Rwandans Give Emphatic Endorsement to Kagame’s Third Term Bid

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By EADM Correspondent and Agencies

In Summary:  Rwandans voted in a referendum to give an emphatic endorsement to strongman Maj. Gen. Paul Kagame to run for a third term and a thumbs-up to potentially stay in power until 2034. Provisional results announced by the National Electoral Commission on Friday gave the incumbent over 98% of the votes cast.  Earlier on Thursday, Rwandans living in the United States cast their ballots in a referendum to amend the country’s constitution to remove term limits.

Euless, Texas—Rwandans overwhelmingly voted in a referendum to give an emphatic endorsement to president Paul Kagame to run for a third term at the end of his second term in office in 2017.  International news agencies reported Friday that provisional results announced by the National Electoral  commission (NEC) from 25 out of 30 districts indicated that 98.1%  voted “Yego” (Yes) while only 1.71%  voted 'No'   in a referendum that witnessed a record 98.28% voter turnout. The resounding victory by the Yes vote gives an emphatic approval to the elimination of presidential term limits in the country's Constitution and gives a thumbs-up to Rwanda’s strongman Maj. Gen.  Paul Kagame to potentially stay in power until 2034.

Earlier on Thursday, hundreds of Rwandans citizens living in the United States  voted in the referendum  that has now effectively changed the country’s constitution to allow president Paul Kagame to seek a third term in office. Rwanda is one of the very few countries in Africa that has developed a functional electoral policy that facilitates its citizens in the Diaspora to vote in national elections.  About 37,000 Rwandans living in the Diaspora, including those in the United States, were expected to vote in this referendum.  

The voting at polling centers surveyed by EADM across the United States started at 9:00pm and ended at 9:30 pm with no major incidents.  However, voters contacted in Texas, New York, Washington State, Washington D.C, and Maryland either by phone or e-mail to comment on how they voted remained tight-lipped. Even those who volunteered comments spoke on conditions of anonymity. At one of the polling stations in Texas at the Hurst Christian Center on Brown Trail, there were long lines of voters throughout the day from 9:00am until late evening.  One of the voters the EADM correspondent spoke to said although the lines were long, the process was very orderly and quick.

An embassy official from Washington D.C presided over the election in Hurst, Texas. . He used a laptop to verify voter’s’ documents to ascertain whether their particulars were consistent with those in the national registry. One of the lady voters the EADM correspondent interviewed after voting at this polling station said: “I used my National ID & passport to vote. No voter ID was required. The ballot paper was simple; you either had to tick ‘Yes or No’ in support or against the plan to change the constitution,” she said. Another voter at this station said: “It took me a very short time to cast my vote and leave,” an excited middle-aged man told the EADM correspondent on conditions that his name is not disclosed.

Previously, president Paul Kagame consistently stated that it would be premature for him to declare that he would seek a third term before Rwandans had their say in a matter through this referendum.  “I will wait  for the outcome of the referendum before I make a decision to run  for another term in 2017,” international news agencies quoted president Kagame in response to questions about his plans for the presidential poll in 2017. Now that the referendum has ended in his favor, according to agency reports, it is now widely expected that president Kagame will run again for the presidency   although   he told reporters in Kigali, the capital, that even if he does run again, he does not intend to die in power. Mr. Kagame, praised at home and abroad for bringing about development and economic growth, is accused by his critics of heavy-handed rule and human rights abuses.

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