Rwanda

U.S. Slams ‘Irregularities’ in Rwanda’s Presidential Elections

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Paul Kagame celebrating his victory in Kigali last week

The United States has lashed at the government of Rwanda over what it describes as “irregularities” in the recently concluded presidential elections.

Rwanda last week conducted its presidential polls that saw Paul Kagame retain the position of president.

Kagame won with nearly 99 percent of the vote, defeating his two rivals in a landslide.

While it congratulated the people of Rwanda on their “active and peaceful participation” in the presidential election held August 4, United States said it was “disturbed by irregularities observed during voting.”

In a statement, State Department Spokesperson, Heather Nauert reiterated government’s “long-standing concerns over the integrity of the vote-tabulation process.”

Heather did not provide specifics but critics have raised concerns over the 96 percent voter turn-up and Kagame’s landslide victory.

Former Presidential Aspirant Diane Rwigara said the total vote count was “already pre-determined”, adding, “citizens voted out of fear.”

But the country’s electoral commission said elections were free and fair and devoid of any irregularities.

On his part, Kagame said the election result underscored the public’s faith in the ruling party’s leadership.

“Despite the critics of our democracy, you have proven that Rwandans know what they want,” said Kagame after being declared winner of the elections.

But in a statement, United States said it remained “concerned by the lack of transparency in determining the eligibility of prospective candidates,” adding, “We hope the new electoral law to be debated in the next session of Parliament will clarify that process well before the 2018 parliamentary elections.”

Rwigara was disqualified from the race on grounds that she “didn’t fulfill the requirements, especially the signatures.”

Rwanda Electoral Commission boss Prof Kaliisa Mbanda said Rwigara connived with volunteers in forging the signatures of 26 voters, a charge the former aspirant dismissed as baseless.

Rwigara said she submitted “almost double the number of required signatures.”

Meanwhile, the United States commended the Rwandan media for reporting on “complaints of harassment of some opposition candidates and Rwandan citizens during the campaign.”

“We likewise commend average citizens, the National Electoral Commission, and government officials for speaking out and addressing those complaints,” said Heather.

United States further applauded the televised debate, while noting that “voters’ understanding would have benefited from broader participation of the candidates themselves.”

The United States is a major development partner of Rwanda and has for long been assisting the country in providing basic health services for the populace; expanding economic opportunities in rural areas, particularly through a strengthened agricultural production and food security program.

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