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USAfrica: Rwanda’s presidential elections point to another Kagame victory

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Special to USAfrica, Houston. AFP

Rwandans go the polls Friday in a presidential election in which strongman Paul Kagame is widely expected to cruise to a third term in office.

The 59-year-old leader faces two little-known candidates who were given only three weeks to campaign against the incumbent, who has kept a tight hold on power since his rebel army ended the 1994 genocide.

Observers say Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party — the only permitted critical opposition party — and independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana face an unwinnable battle. Kagame has said the result is a foregone conclusion.

While the nation has been colourfully covered with the red, white and blue of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and posters of Kagame, there has been barely a trace of the opposition.

“They told us we cannot put our banners or flags where the RPF’s things are, but unfortunately the RPF put theirs almost everywhere,” Habineza told AFP during a recent rally in the south of the country.

He was standing in front of a small stage, surrounded by about 100 people, including many children drawn by the booming music.

“I came out of curiosity, but he has no chance. Kagame has delivered everything he promised, there is no one but him,” said Sabin Nkundukozera, 66.

Farmer Sylvain Mutaimukunda, 38, was similarly dismissive.

“It is the first time I have heard of this man, I couldn’t even tell you his name,” he said of Habineza.

In contrast, thousands flock to Kagame’s rallies, where the president has repeated that “the election is over”.

His confidence comes after 98 percent of Rwandans approved a constitutional amendment in a 2015 referendum that granted him the right to run for a third term in office.

Observers condemned the reform, which could potentially see Kagame retain office twice more if re-elected this time and allow him to stay president until 2034.
Kagame, a lanky former guerilla fighter, was just 36 when his rebel army routed extremist Hutu forces who slaughtered an estimated 800,000 people — mainly minority Tutsis — and seized Kigali.

He served first as vice-president and defence minister, although he was widely considered the de facto leader of the country and was appointed as president by lawmakers in 2000.

He was first elected to the post in 2003 and again in 2010 with more than 90 percent of votes.

He is credited with a remarkable turnaround in the shattered nation, bringing order, stability, infrastructure and annual economic growth of about seven percent.

However rights groups accuse him of ruling through fear, relying on a systematic repression of the opposition, free speech and the media.

Critics have been assassinated, jailed or forced into exile, and some observers believe the only reason Habineza and Mpayimana have been allowed to run is that they pose no threat.

“There is no election in Rwanda, there is a coronation declaring Kagame the king,” said outspoken local journalist Robert Mugabe.

“The real opposition, the people with the real voices, cannot be around,” he said.

However political analyst Christopher Kayumba said Kagame remains popular, with Rwandans seeing him as a guarantor of stability after his military victory brought an end to the genocide.

“There is no way you can compare the stature of President Kagame, the resources of the RPF, with the Green Party. The opposition will be beaten hands down. There is no question about that.”

There are 6.9 million registered voters across the tiny east African nation, known as the Land of a Thousand Hills. Polling stations open at 0500 GMT and close at 1300 GMT.

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USAfrica is an international multimedia company, founded since 1992 by Dr. Chido Nwangwu [author of Mandela & Achebe: Leadership, Identity and Footprints of Greatness], with its headquarters in Houston, Texas. Also, he established the 1st African-owned, U.S.-based professional newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com, both assessed by the CNN and The New York Times as the largest and arguably the most influential African-owned, U.S-based multimedia networks. USAfrica’s first print edition of USAfrica magazine published August 1993; USAfrica The Newspaper on May 11, 1994; The Black Business Journal in 1998; CLASSmagazine on May 2, 2003; PhotoWorks.TV in 2005, and several platforms and products. USAfricaonline.com is powered by the global resources of USAfrica, CLASSmagazine, CLASSmagazine.TV, PhotoWorks.Tv, USAfrica.TV, MandelaAchebeChido.com, AchebeBooks.com and ChidoNwangwu.com

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U.S says it will investigate Zimbabwe presidential election violence; MDC disputes result; winner acknowledges there were “challenges”

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Special to USAfricaonline.com

The MDC Alliance led by 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa is disputing the outcome of the polls alleging that they were rigged to the point of having more votes than registered voters.

While the winner, ZANU PF leader and incumbent president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, acknowledged that there were “challenges” he insisted the polls were free and fair.

The US Department of State said Zimbabwe’s 30 July elections presented the country with a historic chance to move beyond the political and economic crises of the past and toward profound democratic change.

“Unfortunately, Zimbabwe’s success in delivering an election day that was peaceful, and open to international observers, was subsequently marred by violence and a disproportionate use of deadly force against protestors by the security forces,” the department’s spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.

Six people were shot dead on Wednesday by soldiers and many others were injured. A seventh person is reported to have succumbed to gunshot wounds on Friday at a hospital in Chitungwiza.

The US said it welcomes the commitment by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to release comprehensive election results in a form that provides full transparency. ZEC maintains that the election results were an accurate reflection of the voters’ will.

Former colonial master, Britain, also remained concerned about the developments.

“The UK remains deeply concerned by the violence following the elections and the disproportionate response from the security forces,” said UK Minister of State for Africa, Harriett Baldwin.

She, however, urged electoral stakeholders to work together to ensure calm.

“While polling day passed off peacefully, a number of concerns have been raised by observer missions, particularly about the pre-election environment, the role of State media, and the use of State resources. There is much to be done to build confidence in Zimbabwe’s electoral process.”

Baldwin urged that any appeals against the results or the process be handled swiftly and impartially.– African News Agency (ANA)

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Zimbabwe’s presidential election offers opportunity for post-Mugabe progress. By Wilf Mbanga

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Zimbabwe-Politics-USAfricaonline

Today, Monday July 30, 2018, Zimbabweans [went] to the polls to elect Robert Mugabe’s successor. For pretty much the average life expectancy of many Zimbabweans, one man has ruled the country with an iron fist. Eight elections were held during his rule – and every time, that fist ensured victory for Mugabe.

The current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, the man who finally ousted Mugabe in a bloodless coup last November, has also crushed his enemies ruthlessly in the past – but his iron fist lies within a well-padded velvet glove.
Mnangagwa goes head to head at the polls with Nelson Chamisa, 40, who took over as leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) after Morgan Tsvangirai died earlier this year.

Whoever wins, this election heralds a new dawn for Zimbabwe. Mugabe has gone. Things will never be the same again. Certainly, Mnangagwa brings a lot of baggage from the Mugabe era – having been the former president’s righthand man.

But he is different in many significant ways – today, Mugabe even urged voters to turn their backs on his leadership, and went so far as to wish Chamisa well. Most importantly, Mnangagwa understands business and is determined to resuscitate Zimbabwe’s moribund economy and give the people what they so desperately want and need – jobs.

He is primarily a soldier, having left Zimbabwe as a teenager in the early 1960s for military training in China. He has fashioned himself after the former communist leader Deng Xiaoping, who modernised China and laid the foundations for the economic powerhouse it has become, while maintaining a strictly authoritarian regime.

Deng abandoned many orthodox communist doctrines to incorporate elements of the free-enterprise system. Mnangagwa seems determined to do the same for Zimbabwe. He is a wealthy man in his own right, having run Zanu-PF’s and his own businesses since the early 1980s. He has been mentioned in a UN report on the plundering of mining and logging resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo together with General Sibusiso Moyo, who is now the foreign affairs minister.

Over the eight months since he took the reins from Mugabe, Mnangagwa has given clear signals of a clean break with the past – actively courting the west, preaching and practising peace instead of violence, eschewing corruption, meeting business leaders and white farmers, and generally projecting himself as a reformist. He has met personally the many business missions that have visited the country this year, and has promised to get rid of the cumbersome bureaucracy that currently stifles new investment. He has suspended Mugabe’s populist indigenisation act, which required foreigners to cede 51% of their shares to locals (ZANU-PF, of course) in all sectors except gold and diamond mining. He has even made it his election slogan – with party supporters everywhere sporting T-shirts proclaiming “Zimbabwe is open for business”.

While Mugabe was a consummate manipulator, skilfully playing people off against each other and weaving a complex web of patronage, Mnangagwa is a much more of a strategist. He will be prepared to make tough decisions that could ultimately benefit the economy. He has certainly been more successful in attracting foreign investment in the short time he has been in power than Mugabe was in decades of berating the west.

 

The MDC’s Chamisa is just as pro-business as Mnangagwa, and to his credit has surrounded himself with several capable technocrats. There is no whiff of corruption about him and he has been drawing massive crowds in many rural areas which, under Mugabe, were no-go areas for his party. And of course the MDC’s democratic and human rights credentials are well established – while those of Zanu-PF are a constant cause for concern.

Should Chamisa win the election, there is no doubt that the world would welcome Zimbabwe back into the fold with open arms. But Mnangagwa is smart enough to realise that international recognition of his government can only come if this election is acknowledged as free and fair by the global community. While Britain has been unswervingly supportive of the post-Mugabe regime, the US has reserved judgment – recently renewing its sanctions on Zanu-PF leaders and companies, but promising to lift them once credible elections have taken place.

And there’s the rub.

Many believe it is impossible for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to run a free and fair poll. It is accused of rigging every election since it was established in 2004; it is still staffed largely by the military and Zanu-PF loyalists; and it has shown shameful bias towards the ruling party in recent months. For example, the law says the ballot paper should be in alphabetical order, which places Chamisa second on the 23-person list. The commission cleverly formatted the paper into two lop-sided columns, in order to place Mnangagwa at the very top of column two.

So this election could bring three possible results: if Mnangagwa wins, the MDC already has enough ammunition against the electoral commission to cry foul.

If Chamisa wins convincingly, it will be a new dawn indeed – but the military might not accept this, as the Generals have already invested a lot in Mnangagwa.

But if there is no clear winner, the most sensible way forward would be for the two protagonists to agree to a marriage of convenience – otherwise known as a government of national unity.
• Wilf Mbanga, once falsely classified by Mugabe’s government as ‘enemy of the people’, is the founder, editor and publisher of The Zimbabwean weekly, published in the UK and Johannesburg

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USAfrica: “Resign! Get out of office!” – Bishop Oyedepo tells Nigeria’s President Buhari

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The founder of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, aka Winners’ Chapel, Bishop David Oyedepo, has called on Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General, to resign due to what he considers to be the continuing failure of Buhari to stop  the incessant killings by militant Fulani herdsmen.

Oyedepo who spoke on the theme, “Enough is enough” recalled that “When I was talking in 2015, people were saying my own was too much, now everybody can see what’s happening,” he said. ”What has moved forward in anybody’s life? You don’t know it’s war. Why are they attacking the Christian communities? Why has nobody been arrested? I can tell you this, the authorities and the powers that be are behind them.”

“We must wake up and push this evil back. Not one of those so-called herdsmen – they are jihadists – has been brought to book till date. Herdsmen don’t shoot; they have been here all along. They are just taking cover under the herdsmen to assault innocent citizens. They wake up in the night and slice innocent children to pieces. Yet, you have a government in place. What!

“The most honourable thing for any non-performing leader to do is to resign. The most honourable thing is to resign. That’s my own for Mr President. Resign! Get out of office! Even our Islamic friends in the North are calling on him to resign. Because that’s the noblest thing to do. Or are we going to look at one system destroy a whole nation?”

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