Rwandans in the Diaspora yesterday cast their ballots in an early voting exercise prior to today’s parliamentary elections.
Today, voters will elect candidates for 53 seats contested through universal adult suffrage while the remaining 27 are reserved for special interest groups.
In the Diaspora, voting started at 7am and closed at 3pm, according to the law, but the counting of votes will be done today after 3pm.
Over 1,000 vote in India
Rwandans in India, mostly students, turned up ‘with enthusiasm,’ a statement from the embassy in Delhi said.
There were eight polling stations in four states of India and the capital, New Delhi. Rwandan students in the states of Punjab and Haryana converged at the campus of Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar to cast their votes.
Those in Karnataka voted at Jain University in Bangalore, while Rwandan
citizens in Maharashtra voted at Symbiosis International University in Pune.
Rwanda’s High Commissioner to India, Ernest Rwamucyo, told The New Times that voting in all polling stations “went well across the eight polling stations.”
Oria Vande Weghe, the communication officer of the Rwandan Embassy in Belgium, said: “We started at 7am and finished at 5pm. We had only one polling station at our embassy. More than 630 people across Belgian cities have voted.”
In all the three voting stations–in Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town–voting went on smoothly, according Rwandan envoy to South Africa, Vincent Karega.
“The electoral commission in South Africa assisted us with booths in all stations and security organs are securing our stations. From 7am, we were ready in all stations and voters started to show up at around 8am. The participation is massive by all those who have the Rwandan identity cards and have registered as voters,” said Karega.
He said voters travelled from as far as Mozambique to Pretoria, others from Durban city to Petermaritzburg and same in Cape Town from remote areas in the cape.
According to Karega, about 300 voters were expected to cast their ballot.
Emmanuel Ngarambe, the IT and communications officer at the Rwanda High Commission in Kenya, said two designated polling stations in Kenya were in Nairobi, at the Rwanda High Commission, and in Mombasa, at the Dorse Hotel.
“The turn-up has been between 250 and 300 voters. At least 80 per cent cast their ballot in time. The voting atmosphere is jubilant with no incident recorded so far. Voters were punctual and knew the procedures. Committee members of the Diaspora as usual have done a tremendous job in assisting the embassy in this important exercise,” Ngarambe said.
In Kampala, thousands of Rwandans living in Uganda braved a downpour to cast their ballot at the High Commission.
The electoral officials, headed by the High Commission’s First Counsellor, Dan Mutezintare, ensured a smooth exercise.
Rwandans from several parts of Uganda like Mbarara, Mpigi and Fort portal districts reached the polling station as early as 6:30am, officials said.
About 6,500 nationals were expected to vote.
Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Uganda, Frank Mugambagye, said it is still a challenge to have many Rwandans travelling from far away regions in Uganda to vote at the High Commission.
“We still have one polling station and we hope that with electronic voting system in place these challenges will be dealt with,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Tanzania, Rwanda’s High Commissioner Ben Rugangazi said the voting process in Dar es Salaam went on smoothly.
He said the Rwandan community in Arusha would cast their ballot today.
The National Electoral Commission Executive Secretary Charles Munyaneza said the Diaspora was allowed to vote earlier as “facilitation” because while Voting Day is a public holiday back home, it will not be the same in the Diaspora.
Up to 31,514 Rwandans in the Diaspora were expected to vote.
“We are closely following up on developments from all Diaspora stations and, so far, everything is going on well,” Munyaneza said.
Munyaneza said embassy officials were given ample training to conduct the vote sufficiently.
“Everything is in the hands of embassy officials who now have the status of NEC officials. They got enough training – some came here for training and others were given proper guidelines via teleconferences until we were satisfied they were ready.”