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Inside Story

Rwanda: A democracy in the making?

As Rwandans are heading to the polls, we ask whether these elections will be transparent, free and fair.

Last Modified: 16 Sep 2013 14:36
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Over five million Rwandans are casting their ballots in parliamentary elections where candidates from 11 parties are  running for 80 seats, with 24 seats reserved for women.

The elections will be quite irrelevant .... Past processes in parliamentary elections in 2003 and 2008 showed ... elections have been flawed consistently and for several reasons ... 

Filip Reyntjens, University of Antwerp

But while opposition groups say they are struggling to gain a political foothold, the ruling party is credited with creating an African success story.

Critics say it is a one-horse race, that will again see the ruling party of President Paul Kagame romp to victory.

It is third vote to be held since the 1994 genocide when more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

Since then, the central African nation has earned international praise for reinventing itself, both economically and democratically.

Hailed as the continent's development and economic success story, the World Bank ranks Rwanda 52 out of 185 countries on its 'ease of doing business' index and it is among the top three in sub-Saharan Africa, along with South Africa and Mauritius.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has put Rwanda's 2012 growth at 7.7 percent, and on Friday, President Kagame launched an economic development plan, aimed at pushing economic growth to 11.5 percent for each of the next five years.

Rwanda has been striving to emerge from the shadow of the darkest chapter of its history.
 
Voters backed a draft constitution in 2003, banning the incitement of ethnic hatred. Later that year Kagame won the first presidential elections since the 1994 massacre, and his Rwandan Patriotic Front party won the first multi-party elections.

Fairness and transparency of elections is a guarantee by the constitution and past processes have shown that Rwanda has obeyed to that.

Shayka Anastase, Rwanda governance board

The year 2005 saw the mass release of prisoners, detained over the genocide, with more to follow later. And 2007 marked a peace deal with the Democratic Republic of Congo, an agreement to hand over those suspected of involvement in the genocide.
 
The ruling party won another large majority in the 2008 parliamentary elections, and Kagame was re-elected president in 2010. But last year, the UN accused Rwanda of fuelling rebellion in DRC, with the US and the UK among countries that suspended aid as a result.
 
Tensions with DRC remain, but Kagame is still seen by many as the ‘Darling of the West’.

So is Rwanda a democracy in the making or resigned to be a nation of one-party politics? Will these elections be free and fair? And what impact will they have on the population?

Inside Story, with presenter Stephen Cole, is joined by guests: Shayka Anastase, the chief executive officer of the Rwanda governance board; Kris Berwouts, an independent consultant on conflict, security and democracy in Central Africa; and Filip Reyntjens, a professor of African law and politics at the University of Antwerp, and author of the book Political Governance in Post-Genocide Rwanda.

"Thoughout the years since 1994 we have seen how Rwanda developed into a nearly one-party state and from the beginning a limited number of small parties were tolerated to create the impression of multi-partyism but without really having an ambition to put questionmarks to the policy of the Rwandan government."

Kris Berwouts, an independent consultant

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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