9 August 2017

Rwanda: Civil Society Platform Wants Greater Role in Voter Education Exercise

Members of Rwanda Civil Society Platform (RCSP) have called upon the National Electoral Commission to seek their help in voter education ahead of any national polls.

This is one of the recommendations by the platform after observing the presidential elections held last week.

About 6.8 million Rwandans went to polls last week that saw incumbent President Paul Kagame win by 98.63 per cent.

The platform consists of more than 500 Civil Society Organisations and members of Umbrella and Network Organisations.

They deployed 357 observers, 161 of whom were female. A core team of 15 members coordinated activities at the national level, 30 long term observers at the district level while 312 short term observers followed procedures at polling stations.

"We have never been invited for pre-election preparations. NEC should enhance its partnership with Civil Society Organisations, particularly in the implementation of the voter education programmes, it would help leverage the expertise of these organisations which already have vast experience in working with grassroots communities," said Jean Leonard Sekanyange, the chairperson of the platform.

Elections hailed

In their preliminary findings on the just concluded presidential elections, the Rwanda Civil Society Platform said that the elections were peaceful and free and fair.

"At all polling stations we observed, election operations started on time, with all electoral officials present and the voting materials readily available. And the polling staff followed the requisite opening procedures," the report says.

The civil society umbrella body also commended the media fraternity for doing their best to give each candidate fair and balanced coverage.

"During the campaign, which clearly dominated both broadcast and print media, some radio and TV stations significantly changed their programming not only to accommodate coverage of political rallies but also to undertake critical analysis of candidates' manifestos," the report says.

The outgoing Belgian Ambassador Arnout Pauwels applauded Rwandans for turning up in big numbers to vote.

"We had different diplomats based in Rwanda following elections all over the country. They were able to witness the peaceful elections and how easy it was for Rwandans to choose a candidate out of the three. We thank Rwandans for showing up and making their choice in big numbers and in an orderly manner," he said.

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