Africa’s first violence-free election
Written by: George Kalisa
Wednesday, September 12th, 2018, 2:52
Early September Rwanda held a violence-free Parliamentary election, the first one to be rated peaceful on the African Continent in 2018. Previous elections were largely violence-plagued - characterized by loss of lives, assassination attempts, looting and large-scale vandalism of people’s property, extra-judicial arrests, disappearance of persons and detentions.
There is no guarantee that Rwanda’s election will be the last violence-free election this year. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will this December go to polls to determine Joseph Kabila’s successor. Kabila’s ruling party, the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy on August8, named Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a former Interior Minister its flag-bearer in the highly anticipated Presidential polls.
There’s wide spread suspicion that the disappointed opposition is beating drums of war following the ban of strong opposition and political shots, Moise Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba from participating in the presidential polls. A huge section of the Congolese citizens recently responded with anger and continue to cast doubt on having a free and fair election. They allege that the blockage of the people’s leaders by the government intends to give Ramazani a soft landing into the country’s biggest job.
Congolese could have learnt best practices in Rwanda’s model of democracy – self-styled and home-made. They should visit Rwanda’s independent and competent electoral commission (NEC) before the Dee Day to share best election management practices and experiences. Rwanda through its home-grown solutions to the pack of problems the heinous history left behind has managed to stand again on her feet and fall forward on its development trajectory.
PSD members at Shyogwe in Muganga District canvasing for support in the Sept2018 MP polls
However, political observers in the region contend that if history is to repeat itself the DRC polls might be characterized by violence triggered by growing lack of public trust in the country’s electoral body, CENI, widely seen by the opposition as an arm of the ruling party and voters are likely to cry foul play based on anticipated election irregularities and malpractices – a scenario which would be no news in Africa’s mineral-rich nation. Whatever will happen is down to the Congolese people.
If history repeats there, then Rwanda will assume both the first and last country to host violence-free election this year. Previous elections on the Continent particularly in Zimbabwe and Uganda were marred by violence which led to loss of lives, dozens injured and thousands arbitrarily arrested. In June Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa survived an attempted assassination at a campaigning rally at a stadium in second largest city of Bulawayo, a traditional opposition stronghold. Two of his Vice Presidents were reportedly injured alongside other eight people.
In Uganda the by-elections for legislators were marred by violent riots, running battles between the Police and rioters. Local media reported three deaths in Mityana and Arua Municipalities. While five lawmakers, including the reggae singer-cum-politician Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine claim were flogged to near death by security operatives. Several ordinary citizens have, also, allege that security forces subjected them to torture, arrests and unwarranted detentions during the by-elections.
Rwanda offers election lessons
Rwanda’s government has invested heavily in civic education and about 80 per cent of citizens are articulate about the reason, for holding an election, which is mainly to vote people that will help propel the country’s ambitious development goals based on merit.
The election process in Rwanda, regarded the most transparent by the voters is far from a win or die - a departure from the syndrome in many African countries. It is devoid of intrigue, intimidation and all forms of violence. Rwandans appreciate the dividends of peace and stability and would not wish at any one point, violence and anarchy return to the country reconstructed from ashes in which it was left 24 years ago by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. This is basically why they collectively and jealously safeguard the peace and stability within Rwanda’s borders by voting the deserved citizens.
The political system, (one of the home-grown solutions) which is all-inclusive, is a factor in citizens’ responsibility in shaping the country the way they wish to have it. The post 1994 genocide Rwanda embraces pluralism of consensusand political inclusion whereby the winner does not take it all but with all different political stakeholders form a government, which in unison and solidarity implements the manifesto of the democratically elected President.
Rwanda National Police (RNP) acts professionally and in a non-partisan manner to execute its duties even during the elections and it didn’t come as shock to Rwandans when the latest report by World Economic Forum (WEF) rated the country police force the most reliable in Africa and the 13th globally. The other African countries ranked based on reliability of police services appearing on the 137-nation list are Ethiopia (92nd), South Africa (118th) and Nigeria (123rd).
The President of the Green Democratic Party of Rwanda (GDPR) Dr. Frank Habineza said: We finalized the campaign without having anyone arrested or killed, the Democratic Green Party hails security organs, local leaders for smooth campaigns”
Dr Frank Habineza, the GDPR President and MP-elect
“Generally speaking this campaign was better than that of last year. Local authorities improved and the media was more professional Our previous demands for electoral reforms remain, we will talk more about that after elections,” added Dr. Habineza. A situation where an opposition leader congratulates the security forces speaks volumes about the unequalled image of Rwanda’s security forces on the continent.
The highly predictable security and stability and good governance are among the key factors that have led to cross-cutting development in all sectors of the Rwandan economy, tremendous improvement of the wellbeing of Rwandans alongside a huge influx of foreign tourists and investors. In 2017, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) attracted 137 investment commitments totaling US$ 1.67 billion and expected to generate 37,548 jobs.
While records obtained at RDB show that Rwanda received 1.3 Million visitor arrivals in 2017. 94,000 tourists visited Rwanda’s three national parks of Nyungwe National Park, Akagera National Park and Volcanoes National Park. Tourism has generated 90,000 jobs and is Rwanda’s largest foreign exchange earner.
Parliamentary election 2018
Rwandans in the diaspora had already by 7:00am local time joined long queues to vote the fourth Parliament in polls that started September2 and ended September4. Campaigns for Parliamentary seats, which were extremely peaceful and calm throughout officially kicked off August13 and ended August31. While Rwandans from within the country cast their votes on September3. And, legislators for special interest groups like women, youths and persons living with disabilities were voted on September4.
Rwanda’s ruling Party, the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi and other small political parties in the coalition faced in the calm race, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), Liberal Party (PL), DGPR and PS-Imberakuri.
Participating for the first time, the DGPR is the only opposition political party that stood against the ruling RPF-Inkotanyi in last year’s Presidential polls, which President Paul Kagame won with 98.7 per cent. The other parties including the PSD and PL backed and supported the RPF-Inkotanyi candidate.
Philippe Mpayimana , a Presidential candidate in last year’s polls on an independent ticket, also ran in the September polls.
the other four are newcomers and little unknown on Rwandan political arena.
On September2-3, the parties and independent candidates competed for 53 seats out of 80 in the Lower Chambers shared among them depending on the percentage of the total vote they win. 24 seats went to women, two to the youth and one seat to people living with disabilities as a constitutional requirement.
A political party needed to get a mandatory 5% of the total vote to have one representative in the Parliament.
At least 7.1 million voters took part in this election up from 5,953,531 in 2013.
President Paul Kagame’s ruling party, FPR-Inkotanyi was throughout the campaigns expected to win the September polls with a huge margin as a sign of voters’ appreciation for the socio-economic transformation and stability Rwandan enjoys.
“The RPF and the allied parties will win with a landslide the Parliamentary election. This is informed on tremendous economic development registered under President Paul Kagame leadership,” said local political analyst Muligande Sengabo Charles on the eve of polling period.
The election which RPF-Inkotanyi won with a landslide was conducted in a calm and violence free environment.