Leaders of African Election Observer Missions (EOM) in Rwanda on Sunday commended Friday’s presidential elections, saying it followed democratic principles.
The heads of mission from the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the International Conference of the Great Lakes (ICGLR) isued a preliminary report based on their observation during campaigns, elections and ballot counting.
The COMESA commended the professional conduct of electoral commission officials who have facilitated smooth elections.
But Bishop Mary Nkosi, who headed the COMESA observer mission, called for more budgetary allocation to the National Electoral Commission to facilitate more civic education.
Provisional results released by the National Electoral Commission released on Saturday showed that Paul Kagame garnered 98.63 percent of the votes, winning a third term as president.
Kagame, 59, won over 6.6 million votes in the election.
Independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana got 0.73 percent and Frank Habineza, candidate for the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, trailed with 0.47 percent.
The East African Community observers’ report concluded that the election was conducted in a calm atmosphere following regional, and international democratic principles, according to former Kenyan vice president Moody Awori, who headed the EAC observer mission.
The team, however, called for reforms in the electoral law to further empower the electoral commission and better facilitate candidates.
Their report also commended security organs for their role in ensuring a peaceful election and security of electoral materials.
Arinaitwe Rwakajara, who headed the ICGLR observer team, noted that election officials showed commitment in their work with required capacity in handling election matters.
The team appreciated voter turnout as well as preparation of voting rooms. Voter turnout was over 96 percent, according to Rwanda’s National Electoral Commission.
The exercise was free and fair, including ballot counting, in compliance with international standards and especially ICGLR democracy and good governance principles, he said.
Kagame, who is also the chairman of the ruling party Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), has been president since 2000 when he was elected by ministers and members of parliament following the resignation of then President Pasteur Bizimungu.
He was re-elected in the 2003 and 2010 presidential elections by winning 95 percent and 93 percent of votes respectively.
Rwanda, which has been recovering since the 1994 genocide, is now considered a model for developing countries, especially African ones.
Voters want to move country forward through presidential elections
On the election day on Friday, Rwandan voters queued at polling stations across the country for their turn to cast their ballots to elect the next president who will serve a seven-year term.
They want a president who would accomplish what was not done in previous years.
“The election is crucial,” 98-year-old Suleiman Ntiruvuba told Xinhua after casting his ballot for Paul Kagame, the incumbent president, in Northern Province.
Kagame is a leader who has looked after the old people, Ntiruvuba said, expressing the hope that the leader of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) would build on past achievements and move the country further ahead.
Linda Kanyana, customer representative of an internet service company, said that she also voted for Kagame, who will maintain the security, peace, and development that the country has already achieved.
“I have voted for RPF, because it will maintain the security of the country, promote youth empowerment by creating more opportunities leading to jobs, and improve the health sector to the best level,” Kanyana said.
Winnie Kazoora, a 20-year-old student in Northern Province told Xinhua reporter that he hopes that the elected president would keep what has been achieved with RPF and move other sectors such as information communications technology to even higher levels.