KIGALI - Political Parties in Rwanda have been urged to embrace Information Communication Technology (ICT), as a means of enhancing dialogue and communication between voters, as well as reaching out to the electorate as part of the bigger plans to build an efficient democracy.
The call was made yesterday during a seminar organised by the Consultative Forum of Political Organisations in Rwanda, and United States National Democracy Institute for International affairs (NDI) to discuss the role of new technologies in elections and other democratic processes.
Addressing representatives from various parties grouped under the political parties’ forum, the US ambassador to Rwanda, Stuart Symington, reminded the parties that communication should be a vital component of their activities as it forms a major link between the politicians and the voters.
“Communication and messaging are very important because it is the only way leaders can listen to their subjects at the grass roots level,”
“Like your President has always said, leaders must be accountable and they should be able to listen to the people they lead---and we have seen that happen during the national dialogue where he took direct calls and text messages from the public,” the US Envoy noted.
He emphasised the need to integrate ICT in the democratic processes as it has been a vital component in building stronger democracies in developed countries like the USA, adding that reaching out to the people on the grassroots using various ICT channels is important to build a functioning democratic system.
The Secretary General of the Forum, Anicet Kayigema, noted that the new emphasis on ICT is to prepare political parties in Rwanda to fall in line with modern-day politics.
He added that it is high time political parties in Rwanda moved out of the shadow of old politics where parties played a role in spreading ethnicity and fully participated in the genocide.
He noted that the training on new technologies is not only targeting presidential elections but it is part and parcel of a long-term plan to make ICT an integral part of democratic processes.
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh and Ben Fuller from NDI, lectured party members on the advantages of making ICT an integral part of democratic processes including efficient communication, accuracy and inter-party communication.
The debate also touched on the role of ICT in promoting transparent electoral processes because ICT reduces chances of malpractices such as rigging.
It was also noted that if Africa adopted ICT in voting processes, post election violence could easily be done away with as the voters and candidates alike have confidence in the outcome.