Nine years after Hutu extremists tried to wipe out minority Tutsis, Rwandans have voted overwhelmingly for a Tutsi president, with 95.05% casting ballots for incumbent Paul Kagame in the country’s first real presidential election, the electoral commission said.
The austere rebel leader whose forces ended the 100-day slaughter in 1994 beat two challengers in Monday’s vote on a record of pulling the tiny central African nation of eight million together and working to rebuild its economy.
With all 106 districts reporting, Kagame’s main competitor, Faustin Twagiramungu, received 3.62% of the vote, while the third candidate, Jean-Nepomuscene Nayinzira, had 1.33%, commission chairman Chrysologue Karangwa said yesterday. The results will be certified by Rwanda’s Supreme Court in the next five days.
Karangwa put the turnout at 96.55% of the country’s 3.9 million registered voters.
Kagame already enjoyed an overwhelming lead in partial results released earlier and had declared victory hours before the official tally was released.
“This victory is a foundation for the next stage of development we are entering,” Kagame told cheering supporters at a Kigale sports stadium, pumping his fist in the air as he stood in the hatch of an armoured personnel carrier that made its way slowly around the track.
“Our victory should be a message to the outside world that Rwanda is on the right path.”
But Twagiramungu, a Hutu, said he planned to challenge the results in the Supreme Court.
The election “was not free or fair,” he said, citing reports of security forces harassing opposition supporters throughout the campaign. He claimed that during the election police at polling stations in his home town of Cyangugu and elsewhere checked ballots to make sure people voted for Kagame.
“We have been struggling to have a democratic process in Rwanda – now we end up with a typical one-party system,” he said. “I don’t accept these elections.”
Colette Flesch, the head of the European Union observer team, said she could not comment on irregularities until all 65 EU observers filed their reports, which might not be until later today or tomorrow.