With just about a week remaining for Rwandans to pick their next leader, one may only sum up this campaign season so far as unparalleled. The campaign represents yet the clearest indication that Rwandans have their eyes firmly gazed on the future.
It shows that ordinary Rwandans know what is best for them and are determined to shape their own destiny, while jealously guarding their modest achievements.
While each contender is leaving nothing to chance, they have all refrained from personalizing the campaign, preferring to stick to the substance of their election platforms. Credit goes to them for playing according to the rules of the game, and for respecting the values and aspirations of Rwandans.
If it remains the same until the D-day, Rwandans will proudly look back at 2010 as a year when all the candidates rallied the nation around one supreme cause – the nation and its dignity.
This race represents a major shift from the 2003 scenario when one of the candidates sought to play the ethnic card to sneak into Village Urugwiro.
From their reaction to this campaign, Rwandans are sending out one strong message: They are determined to stay the course, by continuing to peacefully co-habit as a people bonded together by a shared identity and common destiny.
From the north to the south, east to the west, the votes’ price tag is pretty much the same. Their aspirations and concerns are the same, which is why the candidate with the best offer will almost certainly win with a landslide, come August 9.
And if numbers are anything to go by, then many voters find the RPF candidate’s manifesto the most attractive, reliable and realistic.
Kagame’s campaign rallies have pulled unprecedented crowds in the history of this country, with some districts recording a staggering 130,000 plus turn-out. If he needed any evidence, Kagame has learnt from his rallies that Rwandans are hugely grateful for his performance record.
At each of his rallies, voters take full control of the proceedings, showcasing their achievements in farming, business, education and their general wellbeing, all under Kagame’s first term. They have promised to reward him with another term, in the strong belief that another seven years under him will only better their lives.
And, indeed, the RPF flag bearer shows no signs of complacency. He says the RPF has plenty more in store for the people of Rwanda. He is promising to use his past achievements as a springboard to deliver full medical insurance for every Rwandan, free primary and secondary education, skilled and competitive workforce, improved infrastructure, stronger real GDP, among others.
The other three candidates too are vowing to consolidate and further the gains registered under Kagame’s leadership. But in that same message lies their stumbling block. Many voters will naturally be suspicious of their capacity to deliver at the highest level, although they are all legislators.
The incumbent has faithfully come through on his promises and is pledging to propel them to new heights, once re-elected.
It’s difficult to ignore Kagame’s dedicated service to this nation and accomplishments. It’s a track record that humbled Faustin Twagiramungu when he, in 2003, acknowledged Rwanda’s tremendous progress under Kagame – his main challenger at the time.
Seven years on, Kagame’s achievements have grown so insurmountable that Ntawukururyayo, Higiro and Mukabaramba, perhaps stood a better chance in 2003, if any.
For instance, more than 90 percent of Rwandans now have health insurance; HIV/Aids prevalence rate dropped significantly from 10.8% in 2003 to about 3%, and births at heath centres rose 65% up from 28% in 2003.
Maternal deaths was reduced from 2,875 in 2005 to 224 in 2009, and mobile phones being donated to community healthcare volunteers are helping save thousands of lives of pregnant women and their babies.
Child mortality rate among 1,000 children dropped from 198 in 2000 to 103 in 2010, and the deaths of children aged below one year went down to 62 among 1,000 children from 107 in 2000.
Economically, the country’s GDP per capita has doubled in a space of seven years to over US$562, with the real GDP growth averaging 8.2% from 2005-2009.
Figures from the National Bank of Rwanda indicate that the agricultural sector grew at an annual average of 6.2% over the past five years. The industry and service sectors have been registering an impressive annual growth rate, averaging 9.5% and 9.6%, respectively, between 2005 and 2009.
In terms of infrastructure, immaculately paved roads are now a common sight across the country, while up to 75% of Rwandans now access clean water, as opposed to 37% in 2003.
Electricity rollout in the country increased from 4 percent of the population seven years ago to the current 10 percent.
Universal basic education was extended from primary school to Senior Three. Rwandan households now own at least a cow, thanks to the One-Cow-Per-Family programme. The list goes on…
Such is the kind of performance that will almost certainly keep Kagame around for another seven years.