin Bigirumwami, the president of Electoral Commission in Musanze, said the Social Democratic party (PSD) had sent its agents to some polling stations but their names did not appear on the electoral commission list of observers.
One of the PSD representatives, in Busogo Sector was arrested and handed to the police for allegedly illegally taking pictures inside the voting rooms.
Bigirumwami said it appeared as if they just hired their agents in the morning to assist them in the exercise.
In Nyagatare District, Eastern Province, Most of the voters who queued early in the morning at various polling stations were local people.
Most of them said that they wanted to cast their votes early and go back to their normal duties. They would return in the evening after voting to listen to the provisional results.
The voters, who turned-up at Nyagatare, Gahurura and Kabeza polling stations visited by The New Times, were confident of what they were doing without external assistance.
What seemed to be impressive in this election was the knowledge voters had in regard to what should be done at the polling stations and thereafter.
Some voters noted that the election results would be fair because they were given enough sensitisation on how to precisely cast their votes.
Andrew Karambuzi, who voted at Nyagatare polling station, said the big turnout of voters in the area was a clear representation of how it would be countrywide.
“I am sure in the whole country it will be the same,” said Karambuzi whose confidence in regard to election success was also shared by Felicianne Nyirakizimana.
Nyirakizimana was among the voters at Kabeza polling station in Gatunda Sector. Electoral Commission officials at Kabeza said that 1,995 voters were expected to participate in the exercise.
“This time, elections were properly organised. Everybody who has managed to come here has cast a vote without any interference,” one said.
“I received information from Karama Sector that EU observers were already there at the time voting exercise started,” said Robert Kashemeza, the Mayor of Nyagatare District.
Basing on the big turnout of voters at polling stations, Kashemeza said he was hopeful his district would emerge the best countrywide.
Most of them were interested in casting their votes and return back to their working, and In Ngoma district, there were six polling stations created at Kibungo A Primary School.
Close to 80 percent of the total voters in Kibungo sector had voted by mid-day.
Of the 513 voters at Rubimba A polling station, about 450 people had voted.
At Gatoro polling station, 150 out of 191 total numbers of the registered voters had already voted.
Out of 513 total registered voters at Rubimba B polling station, 397 had voted by mid-day.
Close to 364 had voted at Kiruhura polling station out of 470 voters registered.
In Rujambara polling centre in Rurenge sector, about 90 percent of the total number of voters had voted. Few people could be seen at the polling site as most of them voted early in the morning.
Benjamin Mwambutsa, the Kibungo A polling centre coordinator said that they hoped to be done before the official closing time.
Out of 3,347 of the total number of voters, Mwambutsa said that close to 2,500 voters had already voted by mid-day.
Few complaints however, rose from voters who registered themselves from far places but could not make it there to vote.
A separate room was put in place for those who had a voting card and those who only possessed a National Identity Card.
At Kibungo B polling centre where there were seven polling stations, a few people were prevented from voting. These included those whose names did not appear on the voters’ register or had no voting cards.
However, those people who had voters’ cards but never appeared on the voters’ list and vice versa were allowed to vote.
At Nyamagana polling station in Remera sector, by press time there were no problem as the voting process was going on smoothly. No election malpractices had been registered at all polling stations where The New Times reached.
In Gicumbi district, at the four polling stations of Byumba town, Gacurabewnge, Inyange, EER Byumba and EPA Primary Schools, voters lined up accordance to their Cells and villages.
Gacurabwenge Cell located in the heart of Byumba town had the most registered voters totalling to 3,609, followed by Nyamabuye Cell 3,225 voters, Nyarutarama 2,861 and Gisuna Cell 2,798 registered voters.
Unlike Byumba town where each Cell had its own voting site, Byumba Sector neighbouring Cells of Nyakabungo, Murama, Kibali and Ngondole held their voting exercise at Kibali Primary School.
Richard Gakwerere, of the district Electoral Commission said that more than two or three Cells were combined at one polling site due to scarcity of large permanent buildings such as schools, to accommodate the election officials and voting materials.
“Voting sites depend on the availability of large buildings to accommodate election officials and voting materials,” said Gakwerere.
By 9.00 am, most residents of Bwisige, Miyove and Nyamiyaga Sectors had completed casting their votes, with only a handful of them still lining up to vote.
“Despite many Sectors having cleared up the voting lines as early as 9.00 AM, the election officials will remain at their respective stations until 3.00 PM when the polls close,” added Gakwerere.
In Huye district, voters made long queues at the Butare Catholic Primary School polling station where 2,375 people from the Villages of Mamba, Gasoro, Bukinanyana and Kabutare were expected to cast their ballots.
According to Felicité Uwimana, the head of the polling station, the voting exercise commenced smoothly.
“Polling rooms have been well demarcated according to Villages. People came as early as 5.45Am to cast their votes early so that they can go back to their work,” said Uwimana.
There were also cases of people wanting to vote in villages they were not registered in. According to Uwimana, such people were given orientation by Elections officials to contain the problem.
At the Ecole Autonome polling station, 2,397 voters mainly from Taba; the affluent section of the town, were expected to cast their votes. As early as 8.00AM over 500 had already cast their votes and the queues were still growing longer.
There was massive attendance at the National University of Rwanda where Varsity students and residents of Busenyi Village cast their votes in eleven voting rooms.
According to Frank Kalemera, the head of the polling station, students who were registered in their home areas did not have to travel to their homes to vote.
“We made an arrangement for them to vote at the University. Other categories of people like medical personnel and journalists were also allowed to vote at this polling station,” said Kalemera.
In Gisagara district much of the voting was completed by 11.00Am. Polling stations in the Sectors of Kibilizi, Save and Gisagara looked deserted as voting was done in the early hours of the morning.
“Our parliamentarians have done commendable work. I want them to continue addressing problems to do with rural poverty and health,” said Faustin Mushumba, who had just cast his vote at the Ecole Secondaire de Ndorwa in the district.
According to the district Mayor Léandre Karekezi, the voting exercise went on smoothly in all sectors. There was no major incident reported.
“Security mainly at the border area with Burundi was tightened. Problems to do with people wishing to vote from areas in which they were not registered were addressed promptly by election officials,” said Mayor Karekezi, adding that despite finishing the voting exercise early, polling stations would remain open until 3.00PM as stipulated by Law.
By mid-day, it was business as usual in Gisagara and Huye town as businesses had opened up for work. The election exercise continues today Tuesday Sep 16 with elections of Youth and Women parliamentarians. The elections will be conducted through electoral colleges.
In Muhanga district, the speed of voting was commendable and just like elsewhere, by mid morning, half of the numbers of voters had appeared at the site and the queues were minimal, according to officials.
By press time, the results of the voting and the numbers of residents who participated in the exercise were still unknown, but over 161,000 voters had registered to vote in Muhanga.
In Gitarama cell, residents who turned up for voting lauded President Paul Kagame’s efforts in promoting peace, development and national unity.
However, at Gahogo polling station, names of some residents anxious to vote were missing on the voter’s list and they were barred from voting.
One resident, Marie Bazayirwa Baziriza, said despite registering and crosschecking her name during the display of the of voters’ register earlier on, her name was missing.
“I cannot see my name on the list, yet I had registered and crosschecked the list…I really wanted to vote because it is my right but am disappointed to see my name missing,” she said.
According to the regulations of NEC, Rwandans were supposed to vote from the places of registration, except those on the exceptional list.
A good number of patients and their caretakers in Kabgayi, who thought they fell under ‘exceptional cases’ were denied voting, according to some volunteers.
Residents avoided putting on clothes bearing political party symbols or indicating any political inclination, but at least one person was seen wearing a political party cap at Gahogo polling station, which is contrary to the NEC regulations.
Dressing in political party t-shirts and caps has been a norm in the past weeks of campaigns and most residents in upcountry have been dressing in clothes bearing party symbols as part of their casual wear.
BY BONNY MUKOMBOZI, INNOCENT GAHIGANA, BOSCO R. ASIIMWE, AMBROSE GAHENE, PAUL NTAMBARA AND DANIEL SABIITI