Today, millions of Rwandans are casting their votes even though they know in advance the election’s outcome: President Paul Kagame will win by a landslide, extending his rule to at least 2024, for a total of thirty years in power. President Kagame even declared he would win weeks before the vote.
Friday’s result is certain because President Kagame has ensured he has no real opponents. A new challenger, Diane Rwigara, was targeted by misogynist smears that included nude pictures, allegedly of her, widely circulated on Rwandan social media. When she still insisted on running, election authorities barred her. An opposition politician who criticized Kagame’s agricultural policies was recently found with his throat slit and eyes mutilated. It echoed the near-beheading of an opposition politician prior to Rwanda’s last election, in 2010, which Kagame won with 93 percent of the vote. Kagame’s most prominent challenger in that election, Victoire Ingabire, also faced slurs about her alleged extramarital affairs and still languishes in prison for a campaign speech seen as critical of him. Rwanda’s Supreme Court convicted Ms. Ingabire of “inciting people to revolt.”