NEARLY a week into the campaigns for parliamentary elections that are slated next month, The New Times’ Eugene Kwibuka spoke to the RPF-Inkotanyi Campaign spokesperson, Wellars Gasamagera, on his assessment of general campaigns and the party’s expectations.
Below are the excerpts:
How are the campaigns going so far for the RPF?
The campaign is going very smoothly. We started with the national launch that took place in Rulindo and it was conducted by the Secretary General of RPF-Inkotanyi. We actually had a very large turn-out and many people who came listened to the message and we cascaded downwards to the districts and every district has got its own programme. So, the campaign is going on well, districts are definitely not conducting it at the same time, not on the same speed or at the same timeline, but it will be in respect of the instructions of the National Electoral Commission and we shall wind up 24 hours before the Election Day.
What are the most important points of the party’s manifesto that you are selling to voters?
The party’s manifesto is actually the manifesto that the President of the Republic (Paul Kagame), who is at the same time Chairman of the RPF-Inkotanyi, proposed the Rwandan citizenry last year. That is the one manifesto we are still following but we definitely had to match it with the event that is coming but we still keep telling people the same points around which the President submitted his project, which was elected by the way. So, the main points are economic development that is inclusive, supported by private sector investment, and that is based on knowledge. Then social welfare, which is about a citizen that is empowered and knowledgeable about what is happening around him or her and who lives in a safe environment that allows him or her to participate in the whole development of the country. The third point is about governance and justice that will foster economic development and that’s where parliament comes in. Deputies who are going to be elected are supposed to enact laws that will be compliant with the main aim of economic development of the country. I think you must be aware that by 2034 we said we should do away with foreign aid; we should be self-sufficient.
How is the party’s agenda being received by voters?
Well, the same way it was received during last year’s presidential campaigns. You must be aware of what the atmosphere was during last year’s presidential campaign. Actually, it is like repetition; wherever we go we have large crowds that turn up, we have people who are giving their testimonies of how far they have been developed, how they recovered from the mayhem of the Genocide against the Tutsi and how they are now building up the country. You find that it is actually an atmosphere of festive interventions and everybody looks at this exercise as once again an opportunity for him or her to demonstrate how they can contribute to the development of this country especially peace that is repeatedly evoked by many of the citizens who turn up to attend our campaigns.
So, you have a feeling that people understand that in order to support the President so he can do what he promised them they have to elect RPF candidates to the House?
Absolutely. I was talking to my watchman, my night guard here in Kigali, and I asked him ‘how do you think you can help the President achieve what he promised the population’? The guy said: “look here; when I do my work properly here and make sure that there is peace and security in the neighbourhood here, then in the whole environment there will be peace and security. In my district there will be peace and security and there will be peace and security in the whole country. That way I shall have helped the President who promised the population that they will live in a secure environment”. So, when such a person who is actually not a politician and who is not even educated happens to understand that he has to uphold the security of where he lives, then I really have no doubt that everybody has completely understood what they have to do in order to sustain those promises that the president made to the population.
In the outgoing Lower Chamber of Parliament, RPF had 41 seats out of the 53 that are openly contested for. How confident are you that you can win with a similar margin?
By the way when you go for polls, it’s a competition and when you are in a competition you always hope to win all the seats. So, we do not target 41 or 49, or 50, we target the 53. Definitely we are in a pluralistic environment; we are in a democratic country and people may differ with us in terms of what they think, what they promise as a project of society and how they want to see the country being governed. Then that’s where we say that, by bad luck we may lose a few of those seats but we are definitely aiming at all the seats and that’s the standard for every contestant.
Do you think you will get all the 53 seats?
Rwanda being a democratic country it could be hard to win all the 53 seats but whatever number what we are sure of is that we shall win the majority seats.
Based on your campaign schedule, the party will reach every sector in the country; this must be quite demanding in terms of resources. How much has the party invested in these polls?
Actually the party invested enough to secure our campaigning programme. I cannot tell you right now how much has been invested but what is important to understand is that when we plan reaching out to all the 416 sectors in the country we put in resources in that plan. By the way, we do not stop at sectors. We go even lower up to the cells and villages and we do also door to door. We still have to keep a close contact with our basic constituents who are actually individuals. So, we have secured enough funds for that exercise and at the end of the campaign we disclose all that we have used during the campaign.
How is the party supporting its candidates to reach out to voters?
Our candidates go to areas where they hail from. That’s their basic constituencies. Even if our candidates stand for the whole country, they can still choose anywhere in the country where they want to operate from and RPF helps them in terms of transportation to go wherever they are needed for us to appear before the population and share the general message of the campaign and engage individually with their constituencies. So, they are fully supported, especially in terms of transportation.
Do you also support candidates for parties you are in coalition with in terms of transport?
No; their parties support them. We support our members but other parties also support their members. We meet in the field and do the same work but they are supported by their parties.
As we conclude our conversation, feel free to share any other message you would like voters to know as we head to the parliamentary polls.
Actually the message is one: RPF has always made promises. It has never disappointed Rwandans and this time it will be the same. As a message; I am asking all Rwandans who are in a position to vote to give us their votes because as we never failed them in the past we are ready to implement what we have actually promised. RPF is capable of implementing its promises. So, it’s not just words in the air; we mean to implement what our leaders have promised, what the party has promised. We are ready to put in all the necessary efforts and means to achieve what we have promised the population. We want them to give us their votes and we promise that as we did in the past we shall do the same in the future.