Friday, August 18, 2017

Four Presidential Candidates Debate ahead of #LiberiaElections

Four major presidential candidates have met at a national forum to defend their individual platforms to lead the country.

All Liberian Party standard bearer Benoni Urey, vice president and standard bearer of Unity Party Joseph Boakai, the Alternative National Congress’ Alexander Cummings, and Charles Brumskine of Liberty Party participated in the debate.

Presenting his platform, Urey said if elected as president, his administration would work to get the country back on its path of progress and development by strengthening the economy, reconcile the population and decentralize the country’s resources.

He said development in the country depends on every citizen, thus making the need for unification a pressing imperative, irrespective of ethnicity, religious and political backgrounds among others.

“We believe the involvement of the entire Liberia and not a selective few will carry us a long way,” he said.

According to him, Liberia will only move forward when its people agree to put aside the past and change their minds and ways towards their country and one another.

Boakai said his government would better manage the country’s resources through the provision of an accountable, responsible, and experienced leadership.

He promised to provide citizens the opportunity to actively participate in the rebuilding of their country by employing a system that would increase youth employment and technical and vocation skills training.

He said he brings to the table a long history of practical experience about the issues that affect ordinary citizens.

“It is about time that we think Liberia, love Liberia, and build Liberia,” he said, evoking his campaign’s slogan.

Also presenting the summary of his administration’s programs was Cummings, who promised to initiate new strategies to move the country forward.

He said after 170 years of independence, Africa’s oldest republic remains among the least developed country on the continent and among countries of the world.

He said as Liberian goes to the polls in October, its citizens must now reflect the country’s high level of poverty and a per capita income that is among the lowest in the world.

According to him, one fundamental truth that must be understood by every citizen is that the country will continue to remain the same if nothing changes about the form of leadership.

“If you keep doing the same thing, you will not get different results,” he said.

He said another fundamental truth is that the best predictor of future performance and future behavior is tied to past performance and past behavior.

Cummings said he has been opportune to work in large corporations around the world, and has delivered results, adding that his experience and achievements puts him at an advantage to provide better leadership for the country.

However, he said to achieve this, his administration under an ANC platform will include other qualified Liberians, scout out resources to groom the private sector and leverage technology.


Citizens and international partners attended the debate. Photo: Gbatemah Senah

For his part, Brumskine promised that his leadership would focus on empowering ordinary citizens, improving health care delivery, building the capacity of Liberian businesses restoring hopes to abandoned youths.

He said to restore the quality of education, his government would fix the problems affecting the education system.

“I thought of young people in Liberia who graduate from high school, some of them with honors. Yet, they fail [the University of Liberia] entrance exams. There is something fundamentally wrong with the education system of our country. That we must fix, too,” he said.

The Liberty Party standard bearer promised that he would work to reconcile the country and restore family values and improve basic infrastructure. All these he promised to do using his integrity, experience, and capacity to get political will from others in government. He also committed to cutting down his salary those of other public officials, including his vice president and cabinet members.

The candidates were speaking on Thursday at Paynesville Townhall during a debate organized by Deepening Democracy Coalition and sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.

The coalition comprises of media and civil society organizations including the Press Union of Liberia, the Liberia Media Center, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia, Transparency International and the Liberia Women Media Action Committee.

The debate focused on key thematic areas, including economy, security and rule of law, peace and reconciliation, agriculture, youth empowerment and development and anti-corruption.

Abdulla Kamara, the Head of Liberia Holding Consortium, said the debate would help inform the judgements of electorate.

Kamara’s organization, in its third survey report released on the elections, indicated that more than 260,000 registered voters, representing 13.6 percent of the total registrants, are still undecided on who to cast their vote for on October 10.

George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change and Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment had also been invited to the debate but they were not able to attend. The organizers said Weah had traveled out of the country while Jones had been in rural Liberia, campaigning.

By: Gbatemah Senah

AEP
Get the latest news and updates on elections in Africa by Following us on twitter  @africanelection and like the African Elections Project Facebook page
 


Monday, August 14, 2017

Kenya and Rwanda - a Tale of Two Elections, Two Countries

On August 4, Rwanda held presidential elections, which returned incumbent president Paul Kagame with a 98.63 per cent victory. The other candidates in the race were Dr Frank Habineza and Mr Philipe Mpayimana. This is the background of Rwanda's elections.
President Kagame was constitutionally barred from contesting in this election, but a constitutional amendment was procured for the benefaction of his candidature. The particulars of the procurement of this constitutional amendment are that over 99 per cent of the population demanded that Kagame be enabled to seek re-election (or to be precise, to continue ruling Rwanda).
They petitioned parliament demanding for a constitutional amendment. Parliament was overwhelmed by petitions from over 99 per cent of the population. Since the voice of the people is the voice of God, parliament had no choice but to initiate a process that led to a constitutional amendment. A referendum held to validate the constitutional amendment returned 99 per cent of the voters as supporting the said constitutional amendment. Why then do our experts say president Kagame's 99 per cent victory was eye-brow rising?
The people who 'forced' Kagame to continue ruling them are the same people who voted in the referendum to 'legalise' their 'force'. And these are the same people who voted in the presidential elections to actualise their 'force'. Consistency!
Rwandans don't do things in half measures. In fact, experts on Rwanda say Kagame has not even reached the level of electoral victory enjoyed by former president Gregoire Kayibanda and military ruler Maj Gen Juvenale Habyarimana. Which is why my request to know the percentage of the spoilt or invalid votes was understandably dismissed by a Kagame aide thus: Must there be spoilt or invalid votes?
Kenyans went to the polls on August 8. But as is the wont in these things, it is one thing for one to vote and quite another for one's vote to count (or be counted). As opposed to Rwanda, the number of spoilt votes in the Kenyan poll is annoyingly high that it may take a bronze medal.
In spite of all else, the most important thing in the last three Kenyan elections is that a two-party system has been established. The significance of an established two-party system is that it offers the country the best chance for power to change hands from one political group to another.
Kenya's 'two-party system' is not a de jure, but a de facto situation where political parties have formed grand coalitions that effectively control more than 80 per cent of the votes (or parliamentary seats).
In Rwanda, all political parties (except one) supported Kagame's candidature. Some parties offered to support Kagame even before RPF (his party) declared him as their candidate. That's not a grand coalition, but a grand co-option.
The length of the term of office for which Kagame was re-elected on August 4 is seven years (ending in 2024). After 2024, presidential terms of office will be reduced to five years each.
And after 2024, one can only be a president of Rwanda for only two terms of office.
So, the new term of office (for which Kagame was elected is like a personal gift to him. However, he is eligible to run for office in 2024 and 2029.
I have heard some whispers that president Kagame has said this will be his last term. I have nothing to comment on those whispers because leaving power at that level is a personal matter and calls for depth of character.

In the first place, there will be no constitutional requirement to stop him to seek re-election in the next two elections (2024 and 2029).

#LiberianElection 2017: Will it be a straight contest between UP’s Boakai or CDC’s Weah?


Who will be Liberia’s next president? Will the presidential race this time break away from the past by ending in the first round or like history, be obliged to engage the traditional second round or what’s referred to as run-off between the governing Unity Party (UP) Joseph Boakai and Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Senator George Weah? Or will it be another new comer- a Johnny-just-come from an unfamiliar political background? However, Liberty Party’s Charles Brumskine and the other new faces should not be taken for granted; it appeared this time around they are financially potent and ready for the presidential race.

Fortunately, this election will be won by an influential presidency candidate who has the well-organized political chemistry in place across the country, one who came with the reservoir of ideas and the inspiration to play on the emotions of the exasperated voting population and also be able to make the election people centered oriented; one who will speak thought on issues affecting bulks of the needy populace.

Nevertheless, can the three new comers-Jones, Cummings and Urey pull the votes and viewing both to pride themselves to be first among equals who would create as serious upset cut down the old faces like Boakai, Weah, Brumskine, Prince Y. Johnson, Tipoteh and emerge as winner or will it be the king-maker Senator Prince Johnson this time around upsetting the rest?

Spiraling, some predict the process will end-up into traditional run-off running, between CDC’s Weah on one hand and one of the following persons possibly  UP’s Boakai, LP’s Brumskine, ANC’s Cummings or MOVEE’s Jones.; UP’s Boakai  and CDC’s  Weah are  serious contenders  that should not to be taken for granted.

To elect the new Liberian president, voters go to the polls twice. Unless one candidate can get a majority of more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round (held on October this year), the two candidates who receive the highest scores will face each other in a run-up. The candidates most likely to reach the second round are currently Vice President Boakai and Senator Weah, meaning both candidates will fight for the Liberian presidency after dozens of other heavyweights candidates shall crashed out of the first round.

During these elections, all parties’ candidates and independent candidates campaigned freely across their constituencies while the presidential candidates campaigned throughout the country, presenting their visions and platforms or agenda to the voters by either personal interactions and through the local media. However, the local media on a large scale regularly betrothed into biased reporting by treating some candidates with favor, while the rest are not given free media access to present their cases to the people.

Anyway, the presence of some Johnny-just-come in the process is expected to introduce new dynamism in the race for the 2017 political process considering their financial powers and influences to financially pull electorates in their directions. Will the 2017 General Elections be a referendum on the governing Unity Party-led government or will this democratic process lead to the perpetual dynasty of the UP?

Never has a Liberian presidential election captivated so many national and international interests and commentators before. And the stakes in this race are high. The incumbent vice president, Boakai is poised to name his running mate while Senator Weah has since picked his running mate, senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex-wife of former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

But as the world has witnessed in shock over the past year, polls and statistical models do not always come to fruition. If they did, Hillary Clinton would now be president of the United States and David Cameron would still be prime minister of a Brexit-less Britain. And in Liberia, a country that has a huge illiteracy rate in Africa, the voters might go for new faces or an old face and a new comer; the country voters are unpredictable.

Given the evidence of the past year, it would be unwise to discount such a Boakai-Weah in the run-of. It is also true, however, that a new comer triumph would be the biggest political shock yet.

By way of comparison and taking curb from the recent American and French elections, the gulf was never even close to being so large for Trump against Clinton, not even when he was seen as a total outsider upon first announcing his nomination in the summer of 2015.

Two weeks ahead of the election, Trump was between five and 10 points behind Hillary Clinton. In swing states, the margin was only a couple of percentage points. And, of course, as it turned out, Trump did end up losing the popular vote but winning the White House. Therefore the other presidential candidates including LP’s Brumskine, ANC’s Cummings, MOVEE’s Jones, Senator Johnson or Urey cannot be ruled out of the process.

Many are of the conviction that if the presidential election ended into a run-off between CDC and UP, the king-makers in the process would be Cummings, Jones, Urey, Brumskine and Senator Johnson.  But the question is which of the two—CDC and UP, will these political heavyweights give their supports? Will they keep the UP’s longevity for additional six years of 18 year rule or will they go for an opposition win over the ruling party?

It is an indisputable fast that Liberians are yet to see a captivating political character , one whose owns the political chemistry to out rightly win the 2017 presidential election, a character who can removed greater number of poverty-stricken messes from abject poverty to a new level of appreciative livelihood, one that will momentously improve the provisional of basic necessities of life like electricity, paved roads across the country, safe drinking water for a majority of the population, reduce the massive unemployment and create jobs, ensure quality education and available and affordable health care among other necessities of human needs.

But can these essential necessities be visible in the absence of placing state authority in the hands of a  leader-one who lack the political will to conclusively combat corruption and cannot commends greater respect from the population? History tells us that no matter how great a nation is, if the citizens of the nation and other nations began to lose faith in their leaders, that government or leadership could eventually fail as others around the world have in the past.

Will majority of the electorates be prepared to make sound decisions or will voters continue to trade the ever present chronic tradition of their ballots in exchanged for monetary gain coupled with other most essential materials including a ‘tea spoon full of raw rice to pathetically, but just for few minutes ease their immediate quest and livelihood. Otherwise will Liberians use the October elections to punish the political corrupt and egocentric bureaucrats or do the opposite to make wrong choices again?

Majority of these political parties are, and remain fragile, weaken by either poor leadership or the government in order to keep regime dynasty. Nowadays political parties in the country often function as fly-by-night-venture upon only being active during election periods. Immediately after electoral exercises, these political institutions most often and in some cases, eventually disappeared in thin air while craving through reflection by operating from hand-bags and the back seats of some aging vehicles and unidentified offices.

Some of these prime concerns include lack of quality education and improved health delivery system, growing poverty, destitution and hard cost of living, corruption, lack justice for the poor and rule of law for all, lack of decentralize development, economics viability and empowerment of the poor, security for all and reduce the high prices of basic commodities and merchandises.

Currently we have not yet experienced a greater likeability of any of these aspirants either the familiar old faces of the body politics of Liberia despite their declaration to contest the October’s General-Election.  The question on the lips of political pundits is: Will the 2017 General Elections be a referendum on the governing Unity Party-led government or will this democratic process lead to the perpetual dynasty of the UP?   With five-month to this year’s elections, there are major concerns on the lips of political pundits and electorates, but another question is Can any of these political aspirants win on the first ballot?

The 2017 poll should not be used by avaricious politicians and other bureaucrats to exploit the poverty-stricken masses’ vulnerability; these elections shouldn’t be reduced to tribal and regional, instead it should be classed as a precise movement for positivity in Liberia. Our people need to realize that the combination of strength and distance inspired a confidence that any challenge could be overcome after it had prevented itself.

When a group of political individuals vying for elections are so constituted are obligated to deal with one another, there are only two possible outcomes; either one party becomes so strong that it dominates all the other to be the only voice or no political party is ever quite powerful enough to achieve the goal.

Assuming-perhaps as a result of the hardship in the country, the bulk of the electorates is expected to naively make wrong decisions to elect the folks before they realize the consequential backlash of their decisions.

Owing to the poverties and destitution prevalent across the country, the indication is the bulk of the electorates will vote with frustration, fury and resentment, as suffering in the country will overplay in the democratic process in 2017. But let it be made clear that in term of substance, the various political parties come with nothing that give much hopes and aspirations, instead the same old story with empty impracticable promises.

Nowadays in Liberia, every Dick and Tom appeared to have solution to the numerous problems facing this country.  Some of these aspirants have not won a Susu Club or community elections while some these fly by night political parties are being hosted in a shared apartment, but yet they want the people of Liberian to trust them with the nation’s highest office; what a national disgrace.

What a political shame for a country with less than four million populations to have about sixty-five registered political parties in the country; by the time the nation goes to the polls, these political parties numbers are expected to double by half.

Generally, they fall far too below the ability to possess the muscles that will propel them to play a cardinal role in influencing public policy and providing checks and balances wherein the government will not operate as an exclusive authority or law and gospel unto its self and not being answerable to the custodians (the people) of power in keeping with the nation’s constitution. These parties are not able to exercise oversight beginning with their members, moreover to run their offices professionally, effectively and smoothly.

Most of these so-called parties are surviving from individual pockets, a result, political institutions especially parties are built around individuals. The parties that are form in this class include the governing Unity Party, CDC, Liberty Party, ALP, UPP, LAP, and several others. Whenever these individuals whose influences and financial assistance these parties are operating on are no more around, such a party is doomed and definitely will collapse; why? As an evident, this has been the case of several political parties such as the TWP, NPP, UPP, LUP, LAP and NDPL.

For instance, two former ruling parties-NDPL and NPP were exclusively centered on the financial supports and influences of ex-presidents Samuel K. Doe and Charles Ghankay Taylor;  and true to the hard facts of reality, these two parties no longer possess the political dynamism in this era to occupy the presidency, while the ruling Unity Party likeability among voters has vanished along with its shrinking influence in the political dynamism is gradually melting away, thereby posing a daunting task for the Boakai-driven UP to take state power in 2017. But a question from skeptics is when will that generation of politicians ever learn?

This situation is not only limited to political parties but also extended to organizations and institutions in the country. Many persons have expressed fears that the departure of President Sirleaf from the political scene will ultimately be the end of the ruling Unity Party’s once respected and widely recognized leadership, thus shaping state power to another party.

The question is which party with the political juice and substance to measure up to the eagerly awaited expectations of the wailing for positive and realistic change? Until political parties and institutions in the country can be prepared to smoothly operate outside the sways and pockets of individuals, Liberia’s political system is stuck in a gloomy orbit and properly set to suffer a downward trail.

Unarguably, if Veep Boakai, Senator George Weah, Senator Prince Johnson, Cllr. Charles W. Brusmskine, Alexander Cummings, Simeon Freeman, Benoni Urey and Dr. Mills Jones were to terminate their memberships from their respective parties, these parties will lose their essence, steam and dynamism and would politically succumb from the political scene. However, One of these political heavyweights, in the 2017 presidential election is likely to be the king or the kings-maker, a trophy colonized by Senator Prince Johnson as evident in the 2011 elections.

By: Josephus Moses Gray

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kenya and Rwanda - a Tale of Two Elections, Two Countries

On August 4, Rwanda held presidential elections, which returned incumbent president Paul Kagame with a 98.63 per cent victory. The other candidates in the race were Dr Frank Habineza and Mr Philipe Mpayimana. This is the background of Rwanda's elections.
President Kagame was constitutionally barred from contesting in this election, but a constitutional amendment was procured for the benefaction of his candidature. The particulars of the procurement of this constitutional amendment are that over 99 per cent of the population demanded that Kagame be enabled to seek re-election (or to be precise, to continue ruling Rwanda).
They petitioned parliament demanding for a constitutional amendment. Parliament was overwhelmed by petitions from over 99 per cent of the population. Since the voice of the people is the voice of God, parliament had no choice but to initiate a process that led to a constitutional amendment. A referendum held to validate the constitutional amendment returned 99 per cent of the voters as supporting the said constitutional amendment. Why then do our experts say president Kagame's 99 per cent victory was eye-brow rising?
The people who 'forced' Kagame to continue ruling them are the same people who voted in the referendum to 'legalise' their 'force'. And these are the same people who voted in the presidential elections to actualise their 'force'. Consistency!
Rwandans don't do things in half measures. In fact, experts on Rwanda say Kagame has not even reached the level of electoral victory enjoyed by former president Gregoire Kayibanda and military ruler Maj Gen Juvenale Habyarimana. Which is why my request to know the percentage of the spoilt or invalid votes was understandably dismissed by a Kagame aide thus: Must there be spoilt or invalid votes?
Kenyans went to the polls on August 8. But as is the wont in these things, it is one thing for one to vote and quite another for one's vote to count (or be counted). As opposed to Rwanda, the number of spoilt votes in the Kenyan poll is annoyingly high that it may take a bronze medal.
In spite of all else, the most important thing in the last three Kenyan elections is that a two-party system has been established. The significance of an established two-party system is that it offers the country the best chance for power to change hands from one political group to another.
Kenya's 'two-party system' is not a de jure, but a de facto situation where political parties have formed grand coalitions that effectively control more than 80 per cent of the votes (or parliamentary seats).
In Rwanda, all political parties (except one) supported Kagame's candidature. Some parties offered to support Kagame even before RPF (his party) declared him as their candidate. That's not a grand coalition, but a grand co-option.
The length of the term of office for which Kagame was re-elected on August 4 is seven years (ending in 2024). After 2024, presidential terms of office will be reduced to five years each.
And after 2024, one can only be a president of Rwanda for only two terms of office.
So, the new term of office (for which Kagame was elected is like a personal gift to him. However, he is eligible to run for office in 2024 and 2029.
I have heard some whispers that president Kagame has said this will be his last term. I have nothing to comment on those whispers because leaving power at that level is a personal matter and calls for depth of character.

In the first place, there will be no constitutional requirement to stop him to seek re-election in the next two elections (2024 and 2029).

Source: The Monitor

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#KenyaElections: Votes tally and hacking


Kenyans went to the polls yesterday (8/August) and as results started trickling in through an online portal the incumbent, president Uhuru Kenyatta seemed to take a significant lead over his opponent, Raila Odinga, stabilizing around 1.2 million votes with 90% of presidential election results relayed.

The Odinga team rejected the results, claiming a breach in election law where any results transmitted should be accompanied by a form 34A, signed by agents of the candidates at each polling station.
Around midday today (9/August), the opposition leader (Raila Odinga) claimed their secretariat has identified hacking of the IEBC database using the identity of their ICT manager who was murdered a week to the elections to force statistics to favor the incumbent.

The elections management body reaffirmed that the relayed results on the web portal are not final and that they will be scrutinizing the paper trail of the election (each of the polling station must fill a form34A, which is signed by all party agents present after the vote tally is finalized and relayed over GSM network). This may take 7 days (or less) as required by Kenyan electoral laws.


The election hacking allegations to manipulate figures for the incumbent will take centre stage in the days or months ahead as Kenya tries to reconcile digital and paper trail evidence. This is against the hope that the country will hold together, with Kenya having a history of election related violence, the latest being ten years ago involving the same opposition leader, Raila Odinga.

KenyaElection: Leading opposition party cries foul and claims election systems hacked

Kenya opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga has said the electoral commission's IT system has been hacked to manipulate the election results.

He rejected early results from Tuesday's vote indicating a strong lead for President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The electoral commission has not yet responded to Mr Odinga's accusation, but politicians have called for calm.

Mr Odinga said that the hackers gained access to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) computer system by using the identity of the commission's IT manager, Chris Msando, who was killed last month.

The opposition leader had earlier told journalists the results coming in were "fake", because the authorities had failed to present documents verifying the results.

Electoral officials say that with 91% of results in, Mr Kenyatta is leading with about 54.5%, to Mr Odinga's 44.6%.

These results mean Mr Kenyatta appears to be heading for a first-round victory. In order to avoid a run-off, a candidate needs 50% plus one of the votes cast and at least a 25% share of the vote in 24 of Kenya's 47 counties.

There were eight candidates in all, but apart from Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga none polled more than 0.3% of the vote.

What is Mr Odinga's complaint about the vote?
The opposition has described the results being released online as a "fraud" because they were not accompanied by original result forms 34A and 34B from the polling stations.
"They are fictitious, they are fake," said Mr Odinga.

Many fear a repeat of the violence after a disputed election 10 years ago. More than 1,100 Kenyans died and 600,000 were displaced following the 2007 vote.

Source: BBC

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Penplusbytes’ African Elections Project covers Kenyan Elections


Built to provide accurate and reliable information through an impartial coverage of major elections across Africa using new digital tools, the African Elections Project (www.africanelections.org ) is once again covering the Kenya general elections taking place today August 8, 2017.
As the world watches the people of Kenya decide on who should lead them for the next four years, AEP will keep its lenses fixed on activities happening in Kenya remotely using all our new media assets (live blogging on www.africanelections.org, http://africanelections.blogspot.com Twitter via @Africanelection and Facebook on African Election Project page). Trust us to deliver up-to-minute and factual updates via these platforms.
The Programmes Director of Penplusbytes, Jerry Sam said “The Kenyan elections is yet another test case for Africa and the role of the African media in projecting the continent’s successes globally begins by shunning sensationalism and focusing on impartial reportage which then helps shape Africa’s democracy.”
He further admonished that elections in Kenya hitherto characterized by violent clashes should be a thing of the past as this election indirectly stands as a check on the continent’s tenacity to develop a course of free and fair elections as a show of commitment to sustainable development.
The AEP, a flagship project of Penplusbytes, was established in 2008 and has so far covered 16 national elections in-country and more than 35 elections remotely using AEP digital tools across the African continent. These countries include Ghana (2008, 2012 & 2016), the Gambia, Liberia, Mauritius, Cote D’Ivoire, Malawi, Togo, Namibia and Rwanda (recently held elections) among others; thereby contributing to free, transparent and credible polls.
Through the AEP, over 100 journalists have been trained in the use of digital tools to cover elections in Africa. Over 17 million citizens have been reached across the continent through this project.
We urge all Kenyans to vote peacefully and ensure a free and fair elections!!!!

ABOUT

Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.

AEP
Get the latest news and updates on elections in Africa by Following us on twitter  @africanelection and like the African Elections Project Facebook page

Monday, August 7, 2017

#KenyaDecides: Six reasons to dispel fears over extra ballot papers - IEBC

The credibility of any electoral process is judged by the level of transparency, information sharing and involvement of all stakeholders in the process.
From July 27th to 30th, a team of 20 representatives from the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, five presidential candidates, the Political Parties Liaison Committee, the Electoral Observation Group (ELOG), the media and IEBC officials worked from the Al Ghurair Printing Press in Dubai to ensure due diligence in the production of presidential ballot papers.
As many of the members attested, all concerns raised were addressed “with speed” but even with the confidence expressed by the team on the integrity of the process, there has been a lot of misinformation around printing of extra ballot papers.

The Commission was the first to inform Kenyans that as part of the regulations, we are required to print an extra one percentage of ballot papers for each elective positions, not just for the presidential race. This is because, the law provides for a voter who spoils a ballot to be given new ones up to two, translating to three ballot papers in case of mistakes.

This obviously is before the voter places the ballot in the box. In the polling day diary, and in the presence of agents, the presiding officer records this information.

IEBC also been clear that it is not only the one percentage of ballot papers we have, purely due to administrative reasons. Each ballot paper booklet is printed in sets of 50.  This means that for Pumwani Primary School polling station, for instance, there are 319 registered voters, if you add the 1% provision in law, you will have 322 ballot papers. However as the booklets are printed in sets of 50s, if you round off 322 to the nearest 50 you will have 350 ballot papers. This information per polling station has been provided on our website, another novel initiative by the Commission.

There are concerns that extra or foreign ballot papers will make their way to the ballot boxes or be used in other polling stations. There are six reasons why such a scenario would not happen:

First, unlike 2013, the ballot papers and result forms have been customized per polling station that it is not possible to use ballot material not meant for the polling station.

Second, at the opening of the polling station, the presiding officers will show party agents the number of ballot papers issued and record them in the polling day diary, complete with the unique serial numbers. At the end of polling, the presiding officer will record the number of unused ballot papers and provide the same to the agents.

Third,  at three-hour intervals throughout polling day, the presiding officers will report to the returning officer the number of ballots issued and IEBC will track this against the voter turn-out at that particular time. Any inconsistencies will be detected immediately and action taken against the presiding officers, in case of electoral offences.

Fourth, the KIEMS gadgets cannot allow presiding officers to transmit more results than the number of registered voters in a polling station. This ensures that there is no ballot stuffing at any point and that any politician attempting to manipulate the system only stands to fail.

Fifth, the regulations are clear that the Commission will annul results from any polling station that has more than the number of registered voters. This means that even in the worst case scenario of the failure of KIEMS, ballot stuffing is mitigated against.

Lastly, the agents of each party or candidate have a responsibility to ensure that these actions do not take place. As Kenyans call on the Commission to ensure free and fair elections, it is important that we hold accountable agents and observers in each polling station and urge them to carry out their part of responsibility with utmost professionalism.

The writer Dr Roselyn Akombe Kwamboka is an IEBC Commmissioner.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

#RwandaElection: Diaspora votes...political campaigns close

Presidential campaigns officially end Thursday morning, 24 hours to the opening of polls across Rwanda.

The three candidates vying for the country's top seat wrapped up their respective campaigns in the capital Kigali yesterday, with incumbent President Paul Kagame, of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) Inkotanyi, addressing arguably the biggest crowd on the campaign trails - in Bumbogo Sector, Gasabo District. Some estimates put the crowd at half a million people, dwarfing previous records witnessed in Rubavu and Musanze districts.

Frank Habineza, of the opposition Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, held his last rally in Kigali's business hub of Nyabugogo as well as spontaneous stops in downtown Kigali late Wednesday, while Philippe Mpayimana, an independent, addressed voters outside Amahoro National Stadium in Gasabo District on the final full day of campaign.

"The campaigns have been smooth and successful," Charles Munyaneza, the executive secretary of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), said.

Munyaneza was particularly pleased that the last two weeks were almost entirely incident-free.

"In the first week there were a few cases related to disagreements between some of the candidates (Habineza and Mpayimana) and local leaders, but the issues were ironed out and the last two weeks have particularly gone smoothly."

In the early days of the campaigns, there were back-and-forth accusations between the two aspirants and some local leaders, with the former reporting that they had been barred from holding rallies at certain sites, while the latter insisted they had either not been notified beforehand or the locations were out of bounds for campaign rallies.

According to electoral rules, candidates were not allowed to hold political rallies at certain public installations such as schools and marketplaces.

Arrests, provisional releases

In some instances, local leaders, including the Mayor of Rubavu District in Western Province, Jeremie Sinamenye, were arrested over the incidents.

On Tuesday, Sinamenye and a sector leader in the district were provisionally released by the National Public Prosecution Authority about a week after they were arrested on charges of obstructing campaign activities involving candidate Mpayimana.

"The case is not closed as investigations are still ongoing," Prosecution spokesman Faustin Nkusi said yesterday.

Over the last couple of days, district and sector leaders in different parts of the country were seen at Habineza and Mpayimana's rallies, officially welcoming the opposition candidates to their jurisdictions before the latter started addressing the voters.

Local Government minister Francis Kaboneka hailed Rwandans on their "mature conduct" during the campaigns and urged similar conduct on the Election Day.

"The campaigns were peaceful and, other than a few cases that happened during the first couple of days, all the candidates promoted their manifestoes freely, anywhere in the country," he said.

Speaking to our reporters yesterday, both Mpayimana and Habineza said they were happy with how the campaigns had gone.

Meanwhile, Police spokesperson Theos Badege told The New Times that only two accidents - both of which were minor - had been recorded throughout the campaign period.

He said the first incident took place in Nyamagabe during the first week of the campaigns, while the other one was recorded in Nyagatare.

"One was a case of a fatigued driver, while the other was due to the mechanical condition of a vehicle."

Asked what measures were deployed to avert potential stampede during Kagame's rallies that attracted at least 100,000 people on each occasion, Badege said the candidate's campaign worked closely with local administrations and security organs to ensure that rallies were organised in a way that did not compromise people's safety.

"The weak, including the elderly and disabled, were given special attention; this was one of the specific measures that helped ensure smooth management of crowds".

No more campaigning

Meanwhile, Munyaneza said he expected voters and members of the public in general to observe the electoral rules and desist from any campaign activities past 6a.m Thursday morning.

"We don't expect to see any partisan activities past that time," he said. Also prohibited after 6a.m today until after the elections is any display of campaign materials and slogans in support of a candidate. "We expect that people will not be putting on clothes with campaign messages or drive their cars with stickers promoting certain candidates."

As the candidates were ending their campaign trails on Wednesday in Rwanda, Diasporan voters were preparing to cast their votes on Thursday, with voters in China and other Asian countries the first to go to the polls due to time zone differences.

Polls in the Diaspora were due to open at 7a.m and close at midnight local time. "Diaspora voters have more hours to cast their ballots because we wanted to facilitate every eligible citizen there to exercise their right to vote; even those with tricky work shifts will have a chance to vote," Munyaneza said.

More than 44,000 Diasporans will cast their votes today from 98 polling stations, up from about 17,000 voters in the 2010 presidential poll.

Munyaneza said NEC did not set up polling stations in Burundi and DR Congo owing to the security challenges in the neighbouring countries. However, he said the commission has been facilitating Rwandan citizens in those countries to obtain permission to vote from the nearest polling sites inside Rwanda.

Kagame, who's widely expected to win this week's poll, has traditionally swept the Diaspora vote, winning 96.7 per cent of votes cast in 2010.

Overall, some 6.8 Rwandans will participate in the poll, 25 per cent of whom are first-time voters. Women constitute 54 per cent of the electorate, while 45 per cent are youth.

Source: The Rwanda New Times

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

#RwandaElection: Diaspora Community Set to Vote in August Election

Voting materials have arrived at nearly all the 98 polling stations abroad, the National Electoral Commission has said.

The Diaspora community is slated to cast its vote on August 3, a day before citizens in the country make their choice on who of incumbent President Paul Kagame (RPF-Inkotanyi), Frank Habineza (Democratic Green Party of Rwanda), and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent, would lead the country’s transformation agenda for the next seven years.

According to figures from the electoral commission, there are over 40,000 registered Diaspora voters from the different countries across the world.

The executive secretary of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), said the materials would be dispatched to the different embassies.

“What we are doing now is following up together with a team at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure the materials arrive in all destinations”.

“There is a joint team in place to ensure things go according to plan. And, materials have actually arrived in most stations by now. The only election gear that was not shipped, he explained, was the bulky ballot boxes. The commission facilitated embassies to purchase them from their respective locations overseas to ease things.”

Some of the challenges include countries where voters will be compelled to make long distances to exercise their civic duties. One such instance is China, where there is only one polling station, at the Rwandan Embassy in Beijing.

Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Zambia, Monique Mukaruliza disclosed that the Rwandan community in the southern African country and in Malawi are well mobilized.

Those who are eligible voters are slightly more than 400, she said.

According to Eng. Daniel Murenzi, president of the Rwanda Diaspora Global Network, the mood is high ahead of the poll.

Murenzi said: “Most Diaspora members are happy for the increase in a number of polling stations, as well as the online mechanism for verification of where one will vote from.

“We are also happy to have organized, ourselves, to attend the campaigns [in the country] after having been part of a constitutional referendum held in December 2015. We are happy some Diaspora members were able to come and attend the campaigns.”

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

#RwandaElections: Kagame, main opposition pull out of Rwanda's first presidential debate

Two of the three presidential aspirants, incumbent President Paul Kagame and main opposition candidate Frank Habineza have pulled out of Rwanda’s first presidential debate to be aired live on Wednesday.

Only the independent candidate, Phillipe Mpayimana answered positively to the call by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and state-run broadcaster Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA).

Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF)‘s Kagame and the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda’s Habineza have opted to field party representatives for the live event.

According to regional media The EastAfrican, the debate will be conducted in the local Kinyarwanda language and broadcast live on RBA and on the state radio.

Kagame will be represented by his campaign spokesperson Wellars Gasamagera and Habineza by his party’s secretary-general Jean Claude Ntezimana.

Frank Habineza had earlier stated that he will only be at the debate if Kagame is present himself.

Elections will be held on August 3 in the diaspora and August 4 in Rwanda.

Winner of the polls will get a seven-year term to steer the affairs of the country seen as one of Africa’s rising economic powerhouses.

Source: AfricaNews

#RwandaElections: EAC observers laud conduct during presidential campaigns

The mission leader of the East African Community election observer mission (EOM) in Rwanda, Moody Awori, has commended the people of Rwanda for conducting themselves with maturity in the ongoing presidential election campaigns.
Awori said this on Monday in Kigali during the official flagging off of the EAC observer mission ahead of the August 4 presidential election.
“This is one of the most peaceful campaigns I have ever seen and I trust that it continues that way and you will uphold dignity and peace even on the Election Day and thereafter,” said Awori, a former vice-president of Kenya.
“A transparent and peaceful election will be a plus not just for Rwanda but for the entire EAC region as well as the rest of Africa. It is important that we show the rest of Africa how campaigns are conducted. I am happy this has gone on well.”
Awori noted that the sovereign will of the people expressed through a democratic process is guarantee for peace, stability and economic growth.
Rwanda is a small country with big ideas, he noted, and its resilient recovery from a painful past is a remarkable lesson for Africa whose citizens yearn for peace and development.
“Your experience shows that with political commitment and sheer determination, there is no limit to humanity’s potential to achieve,” Awori said.
The regional bloc’s team of observers is drawn from the East African Legislative Assembly, national human rights commissions, electoral management bodies, civil society, EAC ‘youth ambassadors’, and staff of the EAC secretariat are observing the last few days of ongoing campaigns and later the Election Day on Friday.
The team has 45 people, a number Awori said “is more than sufficient.”
Those who have gone to the field are 30 observers. The remaining 15, including the mission leader, will be based at the Secretariat in Kigali.
EAC observer deployments
Besides Rwanda, EAC also planned for deployment of election observers in Kenya, which is scheduled to hold presidential elections on August 8. Members from South Sudan are taking part in the missions for the first time.
This is the first time the Community is engaging in two election observer missions at the same time in two partner states within a period of 10 days.
The bloc’s observer missions are headed by eminent persons.
They are to undertake the exercise in line with guidelines contained in the EAC principles on electoral observation and evaluation, which heralded the institutionalisation of election observation in partner states.
Missions in the two partner states are being undertaken in two phases; the long-term observer mission or pre-election mission (PEMi); and the short-term election observer mission.
The short-term election observer mission arrived in Rwanda last week and will depart on August 7.
The EAC observer missions to the two partner states are not only in response to the invitation by their national electoral management bodies to the Secretariat but are also a response to the decision of the EAC Council of Ministers on observation of elections in partner states.
Their mandate is to observe the overall electoral environment, pre-election activities, the polling day, and the counting and tallying of results.
The two missions are being undertaken pursuant to Article 3 of the EAC Treaty which requires adherence to universally acceptable principles of democratic governance and in line with the EAC Principles of Election Observation and Evaluation.
Rwandans go to polls on Friday to pick who of incumbent President Paul Kagame, of RPF-Inkotanyi; Frank Habineza, of Democratic Green Party of Rwanda; and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent, will lead the country for the next seven years.
Source: The New Times

Monday, July 31, 2017

Uhuru ready to concede defeat if he loses, asks opponents to do the same

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday evening admitted that he will concede if he loses fairly.

During a TV live chat, the Head of State also asked his opponents to do the same so as to maintain peace in the country.

“I’m the man who abides by the wish of the people and I pray that my opponents do the same. I ask Kenyans to look at one another as brother and sister,” he said.

He said the Jubilee government wants to produce the calmest election that has ever been seen in the country which is why security forces as being equipped to ensure they handle any situation that might arise.

“We are putting in place measures and our security team is working to ensure the safest and most peaceful elections held in this country,” he said.

The conversation with Kenyans, which was aired on K24 TV and also on Facebook Live Chat, comes barely a week after the Head of State snubbed the last presidential debate which was organised by various media houses.

The president was also asked how Jubilee government has tackled the issue of food security, what they are doing about youth unemployment, the integration of the East African Community, marginalised regions and the terrorism threat among other things.

On regions that have for long stayed marginalised, Mr Kenyatta noted that his government, in the past four years, has done more than any other previous administration by digging boreholes, constructing roads and putting such areas and Northern Kenya on the national electricity grid.

“We don’t want a situation where anyone coming from places like the northern border town of Moyale says they are going to ‘Kenya” just because they feel excluded,” he said.

He however, said that in as much as the Jubilee government has not delivered the stadia they promised in their 2013 campaign, some have been launched and are under construction.

But he also blamed the county governments of Kisumu and Mombasa for having issues, which he said, have delayed progress in constructing the sports facilities.

Family

Mr Kenyatta noted that his government wants to make the EAC work and has, for instance, reduced the number of days used to transport cargo from the Port of Mombasa to Uganda.

"We want to ensure our people in the EAC do business or live anywhere in the region and my government is committed to this," he said.

Asked why his children have not been seen campaigning for him the President said: “I don’t want them involved in the campaigns unless they do so desire. All I aspire is to create a Kenya where not just them, but any other child out there can do whatever they want.”

Source: The East African

Explianer: What every voter should know about #RwandaElections

It's five days before Rwandans head to their polling stations to choose who will lead them for the next seven years. While the candidates traverse all corners of the country canvassing for votes, there are things that every voter needs to know before Election Day. The New Times' Nasra Bishumba sat down with the Executive Secretary of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Charles Munyaneza, and asked him questions concerning Election Day. Below are the excerpts.

Where is my local polling station?
More than 96 per cent of the polling stations have not changed over the years. Your polling station is perhaps the same one it has always been.
If the voter has moved and they are yet to know where their new station is, they can use this month's Umuganda (tomorrow) to find out because the activities that day will take place at polling stations.

Do I need a voter's card to vote?
Yes and no. If you have a voter's card, then congratulations; but not all is lost if you have none. You can use your National Identity Card (Indangamuntu) to cast your vote on condition that you are a registered voter.
Special cases like journalists and military personnel can use their professional cards to vote from anywhere due to the nature of their work, but again, only if they have national IDs and are registered voters.

What happens when I get to the polling station?
All you need is to present your national ID, voter's card, and then a verification is done to determine whether you are on the list before you proceed to vote.

What if I make a mistake on my ballot, do I get another chance?
No. You have only one chance and that's why we encourage people to take their time because we cannot get enough ballot papers to replace those that are spoilt.

When is a ballot considered spoilt?
There are different things that can make your vote null and void. For instance, if you decide to cast a blank ballot paper into the box, when you write other things on the paper other than the thumbprint, and if you vote for more than one candidate. All this can invalidate your vote.

What time are polling stations opening and when do they close?
Polling stations will be open at 7am and will close at 3pm.
If I cannot get to a polling station, can someone else vote for me?
Not at all. You must do this civic duty on your own.

I have disabilities, can I vote?
Yes, of course. As long as you are registered and we have put in place mechanisms that will support people with different disabilities. There is braille for the visually impaired and the stations are conducive for every voter.

Who is ineligible to vote?
You are not eligible to vote if you are below 18 years.
If you are not registered.
If you are not Rwandan.
If you are a refugee.
If you are in prison.
If you have been charged and convicted by the court of law and your voting rights have been revoked.
If you were convicted of Genocide against Tutsi crimes and you are yet to complete your punishment.

Can I discuss my vote in the polling station?
Not at all. That is why it is called a secret ballot.

I am a Muslim and I wear hijab, is there a particular dress code?
No. You can put on anything you want but we encourage you to be decent.

Are there any security checks?
Security checks can be done depending on the need.

Can I take a photograph of myself voting?
You are allowed to enter the booth with your phone but you are not allowed to take photos when in there. You are also not allowed to enter when someone else is there. You are not allowed to enter with a gun.

Who is allowed to stay at polling stations?
Registered observers and representatives of the candidates are allowed to be there but other people are encouraged to vote and perhaps come back later when the votes are being counted. In addition,

How are the votes counted?
Counting is done immediately after 3pm and the exercise is carried out in public.

When can I find out the results?
On Election Day, we are going to announce at least 80 per cent of the votes cast. This means that people will go to bed knowing who has won but the final results will be announced a few days later.

There are four election volunteers in every village and they can explain to you everything. If you are near any NEC office, you can walk in and enquire because we stationed in every district and province.



Source: The New Times

AEP
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Monday, July 24, 2017

#KenyaElections: Colours, multitudes rock campaign trails

It’s barely two weeks to Kenya’s general election and the country is tensed from vigorous campaign trails from both the incumbents and the oppositions.
August 8 is the D-day to over 2 million registered voters to elect members of the county assemblies, members of parliament, senators, governors and the president.
Cash has been poured into technology, strategy, internal polling, office space, salaries, expat and foreign experts. Logistics includes purchase and hire of helicopters and vehicles, as well a transport and accommodation for campaign teams.
The most outstanding feature from these campaigns is the use of social media to depict throngs of people vividly dressed in merchandise like T-shirts.
The incumbent wing, Jubilee party led by President Uhuru Kenyatta has invested heavily on branded T-shirts, caps and flags. Thousands of people dressed in red T-shirts gives their campaign a new look.
The opposition, NASA coalition embrace white colour to signify peace and brighter future if elected during their campaigns.
Here are some of the trending images both from Jubilee and NASA campaign trails.




Source: AfricaNews

Monday, July 17, 2017

#RwandaElections: NEC extends voters registration period by one day

Rwanda National Electoral Commission (NEC) has extended the voter register updating process by 24 hours after several requests from voters.
Charles Munyaneza, NEC executive secretary said; “Many registered voters have been requesting for more time. This is why we have added another extra day.”
The process of updating voter’s register has been done in person, online or by phone USSD codes, and today July 17, 2017 was the deadline.
At least 6, 888, 592 Rwandans are set to participate in the August 4th polls. The final list of voters is expected to be announced on July 19, according to the NEC calendar.
Three presidential candidates are campaigning across the country- Paul Kagame, flag-bearer of Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) Inkotanyi, Dr. Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda(DGPR) and Phillipe Mpayimana, an independent candidate.
Voters with vision impairments will for the first time take part in the presidential election in the history of Rwandan elections.
“Those who can use braille, will use special braille lists that will be distributed to election centers. Those who cannot braille will use a special voting mechanism- where they will place their fingers in holes lined according to the list of candidates on the voters list,” said Prof. Kalisa Mbanda, the NEC chairman.
Rwandans in diaspora will cast their votes on August 3, while Rwandans in the country will vote on August 4, 2017. This date is expected to be a big celebration for many as #Rwandadecides
To Register online Click Here

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Google unveils free tools to safeguard #KenyaElections

Google and technology incubator platform Jigsaw have unveiled a suite of free tools that will help guard against digital attacks during the election period in Kenya.

Dubbed “Protect Your Election”, the tools are designed to help safeguard news organisations, human rights groups, and election monitoring sites from online threats. Work by such organisations is critical before and during elections.

Africa Uncensored -- owned by investigative journalist John-Allan Namu -- and Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) are some of the sites that were famously defaced.

The threats include DDoS (denial-of-service) attacks, phishing and attempts to break into people’s private accounts.

Google is an American tech giant whose innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day.

Global security
Jigsaw is an incubator within Alphabet that builds technology to tackle some of the toughest global security challenges.

The technology helps in, among other things, thwarting online censorship, mitigating threats from digital attacks, countering violent extremism and protecting people from online harassment.

One of those tools unveiled on Tuesday is Project Shield, which provides free DDoS protection to news sites, human rights groups, and election monitoring sites.

“It is important to provide free protection to these organisations in particular, as they are the groups that provide voters with information they need to make informed decisions. The site is in both English and Swahili,” said an organiser.

The new suite also offers digital defences for individuals, including Password Alert — a Chrome extension that helps protect against phishing attacks by alerting you if a website is trying to steal your Google password.

Verification
Another tool offered by Protect Your Election is 2-Step Verification, which provides an extra layer of defense to keep your account secure.

The suit also includes uProxy, a virtual private network (VPN) that will be available for organisations as opposed to individuals. This would come in handy should the State decide to censor social media.

About 125,000 DDoS attacks happen every week and tens of millions of phishing attempts are recorded every few months.

DDoS attacks have often targeted investigative journalists and election monitoring groups in various countries.

During the last few years, there has been a rise in digital attacks targeting government, political party websites, press and journalists around the world.

Commenting on the suite, Google Kenya Country Manager Charles Murito said: “Everyone has a right to a full and credible story. The free Google tools are designed to safeguard publishers, news organisations, human rights groups and election monitoring sites from digital attacks during the election period.”


Source: Business Daily

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

#RwandaElection outcome is already decided

“More of a coronation than real contest.” That’s how the Kenyan daily The Standard characterised Rwanda’s presidential poll slated for 4 August. It sums up the reality well. In countries with competitive politics, elections are an important moment giving rise to debate and excitement. Not so in Rwanda.
Rwandans have become accustomed to polls where everything is settled in advance. This was the case before the genocide, when the country was officially a one-party state. And it has been the case since 1994, after which Rwanda became a de facto one-party state under the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).
The current template for elections was set in 2003, when a constitutional referendum and the first post-genocide elections were held. In the run-up to these polls, the last genuine opposition party was banned, while the campaign was marred by arrests, disappearances and intimidation. An EU observer mission noted that, ironically, “political pluralism is more limited than during the transition period”.
The polls themselves were replete with allegations of fraud, manipulation of electoral lists, ballot-box stuffing, and flawed counting. Paul Kagame was declared the winner with 95% of the vote.
Similar dynamics were seen in the 2008 and 2013 parliamentary elections as well as the 2010 presidential poll. Opposition leaders were arrested and condemned to long prison sentences, while other critical voices were killed or went into exile.
In 2010, there were reports of local leaders going from door to door to collect voters’ cards and submitting their ballots for them. The Commonwealth observer mission at the time noted that “it was not possible to ascertain quite where, how and when the tabulation was completed”.

Kagame until 2034?

The presidential elections in 2010 were expected to be Kagame’s last. He was beginning his second constitutionally-mandated seven-year term and denied that he would seek re-election. He even claimed it would be a failure on his part to find a replacement and warned that “those who seek a third term will seek a fourth and a fifth”.
Nevertheless, many remained sceptical that Kagame would step down, and in May 2013, his position became clearer when Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama was sacked shortly after insisting in an interview that Kagame would have to leave power in 2017 in accordance with the law.
By this time, a campaign had already started aimed at “convincing” the president to stay in office. In 2015, this culminated in 3.7 million Rwandans signing a petition – some under significant pressure – demanding that parliament enact constitutional changes that would allow Kagame to remain in power. It was claimed that this was a spontaneous action by the people, but it is unlikely such an operation could have been organised without the president’s knowledge and direction.
In subsequent “consultations” on the matter held throughout the country, MPs and senators claimed to have only found ten people – out of a population of 11 million – who opposed the initiative. Soon after, both houses unanimously approved a constitutional amendment to be put to a referendum.
The proposed revision called for maintaining the two-term limit and reducing term lengths from seven to five years. It also included a crucial provision allowing the incumbent to first run for an additional seven-year term, after which he would be eligible to bid for two more five-year terms. The changes effectively allow Kagame to stay in power until 2034, by which time he would have ruled Rwanda for 40 years.
While the issue of term limits has led to protests in many African countries, in Rwanda there was no debate or demonstrations around the December 2015 referendum. This was not surprising given that since the RPF took power, no demonstrations have taken place that were not organised by the regime itself. The amendment passed with 98.3% of the popular vote.
On 31 December 2015, President Kagame announced that he would run again, saying: “You requested me to lead this country again after 2017. Given the importance and consideration you attach to this, I can only accept”.

The candidates

Others also declared their intention to stand in 2017, including a handful of independents, but they have faced significant obstructions.
In May 2017, 35-year-old Diana Rwigara announced her candidacy, saying “people are tired, people are angry”. She had previously shown courage in criticising the government and human rights abuses. In the days following her announcement, doctored nude photographs of her circulated on social media.
Another aspirant, the Catholic prelate turned politician Thomas Nahimana, was denied access to Rwanda. Meanwhile, Gilbert Mwenedata, claimed that he was refused rooms by hotels in Kigali to hold a press conference to announce his plans.
The challenges facing independent candidates are dauntingly high to begin with. To be eligible, they must collect 600 signatures of support, including at least 12 from each of 30 districts. This may not seem much, but in an environment that does not tolerate criticism of the regime, it takes a lot of courage to reveal oneself to be an opposition supporter. Rwigara claimed that local leaders threatened her supporters as they tried to gather signatures.
Nevertheless, at least two hopefuls – Rwigara and Mwenedata – claimed to have met this requirement. But the National Electoral Commission (NEC) rejected their candidacies, claiming many of the signatures gathered were invalid. The NEC did not allow the candidates to see their lists to work out which names were disqualified, and several diplomats in Kigali expressed concern over the process.
In the end, only one independent hopeful – the little-known former journalist Philippe Mpayimana – made it onto the NEC’s final list.
The barriers for political parties are less onerous, and the Democratic Green Party’s (DGP) Frank Habineza was affirmed as the third and final presidential candidate. All other parties announced that they would not field nominees, but instead back Kagame.

No level playing field

As in previous elections in Rwanda, 2017’s opposition candidates have not faced an easy time or a level playing field in the run up to the polls.
While the RPF benefits from vast financial resources through its business ventures, other hopefuls were warned by the NEC against raising funds before being declared eligible. The electoral commission also announced in May that any social media messages by candidates or parties had to be submitted for vetting 48 hours prior to publication. Habineza called the decision “oppressive” and, after strong diplomatic protest, the measure was rescinded in early-June.
Opposition parties – in particular the non-registered FDU-Inkingi – have also seen their cadres arrested or disappeared. Amnesty International recently denounced the climate of fear surrounding the elections, saying: “Since the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front took power 23 years ago, Rwandans have faced huge, and often deadly, obstacles to participating in public life and voicing criticism of government policy. The climate in which the upcoming elections take place is the culmination of years of repression.”
In these tense and oppressive circumstances, and given the widespread allegations of manipulation in Rwanda’s previous elections, it is not surprising that the head of the EU delegation in Kigali has said that “you would not lose any money if you bet on Mr Paul Kagame”.

Indeed, a 90% or higher victory for Kagame on 4 August seems inevitable in what will be coronation rather than election. All this is underscored by the latest Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI) report in which Rwanda scored a mere two out of ten for “free and fair elections” and “effective power to govern”, and three for “association/assembly rights” and “freedom of expression”.