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Why Kagame won 99%

Kagame during the campaigns. FILE PHOTO flickr/paulkagame

Why Kagame won 99%  | How Rwandans reacted to the west’s war against the symbol of their nation’s success

Kigali, Rwanda | ANALYSIS | ANDREW M. MWENDA  |  Last week, Paul Kagame won presidential elections in Rwanda by 98.6%. Historically, such margins have only been won in countries like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which was under the tight grip of a tyrant. To many observers armed with this experience, the election in Rwanda and Kagame’s margin of victory does not have to be analyzed in its specificity. It is only explained by citing the experience of other nations. Therefore, to many commentators, Kagame’s margin of victory does not reflect anything unique and specific to his country. Instead it only confirms the prejudice that Rwanda today is the same as Sadam’s Iraq.

But this approach of analysing Rwanda through the experience of others ignores and/or denies the country’s history and its social and political context. Anywhere else, such analysis would be rejected out of hand as pedestrian. But because Rwanda is a poor African country, academics and editors in the rich nations of Western Europe and North America (supported by a section of African elites) don’t really care about the quality of the analysis.

So anything that feeds preexisting biases and prejudices about Africa (and Rwanda specifically) finds minds ready to swallow it.

Yet Rwanda is actually not the first country to have a president elected democratically by such a huge margin.

In 1961, the departing British colonial administration organised an election in which the Tanzania African National Union (TANU) led by Julius Nyerere won 70 of the 71 seats in parliament, the other seat was won by a TANU member who ran against his own party’s official candidate. In 1962, Tanganyika held a presidential election in which Nyerere won by 99.2% against Zuberi Mtemvu of the African National Congress who got only 0.8% of the vote.

Even in recent years in the Western world such unusual upsets have happened. On May 5, 2002, President Jacques Chirac of France defeated his opponent, Jean-Marie Le Pen, by 82.2% to 17.8% of the vote.

It is rare in Western democracies for a candidate to win with such a margin. Yet no analyst relied on the experience of Sadam’s Iraq to arrive at the conclusion about Chirac. Instead commentators relied on the specific circumstances in France to explain such an unprecedented majority.

This same happened in the U.S. election of 1984. That nation’s presidential elections are based on electoral colleges. In that election, incumbent president Ronald Reagan got 525 Electoral College votes against his Democratic rival, Walter Mondale’s, 13 votes i.e. got 97.6% against 2.4% – it was unprecedented. No one claimed Reagan had rigged the vote or the U.S. system had become Saddam’s Iraq. The specific circumstances that had made this seeming impossibility possible were dissected, analysed, and explained. In the 1820 election, James Monroe won 231 Electoral College votes (99.9%) against John Quincy Adams, who got only one vote. Should we, therefore, conclude from this that in that year America was under the tight grip of a tyrant?

Therefore, any analysis of Rwanda’s 2017 election must begin with the specific context of Rwanda. And if anyone is to arrive at the conclusion that Kagame’s margin of victory proves that Rwanda today is akin of Sadam’s Iraq, that conclusion should be drawn from the facts obtaining in Rwanda, not simply by analogies to another country. This article is an attempt to present that specific Rwandan experience, or at least a slice of it, to explain the outcome.

13 comments

  1. First of all, it shows me that you take an idea and run with it without any research whatsoever.

    Rwanda under One ruling party systems across 3 Republics, has always held elections with such margins which makes Kagame no different from any other of the dictators:

    1965 : MDR-Parmehutu 100% of Votes

    1969 : MDR-Parmehutu 100% of Votes

    1978: MRND – 98.99% (Sounds Familiar ?)

    1983: MRND – 99.97% (HA! )

    1988: MRND – 99.98% (LOL)

    2003: RPF-INKOTANYI – 95.0 %

    2010: RPF-INKOTANYI – 93.08 %

    2017:RPF -INKOTANYI – 98.80% (Absolute Circus)

    The irony of all this is that we say “today it’s different”. In which way? One dictator who stifles any critics and gets elected with absolute power! Liberation???? More like Going back 50% !

    • Convenient that all the opposition is intimidated, jailed or killed.

      • I don’t know who you are but you don’t know Rwanda.In Rwanda there is real democracy.Who is among candidates who claim intimidation during their campaings.Again our diaspora showd that there is no fear because they vote H.E Paul KAGAME more 90 %

        • OMG, LOL – you claim there’s “Democracy” in Rwanda, with the 99% victoryt margin?? When the time bomb bursts just contain the heat and you and your countrymen don’t run to Uganda to seek refuge!

      • I wonder how young people listen to the nonsense from those who committed genocide against tutsi in Rwanda and then you grow up with hatred. Rwanda is free country people do what the want anytime they want, Kagame Paul is not only a president of Rwanda he is also a hero to the Rwandans. For records he did impossible! !

    • REMEMBER, 1965 – 2017 ALL THOSE ALSO HAD THEIR TRUMPET BLOWERS, A. MWENDA INCLUSIVE

  2. You areally comparing MDR you know nothing you who is saying he didn’t do his research. You’re biased MRND organizes genocide, refused it’s residence to come back instead killed them. And you dare comparing them the democracy of that time is way to different with today stop smelling what you don’t see.

  3. i believe this article is simply indicating that people need to decipher facts from unfounded rhetoric. Like coming to Rwanda and finding out how it feels to be a Rwandan before you draw conclusions. But if you decide to remain in another location and decide to read news, then look for statistics by international bodies on economic development indicators, security and other positives. Draw a comparison before you make a half baked conclusion. you will find out that these indicators are pointing to the fact that Rwandans enjoying themselves.
    Anyway, as a Rwandan i know the positives far outweigh the negatives and the together we shall overcome those since we are united towards a bigger vision coupled with the fact that the Government of Rwanda reflects the best in her people.

  4. hhh, Mwenda as you said did USA lead by tyrant? Rwanda knows the re-election of baba wa taifa

  5. An interesting [email protected] Mwenda..u deserve to be a Rwandan.please have ure second citizenship as a Rwandan.u hv really liked Rwanda and her Natives.we love Andy😍

    • Andrew Mwenda is on H.E. Kagame’s payroll for External populist propaganda. H.E. YKM has also hired his services after realising that he was a bitter critic of his regime, he is now a Saul turned Paul.

  6. you who are comparing MRND TO RPF , your research is biased, remember when MRND was the ruling party there was a unique candidate, therefore ,there is no way he couldn’t get 100% of votes, don’t compare that to post genocide elections

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