Rwandans in the Diaspora, for the second time, took part in the country’s parliamentary poll held this week. According to results released by the National Electoral Commission, this constituency voted for the RPF-Inkotanyi, at 97 per cent.
The RPF, which led a coalition of four other parties, won the elections with 76.2 per cent. This earned the coalition 41 seats out of the 53 general seats that were competed for through universal adult suffrage.
Many of the members of the Rwandan Diaspora who spoke to The New Times attributed their overwhelming support for the ruling party to its leadership credentials, especially on how it has managed the post-Genocide economy, making it easier for them to invest back home.
Gaetan Gatete, the president of the Rwandan American Community of Midwest USA, says they could have easily voted for the RPF by 100 per cent.
The Diaspora, Gatete said, recognises that without RPF, Rwanda would not be where it is today.
“Members of the Diaspora, whether RPF members or not, appreciate the RPF leadership. RPF performance is seen everywhere,” Gatete said, adding that this was further boosted by the stewardship of President Paul Kagame.
“The Diaspora knows where Rwanda was 19 years ago. Every time we visit Rwanda we see impressive changes everywhere – new roads, hospitals, schools, and the zero tolerance to corruption policy and being friendly to business.”
Rwanda is the third easiest economy to do business in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Bank. Transparency International also ranks Rwanda the least corrupt country on the African continent.
Lenny Rukundo, who lives in South Africa, says that RPF has consistently engaged the Diaspora on various matters regarding the development of Rwanda.
“The Government constantly encourages the Diaspora to invest back home for the sake of our nation and our families. This has been embraced by the Diaspora since there has been sharing of information on the projects that are taking place in Rwanda. This constant feedback is a key factor that I feel contributes to the strength of the RPF in the Diaspora,” Rukundo said.
The introduction of on-line registration means that more Rwandans registered.
Emmanuel Safari, the chairperson of the Rwandan Community in the Netherlands, said that the electorate in his area voted RPF by 99.1 per cent.
Reasons why the RPF is strong in the Netherlands, he said, include the economic progress and embracing regional integration which the party’s leadership have prioritised, as well as the impact of the Rwanda Day events.
“The economic progress is this part of the world is something that takes precedent over anything else and RPF’s track-record in that area has been impressive.”
Safari noted that Rwanda Day events were instrumental in bringing the Diaspora closer to the country and Rwandan leadership, “thereby providing a tangible sense that the Diaspora matters.”
However, only 62.3 per cent of the 31,514 registered voters in the Diaspora turned up to vote.
The voting was conducted at the country’s 23 diplomatic missions, and, in most areas, it was done on Sunday, a day before the elections back home.
There were slightly over 27 Diaspora polling stations since some embassies had two polling stations.
When contacted, the executive secretary of the National Electoral Commission, Charles Munyaneza, acknowledged that much as the commission made it easy to register by introducing online registration, there was still a problem of people having to make long distances on the Election Day.
“The polling centres were not as accessible in the Diaspora as they were back home,” Munyaneza said that NEC plans to increase polling stations as the Rwandan community and missions abroad increase.
The final vote was conducted on Wednesday where representatives of the youth and persons with disabilities were voted through electoral colleges to complete the number of 80 lawmakers in the Lower House.