President Paul Kagame, the incumbent, flag bearer for the ruling RPF-Inkotanyi in the presidential polls set for August 4, kicked off his campaign in Southern Province yesterday, meeting party supporters and other citizens in Ruhango and Nyanza districts.
In Ruhango, the candidate told thousands of supporters that, once elected, RPF would continue to work with them to multiply Rwanda’s achievements.
“Our aim is to multiply our achievements. We want to give our children the kind of education that gives them the skills to build their future,” Kagame said.
He pledged to extend electricity to every household in the country, build more schools that provide quality education, and provide better healthcare.
Based on the 2015 referendum when four million Rwandans backed a change of the Constitution to allow him another seven-year term, Kagame told voters in Ruhango and Nyanza that he is assured of victory and invited everyone to join him in efforts to steer the country to greater heights.
“Some people have said that the result of the election is a foregone conclusion. There is nothing undemocratic about recognising the choice people have called for,” he told thousands of supporters in Ruhango.
Kagame defined Rwanda’s political and historical context as unique and often misunderstood and misrepresented.
“Our unique identity may not always be understood by outsiders. They may choose not to hear the truth but their eyes will show them the truth,” Kagame added.
Later in the day, hundreds of thousands of supporters welcomed him in Nyanza with much pomp and applause.
At both rallies, the President thanked leaders and members of eight opposition political parties that backed his candidacy for their support, the Green Party (that fielded its own candidate) and PS-Imberakuri (that chose not to present or support any candidate) for contributing toward the country’s democratisation process.
But he also used the same opportunity to rebuke those who think he is growing into a dictator by attracting widespread support from more citizens of all walks of life.
“Those who think this specialty of Rwanda is not democracy, their studies on democracy were a waste of time because everywhere in the world what comes first in democracy is the will of the people. It’s based on many things such as how they see themselves, how they benefit, how they feel and what they want. It is the choice of the majority but it respects the rights of all, including those who don’t agree with us,” he said in Nyanza.
Kagame also called on citizens to sustain the unity that has defined RPF.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. As RPF, we want both. We want to go fast and we want to go far,” he added.
The RPF’s official manifesto mainly focuses on the party’s plans to strengthen the economy, social welfare, and good governance as well as justice in the next seven years.
What voters said
Many voters interviewed by Saturday Times at yesterday’s rallies in Southern Province relate well with the party’s plans, with most of them even suggesting how they can be implemented.
Laurence Uwimana, a 50-year-old mother of seven, said she will vote for Kagame so he can keep up the good programmes he has introduced in the country, including steady government efforts to build roads, increase access to electricity, and clean water.
“Given that such programmes have been underway, what we need now is to keep them up. I have electricity but there are other citizens who don’t have it while they need it,” she said.
In her home district of Nyanza, 12.7 kilometres of tarmac road have been constructed over the last few years compared to 1.1 kilometres in 2010 when President Kagame was last elected to the office.
The district has also used a government’s social protection programme called Vision 2020-Umurenge to build 103-kilometre feeder roads while it had only about 52 kilometres of proper feeder roads seven years ago.
On economy, Uwimana said Kagame will need to ensure that his next seven-year term addresses the issue of youth unemployment because many young graduates are unemployed and have become an economic burden for their parents.
Many voters in Southern Province relate with the issue of youth unemployment but they also suggested that quality education, coupled with pro-employment policies can help reverse the current situation, with unemployment rate in the country at around 13 per cent.
Joseph Ntakirutimana, an 18-year-old student who will be voting for the first time in a presidential election, is sure that Kagame would be the right President for the next seven years.
He called for the setting up of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) schools.
In Rwabicuma Sector, where thousands of RPF supporters from Nyanza District and other parts of the Southern Province gathered to receive Kagame, citizens of all walks of life sang RPF songs and pledged their commitment to vote him back in the top office.
“I will pray for him so he can win this election and continue to help us. May he keep the dignity that comes with being a hero,” said 62-year-old Laurence Mukandamage, who survived the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Marie Grace Mukashema, a 50-year-old mother of four, told the President that she is now a liberated woman, thanks to pro-women policies today.
“I went back to school and studied business management and I am now working with my peers in an agro-business cooperative and we have employed other people, including university graduates,” she said at the Nyanza rally.
The RPF flag-bearer will maintain his campaign trail today in the Southern Province, where he is scheduled to meet supporters in Nyaruguru District in the morning while he will be in Gisagara District in the afternoon.