August 11, 2010 / 12:46 PM / 8 years ago

Rwanda's Kagame wins election by landslide

KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwandan President Paul Kagame won 93 percent of the vote in an election that opponents said was marred by repression and violence.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame shows his inked finger after casting his ballot during Rwanda's presidential election in Kigali August 9, 2010. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

The bush war veteran won 4,638,560 votes from a total of 5,178,492 registered voters in the central African country, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) said.

Kagame, widely lauded for rebuilding Rwanda and establishing peace in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, won the last election in 2003 by a similar margin.

“We are very happy with the conduct of the electoral process, from the campaign to the voting itself. We did not get reports of intimidation from anywhere,” said Charles Munyaneza, executive secretary of the electoral body.

The vote count is provisional pending its signing-off by the Supreme Court. Turnout for Monday’s election was more than 95 percent in all the nation’s five provinces.

Kagame’s nearest rival, Jean Damascene Ntawukuliryayo of the Social Democratic Party, won 5 percent. Prosper Higiro of the Liberal Party garnered just over 1 percent and Alvera Mukabaramba of the Party for Peace and Concord 0.4 percent.

Opponents said the other candidates were a democratic smokescreen and stooges of Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). They also said the campaign playing field had been uneven, with three would-be opposition candidates prevented from registering to contest the ballot.

One of them, Victoire Ingabire, head of the United Democratic Forces party who faces charges of funding rebels in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and espousing genocide ideology, rejected the result.

RESULT BOYCOTT

“People were not free to vote. They take all measures to threaten opposition, they take all measures to prevent people voting freely. Why don’t they give him 100 percent?” she said.

Human rights groups have pointed to mounting violence during the run-up to the election after the shooting dead of a local journalist and the killing of an opposition official who was found nearly beheaded in July.

Commonwealth observers said on Tuesday voting had been peaceful and organized but that French-speaking Rwanda, which joined the Commonwealth group of nations late last year, needed to address issues of political participation and media freedoms.

Kagame has been in control of the land-locked nation of 10 million people since his rebel army swept to power in the aftermath of the genocide of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

Despite being poor in natural resources, Rwanda is a rising star in Africa for donors and investors with Kagame feted as a visionary leader and African icon. The International Monetary Fund forecasts its economy will expand by an average of 6 percent in the medium term.

But rights groups claim the peace, stability and development have cost the nation freedom of expression and a free press and say Kagame’s leadership has become increasingly autocratic.

Writing by Richard Lough; editing by David Clarke and Janet Lawrence

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