A team of Commonwealth Observers Group (COG) is scheduled to arrive in the country next week ahead of the August 9 Presidential elections.
The 13-eminent persons group headed by former Tanzania Prime Minister, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, was constituted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, following an invitation from the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
According to a press release from Commonwealth, the team which also include Sabihuddin Ahmed, former Bangladesh Permanent Secretary, Art Wright, former Canadian Diplomat and ex Ghanaian Diplomat, Brig. Gen. (Rtd) Francis Agyemfra, which will be in the country for two weeks.
Others on the team include Dr. Christiana Thorpe, Chief Electoral Commissioner of Sierra Leone, Simea Avei Meafou Assistant Electoral Commissioner of Samoa, Kenya’s Media Expert Ceasar Hand and Dr Leith Dunn, head of Institute for Gender and Development Studies University of the West Indies, Jamaica.
The group whose mandate is to observe the preparations for the elections, the polling and the overall electoral environment will also assess the conduct of the process and make recommendations for the future strengthening of the electoral framework in Rwanda.
“Rwanda is the newest member of the Commonwealth and we are very pleased to observe these important elections. Democracy is a key pillar of the Commonwealth, and the credible conduct of a country’s election is an integral and vital element of the democratic process,” the press statement by Kamalesh Sharma reads in part.
The Group is tasked to act impartially and independently, and to conduct itself according to the standards expressed in the International Declaration of Principles for Election Observation, to which the Commonwealth is a signatory.
The Group’s report will only be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will in turn send it to the Government of Rwanda, NEC and political parties before presenting them to all Commonwealth member states. NEC has so far accredited 1,191 observers, both local and international.
In a related development, Charles Munyaneza, NEC Executive Secretary said yesterday that the ongoing Presidential campaigns, for August 9 elections are on the right track as it was set.
“According to the information we have everything is on the right track. The candidates are complying with the law and the general population is peaceful in their support for the candidates of their choice,” Munyaneza said when contacted.
Four candidates are vying for the Presidential seat and are currently touring various districts in the country soliciting for votes, an event slated to end on August 8, a day before the elections.
The candidates are the incumbent President Paul Kagame of Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), Vice Speaker of Parliament Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo of Social Democratic Party (PSD), Sen. Prosper Higiro of Liberty Party (PL) and the only female in the race, Alvera Mukabaramba of Party for Progress and Concorde (PPC).
Munyaneza, however, said that there were few cases registered during the last seven days of campaign which include posting campaign posters in undesignated areas such as electric poles and trees.
“Generally there are no big problems because these are just minor,” he said. Candidates’ posters, he said, are only supposed to be posted on public buildings.