Rwanda teaches us that geography is not an electoral limitation

The results are already out for the presidential elections held on August 4, 2017 and yes they were swept by the incumbent President Paul Kagame of RPF-Inkotanyi by over 98% leaving his opponents, the independent Philippe Mpayimana and Green Party’s Frank Habineza to share the rest.

The results are already out for the presidential elections held on August 4, 2017 and yes they were swept by the incumbent President Paul Kagame of RPF-Inkotanyi by over 98% leaving his opponents, the independent Philippe Mpayimana and Green Party’s Frank Habineza to share the rest. I waited for the two to concede defeat before writing especially since one of them had predicted a surprise win by 65%.  

On Friday night, President-Elect Paul Kagame gave his victory speech at the party headquarters thanking all those who played a role in his successful re-election campaign. “Now the work begins, to continue transforming Rwanda and ensuring a dignified life for every citizen,” he said. That statement alone captures something that I noticed about the election.

 

I want to expound on the bit where he mentioned the dignity of every citizen. One of the hallmarks of this year’s election was the fact that there were 98 polling stations outside Rwanda which gave Rwandans outside the country a chance to partake in deciding the future of their country. It is said that over 44,000 Rwandans living in the Diaspora were able to cast their votes with those in Oceania tagging the bragging rights of doing it first thanks to the way global time zones are set up.

 

As these people were casting their votes I commented on Twitter that it was a commendable that Rwandans and Kenyans living outside their country were able to vote in this year’s election. For the Kenyans it will be only those in East Africa and they will only be able to vote for the president out of the possible six elective offices under contestation for the August 8, elections.

 

For me that still counts for something given that as a Ugandan I can only vote if I am within the boundaries of the country. The images of Rwandans flooding the High Commission in Kampala were the talk of town. In those images I could see a country that values its people even when they cross the border.

This being an era where many African countries generously mention how much they earn from remittances that those in the Diaspora send back, it is a little disturbing if the same people cannot partake in choosing who they want to lead their own country. In other words your money is welcome but not your political choice. Weird.

I also recognise that it can be a logistical nightmare trying to have everyone outside the borders voting but making an effort shows you have at least tried. Kenyans in the US can cry about not voting but at least those in Kigali will head to Kacyiru and cast their vote. And the Kenyan government could promise to do better next time.

Still on the issue of inclusion, I also wish to commend the Rwandan electoral body for making sure that the visually impaired were not left out of the electoral process. It was inspiring to see pictures of them walking in with their white canes and being given a special ballot paper with Braille allowing them for the first time to vote without relying on aides. That is progress right there.  

It would be unfair to mention the nice things about the election without saluting the men and women in uniform who sacrifice a lot to ensure that such moments were incident free. On top of the elections being incident free, the decorations at the polling stations were quite over the top.

To complete the celebratory mood of the elections, a popular local hit song was doing the rounds after getting a new remix to – if you want – fit the times. The hit song “Ikinya” by Rwandan star Bruce Melodie had evolved to “Twatoye twatsinze” to mean we have voted and won.

Elsewhere in the region, Tanzania’s President John Magufuli hosted Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni to lay the foundation stone for the Hoima – Tanga Oil Pipeline project in Chongoleani village, Tanga. My prayer is that Uganda and Kenya start exporting their oil very fast now that the developed world is talking about banning Petrol and Diesel cars.

As for the Kenyans heading to the ballot on Tuesday, may your elections be as peaceful as the Rwandan one. A credible and peaceful election is what we all want from the region’s biggest economy because the opposite affects the rest of us. Congratulations to President Paul Kagame and may the best candidate win in Kenya.

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