KIGALI - THE Commonwealth Observers Group (COG) who arrived in the country last week ahead of last Monday’s Presidential elections, have described the electoral process as “well organised and peaceful poll”.
In a provisional statement issued yesterday by the group’s Chairperson, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, former Tanzanian Prime Minister, the team said that the National Electoral Commission (NEC) “conducted the technical aspects very well, providing confidence to the people to turn out in large numbers.”
He commended Rwandans for their active involvement and for their faith in the electoral process.
“During the campaigns, candidates enjoyed freedom of movement and assembly and they did not report any incidents. On the day of the election, universal suffrage was provided for, voters turned out in very large numbers across the country and the process was well administered by the National Electoral Commission (NEC),” the statement reads in part.
He, however, observed that Rwanda is still undergoing a process of national reconstruction and the country has taken great strides, 16 years since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“We understand the terrible legacy of the past and the consequent caution as the country moves forward. However, we are also aware as to what is required for Rwanda to forge ahead as a pluralistic democracy, enjoying the associated freedoms and rights. Many freedoms and rights are provided for in the existing legal framework”.
While taking account of Rwanda’s Genocide tragedy, and the understandable need to guard against any such tendencies re-emerging, Dr Salim said there is a balance to be found.
He observed that NEC officers worked professionally and diligently in their management of the process, updating of the voter register provided for universal suffrage and the inclusion of photos on the Final Voter Register was a positive feature and that the new consolidated Presidential Election Law, of June 2010, was also an improvement.
On the day of the election, “preparations were in place for the timely opening of the poll. Polling Stations were well organised and staff worked diligently to process voters. Political party representatives were present in many cases.
The 13-member team appreciated the final voters register for its accuracy.
“Based on our reports, the count in the polling stations was transparent and conducted fairly, though with a few inconsistent practices. Hopefully the 2010 campaign will help to further sensitise Rwandan voters to the dynamic of multi-party competitive and periodic elections,” they said.
The group has so far met with NEC officials, representatives of political parties that contested, stakeholders, the Minister for Local Government, civil society, media, Commonwealth High Commissions, as well as other international and national observers.
Over the electoral period, the team members were present in Kigali City and the four Provinces, where they observed the voting, counting and tabulation processes.