Rwanda election free and fair?

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In Rwanda, voting polls are set for the second presidential election since the 1994 genocide, and while preparations for the elections have witnessed the ban of several media outlets, disqualification of some opposition candidates, and the assassination of some journalists, the African Union team monitoring the electoral process say it has not received any proof of voters harassment, or electoral irregularities.

Reports had claimed that some Rwandans may have been forced into attending the rallies organized by the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). But the 20 African Union observers on the ground to monitor the poles have confirmed otherwise.

“We have not received any evidence of intimidation. When you see such large numbers of people at a meeting, you cannot think they have been coerce. But crowds do not necessarily translate into votes,” Anil K. Gayan, the former Mauritius foreign minister heading the AU delegation told reporters.

The Electoral Commission accredited 1,394 observers, including 214 from abroad, and told reporters that the campaign which ended on Saturday night had been violence-free. More than five million voters are registered to vote in the election, which begins Monday, August 9.

“There were no incidents. Everything went off very smoothly,” commission spokesman Pacifique Nduwimana told AFP.

President Paul Kagame is running against three candidates from parties with links to his RPF and looks assured of re-election, and his rallies have been cleared of coercion by monitors from the Commonwealth, and various Western and African embassies.

Kagame promised to build on his economic and social development record that has won him accolades abroad. However, the run-up to the campaign has been plagued by series of attacks on outspoken critics of Kagame’s government, and some of the more vocal opposition politicians say they’ve been barred from participating.

The Electoral Commission carried in voting material throughout Sunday and ballot boxes were locked up and guarded by police.

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