Queues to vote in Kigali but change is not on ballot

Voters queued from dawn to cast their votes in the mountainous central African nation yesterday. But the Rwandan poll is the latest in a series of African elections where the outcome has been carefully pre-arranged.

In Sudan the result of April's vote was carved up in backroom deals, and in Ethiopia in May, election monitors had little to report as the work of government repression was accomplished long before voting started. Rwandans too, trooped to the polls knowing that change was not on the ballot. Nonetheless, officials reported strong turnout.

The soldier president Paul Kagame, who has ruled for 16 years, has been accused of launching a crackdown on all dissent ahead of his second electoral test. As he posted his own vote in the capital, Mr Kagame hit out at foreign criticism of the lack of freedoms in his country.

"I see no problems, but there are some people who choose to see problems where there are not," he said. "They talk about fear, they talk about all sorts of things but they are not even patient enough to wait for Rwandans to speak." But the former general has done little to encourage free speech in a pre-election period in which Rwanda's few independent voices have been silenced, with opposition leaders and journalists murdered, placed under arrest, or forced to flee the country.

Journalists have been dragged through the courts, fled into exile or, in the case of Leonard Rugambage, been murdered. Opposition parties seen as unfriendly to the ruling RPF have been prevented from registering and in some cases their leaders jailed or placed under house arrest while the deputy leader of the Democratic Greens was murdered last month.

Mr Kagame has denied any knowledge of dissident killings and insisted that authorities will fully investigate all deaths. His supporters point to Rwanda's recovery from the horrific events of 1994 in which nearly 800,000 people were killed. Under the rule of the RPF – a Tutsi-led guerilla army-turned political party – Rwanda has doubled its GDP and attracted new investment.

On the campaign trail the ex-military leader has been keen to shed his stiff disciplinarian image, dancing and singing on stage. Mr Kagame insisted yesterday it was not his responsibility to create an opposition but to deliver growth. "We are already on a good footing," he said. "We want to attract more investment and grow our trade with the region and beyond."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'