Since Paul Kagame swept south and across the tiny central African country at the head of a rebel army to stop the genocide of his people 23 years ago, it seems the appetite of the grateful Rwandan people for his leadership has kept growing.

Is that the only explanation for his huge 98.63% electoral victory last week? Turnout was a not unimpressive 96.42% of the 6m registered voters, according to the country’s electoral commission.

Kagame’s victory over exactly two competitors listed on Africa’s shortest presidential ballot paper extends his 17-year rule as president by seven years. Neighbours Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda must be left feeling unpopular, after having had to resort to violence only to get a measly 69% and 60% of the vote.

Last year Rwandans appeared equally eager to amend the constitution to allow Kagame to stand for a further seven-year term, which can be followed by two five-year terms if the 59-year-old feels he is not done turning Rwanda into a little Singapore in the heart of war-torn Africa.

Perennially sceptical foreign observers criticised both last week’s election and last year’s referendum as a foregone conclusion by a benevolent dictator who wouldn’t allow real democracy in tribal, genocide-scarred Rwanda. The leader dismissed their criticism at his victory speech last week.

The same observers say Kagame’s grip on the people is so tight that those allowed to run in elections serve as a democratic façade.

With more than 98% of the vote, a confident leader would have allowed for credible opposition.


Please sign in or register to comment.