Rwandans are going to the polls today.
There people who never hide their distaste for issue-based campaigns. Although it ceased to exist, the defunct MRND party will have been annoyed while it was in existence, at how Rwandans have since rejected ethnic regard at the ballot box.
In the first presidential elections organised under President Paul Kagame’s administration in 2003, Kagame garnered 95.1 percent of the vote, compared to Faustin Twagiramungu’s 3.6 percent.
The third candidate, Jean Nepomuscene Nayinzira, received 1.3 percent of the vote.
Seven years down the road, Kagame has again campaigned vigorously across the country.
Throughout the campaign period, media reported how all the candidates were trying to woo several categories of voters on their side, although many were likely to have taken the decision long even before the campaigns were launched.
It is most likely, unless the three opposition candidates apply some dramatic magic, the RPF candidate is set to reign again in this year’s election.
This is the view of Alex Ruberwa, the president of Musanze District Advisory Council in northern Rwanda.
Ruberwa, says the defeat of FDLR has left residents in north happy, that the government is able to protect them.
And in terms of development, he says many Rwandans believe everybody has had a share of the national cake.
The north argues that the FDLR insurgency was put to an end, thereby removing the hurdle to economic development.
Additionally, many defeated insurgents were reintegrated in the community, while many residents who had taken as refuge in DR Congo have been repatriated.
Poverty reduction, improved food production -due to application of fertilisers -and water projects have benefited many.
Charles Musonera, a resident of Bugesera district, believes Kagame is still likely to win with a comfortable margin, although his challengers will get some votes.
“Generally, many people feel part and parcel of the RPF,” Musonera told The New Times. “They feel they have been empowered and that is why they will vote for Kagame.”
Harriet Mukankusi of Ruhango District, Southern Rwanda, thinks that the Liberal Party (PL) of Prosper Higiro has some support in the province- because party chairman, Protais Mitali hails from the area. But she admits most people believe in RPF.
It is mostly RPF that empowered them after many years. She expects the votes to be shared between RPF and PL.
“The RPF has a block vote against the three other candidates combined,” Mukankusi says.
“If the three candidates had fielded a single candidate, may be the single candidate could compete fairly.”
In eastern Rwanda, key election issues are economic empowerment, water, food security and land. People are more concerned about having safe drinking water, food security and farm land.
“Ideally, people have got access to potable water through various projects, more people got land after the land redistribution project and the RPF takes credit for this,” a voter in Kayonza who gave his name only as Kamugisha said.
For Jean Pierre Turatsinze, another voter from Bugesera, politics is very tricky that you cannot easily judge which candidate will win.
But the issue of past achievement is important. In other words, voters will elect a candidate for his personal record.
If you have been sincere and close to the people, he says, you will sail through.
According to Turatsinze, Kagame’s ways of addressing people’s concerns at local levels should worry those trying to dislodge him.
“People want a pro-people president and Kagame is just that, and Rwandans will for a long time remain loyal to RPF,” Turatsinze concludes.
“It is going to be difficult for the challengers to sweep votes. The RPF had taken concrete steps and made concrete pledges. Basing on its past record, we take the pledges sincere, another voter said. “So things cannot change right now.”
To some people, the satisfactory government programmes like universal health insurance, and cattle stocking programme, have greatly persuaded voters to rally behind the RPF.
“The fact is that people haven’t thought of change from Kagame,” another voter in Bugesera who gave her name only as Anonciata said.
Polling stations will be opened today from across the country at 6 a.m for Rwandans to cast their votes.