Voting started smoothly yesterday morning at the countryside polling stations visited by The New Times.
Like previous elections, the trend of a big turnout and early voting was maintained, and in many areas, the turnout was higher than previous elections.
While the official closing time was 1500 hrs, voting ended much earlier, at most polling stations.
Eligible voters arrived at polling stations as early as 5a.m, and by 9a.m, most had cast their vote, and some polling stations had already closed business.
In Byumba Sector, Gicumbi District, electoral official, Devotha Mukamurenzi, said villages where eligible voters exceed 500 were divided into two groups to avoid congestion.
“The voting exercise is going on smoothly in all the 109 polling stations in the entire district because residents were well sensitized on the rules and regulations, in advance,” said the National Electoral Commission (NEC) elections officer, Athanase Kamanzi.
A resident of Ruyaga Village, Yunus Musigwa, 65, said voting was his way fof exercising his constitutional rights.
“I have voted for a leader who will educate Rwandan children, and provide health services to all and eradicate poverty among Rwandans,” said Musigwa.
An opinion leader in Rwasama Village, Venant Mutabazi said voting for a President of his choice signals democracy.
“I have voted for a leader who had the best political manifesto. I am sure my candidate will win; what is remaining is for us to wait and see if the socio-economic development, and the promises made during the campaigns are put into action,” said Mutabazi.
Muhanga: Scores miss voting
In Muhanga District, a good number of residents expressed disappointment after they failed to vote because their names were not on the voters’ lists.
The NEC provincial commissioner, Jean de Dieu Rutatika, said the commission was aware of such anomalies, blaming residents for being reluctant to cross check their names during the updating of voters’ list.
Those who missed voting included students, housemaids and casual labourers who expected their names had been transferred from the areas where they registered earlier on, to their present location as requested.
The Mayor of Muhanga, Yvonne Mutakwasuku, observed that the participation of residents was commendable save for a few who missed voting.
Meanwhile, in Shogwe Sector, a child identified as Norbert Kizza, set the family house ablaze as he was playing with a burning candle that was left behind by his parents who were rushing to vote.
Residents and Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) soldiers rescued Kizza from the inferno unhurt, although the house property was completely destroyed.
Karongi/Ngororero: Residents jubilant
Visibly excited voters in Ngororero and Karongi districts could not leave the polling stations until the final results were announced.
After casting his vote in Bwishyura Sector, Karongi District, Western Province Governor, Celestin Kabahizi, told The New Times that having peaceful elections was one goal
of democracy that has been accomplished.
“This practice of having free and fair elections without being influenced by other people is an indicator of true democracy. It’s even more interesting that all voters came very early,” Kabahizi, a member of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) said.
Electoral Commission officials said they were satisfied with the voter turn-up.
Most voters who talked to The New Times, expressed hope that President Paul Kagame would take the lead.
“It is very rewarding to vote for our dear president because I’m confident he is going to win. There is no better gift for the good he has done other than allowing him to bring more development to Rwandans in the next seven years,” Jean Pierre Gasore, one of the voters said.
Later on in the afternoon, after the release of some provisional results indicating Kagame was leading, voters went wild and stormed most drinking joints in celebration of the much anticipated victory.
In Nyagatare District, voters woke up early to clear a long-awaited democratic exercise of electing a leader who will drive them to prosperity.
“I have been living in this country for the last 30 years…I have seen it all and I have been following every step taken in my country for the last sixteen years. I left my home at 1.45a.m to come and vote,” iIdephonse Twagirimana, a resident of Rwimiyaga Sector said.
At Nyamirama polling station, Gatsibo District, some of the residents living far from the district, arrived at the voting site Sunday evening, according to electoral commission officials.
Egide Mudaheranwa, the polling station coordinator at Kabeza polling site, said the voter turnout there was 100 percent.
Meanwhile, in Musanze District, voters described the election as a milestone in the country’s democratic path.
Commenting about the elections, Bishop John Rucyahana, the president of National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), observed that Rwanda should engage in a democratic process that responds to the needs of the people of Rwanda.
’This is a celebration…the ideology that presidential elections should be marred by violence has no place in the Rwanda of today. It is a huge step and should offer lessons to other countries,’’ Rucyahana said.
He castigated critics who question the country’s commitment to democracy, saying they are ignorant of facts on the ground. He added that Rwandans have an obligation to shape their destiny and vision.
At EP Nyamagumba, one of the polling stations in Ruhengeri town, 5,766 voters from seven villages were expected to vote.
Dr Charles Karemanjingo described this years’ presidential election as an extraordinary event in Africa, saying that the campaigns and preparations leading to the elections showed that Rwandans know what they want.
’I have participated in elections in countries like Canada, but this (election) has been extraordinary. There was no congestion, the discipline and order with which it was conducted showed another level the country has reached,’’ he observed.
In Rwamagana District, the Eastern Province Governor, Dr Ephraim Kabaija, who was among the first people to vote in Kigabiro Sector, said the polling exercise was easy and peaceful.
“I feel today is a very important and special day in the history of our country,” he noted.
Zaina Kaitesi, the presiding officer at Cyanya polling centre, in Rwamagana, said the elections were smooth.
Hadidja Mukankundurwanda, a resident of Kigabiro Sector, said the elections was well organized compared to previous elections.
Jean Marie Vianney Kayibanda, 34, said he was happy with the pace of the voting that allowed him to go back to his normal work.
“It took me just five minutes from the time I checked into the polling station to the time I was done with the ballot,” he said.
In Kirehe District, the Mayor, Protais Murayire, expressed satisfaction after residents turned up early and in big numbers.
“Early voting is really going to set all-time records here in Kirehe,” Murayira said.
It was a day to remember for Ramadhan Seruvumba and many other voters who cast their ballots at Ihanika polling station in Busasamana Sector, Nyanza District.
There was a sense of orderliness at most of the polling stations. Polling rooms were well decorated and songs commissioned by the National Electoral Commission were being played at all polling stations in Huye and Nyanza districts as was the case with other polling stations across the country.
By D. Sabiiti, A. Gahene, S. Nkurunziza, D. Ngabonziza, B. Mukombozi, S. Rwembeho, P. Ntambara, J C Gakwaya & F. Ntawukuriryayo.