Thousands of Rwandans in Uganda happy to vote next President
Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | The queues started forming as early as 7am as thousands of Rwandan living in Uganda on Aug.03 thronged their embassy to vote in the presidential election. Many of them told The Independent that they woke up in the wee-hours to travel to the embassy.
“I set off at 4am to travel to the Embassy in Kampala,” said Rev. Emmanuel Kabango, who has been living in Uganda for the last six months. By 12 noon he was still standing in the queue and remained upbeat as he waited patiently to cast his ballot.
“I feel happy to vote for the President back home in Rwanda,” he said.
Hannington Nyerigira, 40, a Ugandan-born Rwandan living in Uganda also told The Independent he felt very happy that he could still make a decision about the next president even if he is not in the country.
“It is quite a distinction to the government,” Nyerigira said.
Faced with the huge turn-out of voters, Maj. Gen. (rtd) Frank Mugambage, the Rwandan High Commissioner to Uganda, was by early afternoon considering options to ensure everyone votes. He said voting had started at 7am and was officially to end at 6pm (East African time) but, he said, the embassy would seek an extension from the National Electoral Commission in Kigali should voters still be in the queue beyond 6pm.
“So far, the voting process has gone on well although the challenge is that voters have come in at the same time but we will do everything in our midst to make sure that everybody votes.”
Mugambage said the enthusiasm shown by the Rwandans in Uganda is a reflection of what has been happening back in Rwanda during the campaigns.
“You can clearly see that there is great enthusiasm that everyone wants to vote. This is a reflection Rwandans are enthusiastic to participate,” he said.
“This comes from a culture of dignity, owning up, solidarity and working together towards a common goal that has been built up over time.”
“People are appreciative of the tremendous achievements of the government and they know where they came from,” Mugambage said.
He said votes will be counted on Aug. 4 after voting ends in Rwanda.
This is the third general election since the 1994 genocide and the return to multi-party politics in the east African nation.
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) cleared three candidates to vie for the seat currently occupied by President Paul Kagame.
The incumbent, President Paul Kagame, who has ruled for two seven-year terms and is widely tipped to win again, is running on the ticket of the Rwandan Patriotic Front while his main challenger is the Green Party’s Frank Habineza and an independent aspirant, Phillipe Mpayimana.
At least 40,000 Rwandans living in the Diaspora are expected to participate in this election. Charles Munyaneza, the Executive Secretary of Rwanda’s National Electoral Commission recently told The New Times that voting materials had been delivered to 33 countries where Rwanda has diplomatic missions to ensure that Rwandan registered voters cast their ballots.
In Uganda, voters came from across the country, with majority from as far as Mubende, Mityana, Kabale, Fort Portal, Kiryandongo, Masindi, Nakasongola, Luweero, Kiboga, Nakaseke and Kyankwanzi using motorcycle taxis, 14-seater taxis and buses while others drove their own private cars to the Embassy.
Security remained tight at the Embassy as polling assistants struggled to cope with the number of voters, many waving the blue, gold and green Rwandan flags in one hand and others brandishing their national IDs as they endured the mid-afternoon sun to cast their vote.