Africa

Rwanda's Kagame celebrates early poll results

Crowds at the Amhoro stadium in Kigali
Image caption The celebrations at Kigali's stadium went on all night

Thousands of supporters of Rwanda's President Paul Kagame have been celebrating as early results of the presidential poll were released.

Figures displayed on a giant screen in a stadium in the capital Kigali showed him winning 96% of the diaspora vote.

He also won 92.9% of the vote in 11 out of 30 districts announced so far.

Election observers from the Commonwealth said voting had been peaceful, but noted "a lack of critical opposition voices" during the campaign.

Mr Kagame's supporters say he has brought stability and growth since the country's 1994 genocide, but critics accuse him of suppressing opposition.

The election was only the second presidential election since 1994, and five million Rwandans were registered to vote.

People had queued before dawn to vote on Monday and the electoral commission said turnout was high.

"A number of opposition parties had earlier stated their intention to stand, but faced either legal or administrative problems, which resulted in their non-participation," a statement said. "Each case appears to be different, but the overall impact is a concern."

The Commonwealth observers were among 1,394 accredited observers, 214 of them from abroad.

Dancing

Poll chief Chrysologue Karangwa announced the results from a third of Rwanda's electoral districts to the crowds of Rwanda Patriotic Front supporters gathered at the stadium on Monday night.

"His Excellency Paul Kagame has 1,610,422 votes - this is equivalent to 92.9%. Fellow Rwandans, this is the result in eleven districts. Clearly, there is likely to be not much difference even after we announce the result in the remaining districts," he said.

Mr Kagame, who was dancing with his family, then stood to address the crowds: "Hail RPF. Let's wait for tomorrow, but it's a matter of figures.

"Otherwise the victory is there. Your victory, the RPF's victory, is victory for all Rwanda," he said.

It was always going to be a landslide, the only question being whether Mr Kagame will reach the 95% mark he achieved in the 2003 election, the BBC's Will Ross reports from the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

His nearest rival got less than 5% of the vote.

In this year's election Mr Kagame faced three rivals, all with links to the president's all-powerful, Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

This has led some opponents to denounce the election as a charade.

'Real opposition'

Some more vocal opponents of Mr Kagame were prevented from fielding candidates and have complained of intimidation.

But as he cast his vote in Kigali, Mr Kagame said he saw no problem with the way the vote had been conducted.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's Will Ross: "They're voting for President Kagame largely because of the security he has brought to the country"

"The turnout has been huge in the last three weeks," he said.

"When I have seen how they have expressed themselves, the people of Rwanda, and all that has been done and said by the people of Rwanda, it has given the impression to me that the process has been very democratic."

His supporters say he has strengthened agricultural output, rebuilt the country's institutions, tackled corruption effectively and promoted women's rights and an environmentally friendly agenda.

As he finished campaigning, the president told critics among rights groups and the international community they should "not tell us how to shape our country".

But Frank Habineza, founder of the unregistered opposition Democratic Green Party, said Mr Kagame's expected victory would have been more credible if he had "competed with the real opposition".

Speaking from Germany, he told the BBC's Focus on Africa that if his party had been able to stand in elections it would have campaigned on a platform of participatory democracy, social justice and non-violence - all of which he said were lacking in contemporary Rwanda.

"We don't have freedom of the press, we don't have freedom of association, we don't have freedom of expression," he said.

But he also said his party would not contest the result because it wanted to avoid any post-election violence.

The Green Party's vice-president was murdered last month. The Rwandan government denied any involvement, but the killing spread fear among opposition parties.

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