MS Risk Blog

Rwanda Election: Kagame Wins Third Term in Office

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Final results released on Saturday 5 August indicated that incumbent leader Paul Kagame swept to a landslide victory in Rwanda’s presidential election, securing a third term in office and extending his seventeen years in power.

On Saturday, the National Electoral Commission announced that Kagame had secured 98.63 percent of Friday’s vote.   The board further disclosed that turnout topped 96.42 percent in the country of twelve million, in an election that fielded only a single opposition candidate, Frank Habineza, and an independent.

Addressing his supporters early on Saturday, President Kagame stated that he would work to sustain economic growth. In a speech broadcast live on television, he stated “this is another seven years to take care of issues that affect Rwandans and ensure that we become real Rwandans who are (economically) developing.” He went on to say, “what I saw during campaigns is that the decision to continue to lead you drew criticism mainly by foreigners but this proves that the referendum was for real purpose.” President Kagame won the last election in 2010 with 93 percent of the vote and had said during this campaign for a further seven-year term that he again expected an outright victory. Habienza, who won 0.47 percent of the vote, had promised to set up a tribunal to retry dissidents whose convictions by Rwandan courts have been criticized as politically motivate. After the vote, he stated that some of his party’s observers were obstructed in carrying out their work. Habineza’s accusations however did not amount to foul play.

Hours after the election results were announced, the United States disclosed that it was “disturbed by irregularities obsrved during voting” in the election. A US State Department statement reiterated “long-standing concerns over the integrity of the vote-tabulation process.” The US statement further disclosed that it remains “concerned by the lack of transparency in determining the eligibility of prospective candidates,” and it commended Rwanda’s media for reporting on complaints of harassment of some opposition candidates.

While President Kagame has won international praise for presiding over a peaceful and rapid economic recovery in Rwanda since the 1994 genocide, when an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed, he has also faced mounting criticism for what human rights groups say are widespread abuses, a muzzling of independent media, and suppression of political opposition. Under his rule, some dissidents were killed after fleeing abroad, in cases that remain unsolved, with the government denying any involvement.

A constitutional amendment in 2015 effectively allows President Kagame to remain in power until 2034 if he pursues it. The US, which is a key Rwanda ally, opposed the change to the constitution.