8 August 2017

Rwanda: Presidential Elections Were Free, Fair and Transparent - Governance Board

Photo: The New Times

Friday's presidential elections were conducted in a free, fair and transparent environment that meets democratic and good governance principles both local and international standards, according to Rwanda Governance Board (RGB).

The board gave its verdict yesterday having deployed observer teams to witness the electoral process as part of its mandate to promote democratic and good governance principles in the country.

Forty-two observers were deployed in all districts across the country to assess the conformity of the electoral process to democratic standards and promotion of free, fair and transparent elections.

According to a statement, the RGB observer mission witnessed a calm and peaceful pre-election environment throughout the country.

The period was marked by intensive voter education through community meetings such as Umuganda, media, posters in public spaces, SMS texts, among others.

RGB also commended the National Electoral Commission for the use of ICT in updating voter registers and information sharing to the voters, which mostly benefitted the Diaspora community.

The submission of bids by aspiring candidates to the electoral body, the vetting process and announcement of candidates were all done in accordance to the law.

During the election, NEC delivered materials to polling stations on time, while the introduction of ballot papers for the blind was noted for promoting inclusiveness.

The statement mentions few incidents such as some local leaders who didn't cooperate with some candidates as well as cases of violations of NEC guidelines noted during the initial days of the campaigns but says these were quickly addressed by concerned authorities.

Some local leaders were at the beginning of the campaigns accused of not facilitating candidates to campaign in their jurisdiction, a practice that attracted the attention of the Minister for Local Government and Social Affairs, Francis Kaboneka.

Kaboneka, in a subsequent tele-conference, cautioned the local leaders, reminding them that facilitating all candidates was an obligation.

'High professionalism'

Dr Usta Kayitesi, deputy chief executive of Rwanda Governance Board, and head of the observer mission, appreciated the "high degree of professionalism exhibited by the National Electoral Commission and a great sense of patriotism exhibited by its volunteers that facilitated a successful, well-organised, peaceful and transparent presidential election process."

"We also noted with satisfaction the professional and good conduct of security agencies, media, civil society organisations and Rwandans in general in ensuring successful and incident-free election," she said.

Kayitesi said the presidential electoral process helped enhance Rwanda's core values of inclusiveness, consensus and citizen participation.

The report says that some candidates unexpectedly changed campaign venue making it difficult for observers to get to the site as well as local leaders to provide necessary support.

According to Kayitesi, the presidential election in Rwanda was marked by stability, high turnout and freedom, proof that elections can be conducted without necessarily causing damages.

According to the statement, security was well maintained at campaign rallies while personnel were present at all polling stations.

The observers had access to oversee the vote counting process which was done in a transparent and peaceful environment.

The media was also commended for informing voters on their rights and obligations as well as complying with the requirements such as giving candidates equitable coverage and keeping their audiences abreast of the process.

However, RGB faulted international media for releasing biased reports against one particular presidential candidate.

Candidates also abided by the law by avoiding use of divisive language.

Kayitesi said a comprehensive report of Rwanda Governance Board observer mission will be released in the coming days.

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