RWANDA:How President Kagame of Rwanda Rigged the 2003 General Elections

Published on by KANYARWANDA


By The Angus Reid Global Monitor

Election Date: September 28, 2003

Abstract: At stake: Chamber of Deputies


At stake: Chamber of Deputies


The elections in Rwanda culminated a transition to democracy, after years of genocide and ethnic conflict left 800,000 dead. The problems began on Apr. 6, 1994, as a plane carrying president Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down. A massacre of minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus by extremist Hutus led to a five-year process of reconciliation, which was then extended to nine years.

Current president Paul Kagame was installed in 2000, and relied on the endorsement of four political parties in the African country for the 2003 elections. Kagame—a Tutsi—was severely criticized for releasing thousands of prisoners convicted for their participation in the genocide, allegedly in a move to ease congested jails.

In an effort to stop possible violence, a ban on all ethnic political parties was strictly enforced. While some observers believed the ban was a necessary step towards political stability, others acknowledged the prohibition benefited Kagame.

The new regulations took the Hutu-dominated Mouvement Démocratique Républicain (MDR—Democratic Republican Movement) out of contention. Former DRM prime minister Faustin Twagiramungu ran as an independent. Twagiramungu formed a government in the post-genocide era, but fled to Belgium claiming Kagame's Front Patriotique Rwandais (FPR—Rwanda Patriottic Front) was too dominant and undemocratic. Népomuscène Nayinzira—former leader of the Parti Social Démocrate (PSD—Social Democratic Party)—also returned from exile to run for office.

Foreign agencies from Britain and Sweden committed logistic support to Rwanda's electoral commission. Ballot boxes and computerized voter lists were also provided.

The first days of the presidential campaign brought many developments. Kagame considered adding members of losing political parties to his cabinet if re-elected, but Twagiramungu dismissed the offer as "propaganda."

On Jul. 19, the electoral commission approved four presidential candidates. Aside from Kagame, Twagiramungu and Nayinzira, Rwanda's first-ever female presidential hopeful, Alvera Mukabaramba, was added. Mukabaramba eventually withdrew from the race and endorsed Kagame.

On Aug. 14, Twagiramungu promised to tone down the language of his campaign, after the electoral commission accused him of using ethnically divisive language in his speeches and leaflets. One day later, the Dutch government froze election funding to Rwanda as a result of the disappearance of five opposition politicians.

On Aug. 17, Twagiramungu threatened to boycott the election, stating that his supporters were being harassed. The opposition candidate claimed that one of his backers was killed, but Kagame denied all allegations. Two days before the vote, some Twagiramungu supporters were arrested and charged with plotting to commit acts of violence.

On Aug. 25, voting in the presidential election began at 6:00 am local time, and closed at 3:00 pm. Local authorities and international observers reported no incidents.

Rwanda's electoral commission released provisional results on Aug. 26, declaring a victory for Kagame with more than 95 per cent of all cast ballots. Twagiramungu—at less than four per cent—did not immediately accept the results.

On Aug. 28, leading European Union (EU) observer Colette Flesch declared that "optimal conditions for free elections were probably not entirely met." Members of the mission reported instances of harassment, including the presence of electoral officials who openly recommended voters what candidate to support.

The amount of external monitors was limited, with a presence on only 372 of the country's 11,350 polling stations. Members of the mission were also not allowed to participate in the vote counts.

Amnesty International released a report, questioning the campaign tactics of Kagame's FPR, which allegedly included the harassment and detention of opposition supporters.

On Sept. 2, Rwanda's Supreme Court rejected an opposition call to annul the presidential election. The court said Twagiramungu's petition lacked credible evidence to support his claims of vote rigging and intimidation.

Since 1994, the National Transitional Assembly functioned as Rwanda's legislative branch. The new constitution allowed the establishment of an 80-member Chamber of Deputies, and a 26-member Senate.

On Oct. 1, the results of the Sept. 29 parliamentary election were announced. The ruling FPR and four other parties received almost 74 per cent of all cast ballots, securing 40 of the 53 seats at stake. The remaining 27 lawmakers—24 female members, two members elected by the National Youth Council and one member elected by the Federation of the Associations of the Disabled—were allocated on Oct. 2.

Political Players

: Paul Kagame - FPR
Prime minister
: Bernard Makuza - MDR

The president is elected to a seven-year term by popular vote.

Legislative Branch
: The Inteko Ishengo Amategeko / Assemblée Nationale de Transition (National Transitional Assembly) was launched in 1994, with 70 appointed members representing several political factions. On Sept. 29, 2003, voters elected a new Inteko Ishinga Amategeko / Parlement (Parliament) with two chambers. The Umutwe w'Abadepite / Chambre des Députés (Chamber of Deputies) has 80 members; 53 members elected to five-year terms by proportional representation, 24 female members elected by provincial councils, two members elected by the National Youth Council and one member elected by the Federation of the Associations of the Disabled. The Umutwe wa Sena / Sénat (Senate) has 26 members, either elected or appointed to eight-year terms; 12 members are elected by provincial and local councils, eight members are appointed by the president to ensure the representation of historically marginalized communities, four members are appointed by the Forum of Political Formations and two members are elected by the staff of universities. Former presidents may also request to become additional senate members.

Results of Last Election

President - Aug. 25, 2003


Paul Kagame -
Front Patriotique Rwandais
(FPR—Rwanda Patriottic Front)


Faustin Twagiramungu


Népomuscène Nayinzira


Chamber of Deputies - Sept. 29, 2003



Coalition FPR (FPR Coalition)
Front Patriotique Rwandais
(FPR—Rwanda Patriottic Front)
Parti Démocratique Chrêtien
(PDC—Christian-Democratic Party)
Parti Démocratique Islamique
(PDI—Islamic Democratic Party)
Parti Socialiste Rwandais
(PSR—Rwandese Socialist Party)
Union Démocratique du People Rwandais
(UDPR—Democratic Union of the Rwandese People)



Parti Social Démocrate
(PSD—Social Democratic Party)



Parti Libéral
(PL—Liberal Party)



Parti pour le Progrès et la Concorde
(PPC—Party for Progress and Harmony)



Female members



National Youth Council members



Federation of the Associations of the Disabled member




Published on Rwanda

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