How candidates are reaching out to Diaspora voters

The ongoing campaigns, which are in their second week, are beyond traversing the country canvassing for votes. The three candidates also require votes from what is now known as Rwanda’s sixth province which is Diaspora, which has about 50,000 registered voters across the world.
Members of the Rwandan community in London during their meeting with President Kagame in March, this year. Over 40,000 Rwandans in the Diaspora will cast their vote on August 3. / Courtesy
Members of the Rwandan community in London during their meeting with President Kagame in March, this year. Over 40,000 Rwandans in the Diaspora will cast their vote on August 3. / Courtesy

The ongoing campaigns, which are in their second week, are beyond traversing the country canvassing for votes.

The three candidates also require votes from what is now known as Rwanda’s sixth province which is Diaspora, which has about 50,000 registered voters across the world.

 

The campaign period which started on July 14, will run up to August 3 during which the three candidates, Paul Kagame (RPF-Inkotanyi), Frank Habineza (Democratic Green Party of Rwanda), and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent, are supposed to reach out to all their electorate.

 

Wellars Gasamagera, the spokesperson of the ruling RPF-Inkotanyi campaign, told The New Times that having previously established a Diaspora wing of the party, it comes in handy during the campaigns.

 

“We use our well-established Diaspora structure to disseminate RPF manifesto and different mobilisation messages. The same structure is used to reach out to all Diaspora members and sensitise them to vote for our RPF candidate,” he said.

He noted that, despite the party’s growing popularity within the country, for them every vote counts, hence attaching much value to the voters outside.

“We are doing our best to sweep the Diaspora votes as they can surely make a difference,” Gasamagera said.

Campaigning in the Diaspora for the party involves distribution of the RPF manifesto as well as leveraging networks and platforms to elaborate its content.

Citing the importance of ensuring that citizen participation in governance includes the Diaspora, Gasamagera said that they have a critical role in the country’s development, remitting over $150m annually.

Philippe Mpayimana, who is an independent candidate running for the first time, said that he has set aside July 30, to reach out to the Diaspora.

Mpayimana says he is using the media and online platforms to canvass for votes as well as listen to voters’ ideas and concerns.

“I set aside a special day to exclusively talk to them and this will be on Sunday, July 30. I will convince them about my manifesto and they will be able to share with me the difficulties they have been facing which I am willing to address, ’’ he told this paper.

Despite the importance of the Diaspora, however, Mpayimana says that his supporters outside the country are not as active as most of them do not understand Rwanda’s democratic process.

To capture their attention, Mpayimana has promised to reduce the process to acquire passports for Rwandans born and residing abroad.

The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda has also devised strategies to reach out to the Diaspora, including having representatives in various countries as well as using social media platforms.

Deo Tuyishime, the information secretary of the party, said they are using their party members living abroad to mobilise voters.

“We have representatives of our party in different countries who are conducting campaigns among Rwandans in the Diaspora,” he said.

The party also uses social media platforms such as Twitter, Whatsapp, and Youtube, and a website tailor-made for campaigns.

“We also use a number of Whatsapp groups which bring together Rwandan refugees and people living in the Diaspora. We encourage them to return in their home country and for those looking to settle abroad we encourage them to get citizenship and cease to be refugees,” Tuyishime said.

Tuyishime said that they hope to continue working closely with the Diaspora for increased contribution to economic development.

The Diaspora community is slated to cast its vote on August 3, a day before citizens in the country go to polls.

The National Electoral Commission this week confirmed that polling kits had arrived at nearly all the 98 polling stations abroad.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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