Persons with disabilities have called on their newly electedMember of Parliament to push for policies that will address their challenges and ensure that their voice is heard.
Persons with disabilities on Sunday participated in elections to vote for one representative who represents them in the next parliament. Yesterday, Rwandans living in the Diaspora also participated in the election for 53 parliementarians picked through a direct poll.
Some 7 million Rwandans inside the country head to the polls today to make their choice as well.
Voters for persons with disabilities are from the National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), coordinators at sector level to the national level, and NCPD committees from district level, to the national level. Across the country, yesterday disabled voters gathered at district level to cast their votes.
In Kicukiro, elections were supposed to start at 10.a.m but kicked off at 11.a.m in the district hall after the electoral volunteers waited for at least half of voters to turn up.
Inside the room, voters sat on one side while observers from various local and foreign occupied the other side.
Persons with hearing impairments had interpreters inside the room while those with visual impairment had the ballot paper in Braille. According to NEC, those who couldn’t read Braille are facilitated to know who were the candidates using the ballot paper.
Yvonne Uwamahoro, from Kigarama Sector, said the elections were well organised because persons with disabilities had their own day of voting unlike in previous elections when they were combined together in the general elections.
“The elections were well organised, I came early and I am among the first persons to cast their votes, I am happy that I exercised my right and look forward to have a good representative in the next parliament,” said Uwamahoro, who has physical disability.
She added: “I hope results will be as expected and our representative will do their job well. To be there on our behalf, we need someone who will speak on our behalf, the new Member of Parliament will have to push for full inclusion and advocate for persons with disabilities to have access to employment and get special medical treatment on Mutuelle de Santé”.
Matusalem Nshimiyumuremyi, who has visual impairment, said the elections were perfect, because every person was facilitated to vote according to their disabilities.
“The room was well prepared and we all managed to vote independently.” he said.
“I personally voted independently because I used the ballot paper with Braille unlike in the past when we had someone below 16 years to vote for us, I now trust what I did and the secrecy of my vote, though the list was a bit long I managed to go through all candidate’s names and made my own choice.
“What we want from the person who will be elected is that they bear in mind that persons with disabilities have a lot of problems given the history of the country and should make sure changes keep happening and ensure that whatever law that comes from parliament has something to do with the welfare of persons with disabilities and Rwandans in general,” he added.
Challenges of access
Rose Kanyamfura from Gatenga Sector in Kicukiro, who has a physical disability, said elections were well organised despite some hitches in terms accessibility.
“We voted independently, though it was hard to access the polling room, I struggled to get to the place but I finally reached there and voted for someone I wanted,” she said
However, she added, “it would be nice if we could vote from the first floor or somewhere else, not in the storied building”.
“I also found it hard to vote using the normal paper because I could not read due to visual impairment, I had to vote using Braille paper and after getting explanation,” she added.
According to Charles Munyaneza, the Secretary General of National Electoral Commission (NEC), elections for persons with disabilities were well conducted and almost all the voters had cast their votes by 3 p.m, the official closing time.
Ten candidates were contesting for one seat to replace Gaston Rusiha—the outgoing Member of Parliament for persons with disabilities.