Rwandans in Diaspora vote: As it happened
Parliamentary elections in the Diaspora went on smoothly and were incident free across the world, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) said, ahead of the official vote counting today.
Rwandans in Diaspora woke up early on Sunday to cast their votes in the legislative elections.
The NEC Executive Secretary, Charles Munyaneza, told The New Times that while voters were allowed to vote until 6p.m, but by 3.p.m all Diaspora voters had cast their votes in an election it described as smooth.
Some 46,955 people were expected to cast their votes, NEC said, adding that the Diaspora had 115 polling stations and 155 polling rooms.
11 political parties and four independent candidates are contesting for 53 seats voted for thorough adult universal suffrage.
The Lower House has 80 Members of Parliament. Others are 24 who represent women, two represent youth, and one represents persons with disabilities.
Besides Rwandans living in the Diaspora, the electoral law allows any registered voter to cast their ballot from outside the country, as long as they fulfil the requirements.
NEC will announce the partial results tonight and preliminary results on Tuesday.
In China, President Paul Kagame, who is in Beijing for the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), joined Diaspora Rwandans at the Rwandan Embassy in Beijing to cast his ballot. First Lady Jeannette Kagame also voted from the embassy.
In Kenya, Rwandans braved the chilly Nairobian morning weather to cast their votes.
While officiating at the exercise as the Chief Returning Officer, the High Commissioner of Rwanda to Kenya Amb. James Kimonyo, commended the voters for turning up in large numbers to exercise their civic duty. He explained the voting process and proceeded to cast his vote at 7 am at the High Commission on Limuru Road.
The Under20 volleyball team, which is currently representing the country at the 2018 Women’s U20 African Nations Championship in Nairobi, also broke from camp to vote ahead of their match with Egypt later in the evening.
“It is a day for Rwandans to exercise their democratic right and it doesn’t matter where in Diaspora the citizens are, they are allowed to vote for their favourite leaders back home,” said Amb Kimonyo.
The Rwandan Embassy in Nairobi had 2000 registered voters.
The other polling station in Kenya are Mombasa which, according to the Commission’s First Secretary, Kim Kamasa, experienced a smooth voting exercise.
“We are so excited to vote today in the midst of our preparations for the final match and this gives us fulfilment,” said Julius Kansiime, the Head of the Rwandan Under 20 volleyball team. He said most of the players were voting for the first time.
Lucia Ingabire, who showed up with her baby on the back, couldn’t hide her joy minutes after casting her vote. “I am happy”, she said. “I have made it here to make my choice.”
In Mombasa, Rwandans voted from Royal Castle Hotel.
Thousands of members of the Rwandan community in Uganda also cast their ballot. Close to 10,000 Rwandan voters were registered with the Rwanda High Commission in Kampala.
Long queues of voters entering the Rwanda High Commission premises in Kitante, Kampala characterised the day yesterday, as polling officials meticulously checked the register to clear those eligible.
“The reason why we are voting today (yesterday) is because the National Electoral Commission (NEC) wanted to give an opportunity to all eligible voters in the Diaspora to vote since Sunday isn’t a working day,” Frank Mugambage, Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Uganda, told reporters.
The envoy said Rwandans with legal documents, such as the national identity cards, who were in Uganda for official or business trips and were registered by NEC, were also eligible to vote.
Polling officials were expected to seal the boxes containing ballot papers, and hand them over to NEC for counting and to declare results.
The Kampala High Commission also oversees Rwanda’s affairs in South Sudan. It supervised the election process there. According to Mugambage, the voting exercise went on smoothly in Juba.
“We sent an official to oversee the exercise with the help of the Rwandan community there,” he said.
Many Rwandans who spoke to The New Times expressed their gratitude to Government for giving them a chance to exercise their constitutional right.
“I came from Kigali last night and will be proceeding to Nairobi for business this evening. I am glad that I got an opportunity to vote for a party of my choice in Kampala,” said Francis Karemera, a trader.
Frank Macari, the Chairman of the Rwanda Diaspora in Uganda, partnered with the High Commission in organising the elections. He described the electoral process as peaceful and successful.
“Everyone was enthusiastic to vote. It was a peaceful election, free of any incidents,” he said.
Oliver Nyiraneza, a businesswoman based in Mbarara, western Uganda, requested the High Commission to set up polling stations in different regions of Uganda next time to enable Rwandans exercise their right.
“Very many of us would have wanted to vote but failed travelling long distances to Kampala,” she said.
In Germany, the Rwandans turned up in huge numbers to cast their ballots thanks to the sensitisation by embassy officials in Berlin ahead of the polls.
There were three polling stations in the country, namely Berlin, Bonn/Cologne and Kaiserslautern, the latter being home to many Rwandan students studying at various universities.
“Voter turnout has been enormous and we are glad that the whole exercise at the three polling stations has been a success,” said Igor Cesar, Rwanda’s Ambassador to Germany.
“We thank NEC for availing voting materials in time”.
One of the highlights of the day was the friends of Rwanda who came to witness the exercise, given that some African governments don’t allow their citizens abroad to participate in elections on foreign soil.
There was excitement for first time voters as it gave them the opportunity to exercise their civic obligations and rights despite being miles away from home.
In Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, a community of Rwandans there also cast their ballot.
Due to time difference, Rwandan Diaspora in New Zealand were the first to cast their votes in the exercise globally.
Rwandans in the Nordic countries voted from their respective capitals.
“We have people trekking for anything up to 10 hours to reach polling stations in the Nordics. From what we have seen in Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen and Helsinki, we will likely register a good turnout,” said Rwanda’s envoy to the Nordic Countries Christine Nkulikiyinka.
Elections in the Nordic countries were organised by the Rwandan Embassy in collaboration with NEC and Rwandan communities in the region.
“Taking part in elections gives us a chance to join the wider Rwandan community at home and abroad in an important nation-building process”, said Ibrahim Hakizimfura, the president of the Rwandan community in Denmark.
This, he said, allows for Rwandans abroad to add their voices to the development effort in Rwanda while also empowering themselves abroad.
Other Rwandans traveling to the Nordic region for tourism were also allowed to vote.
“We are grateful that we could cast our ballots here,” Adolf Nkikubwimana, a lecturer at the University of Rwanda, who is on a short training trip to Sweden, said.
He was in the company of four other Rwandans also on short visits to the country.