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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

RWANDA: Measures in place for free and fair poll, Kagame says

KIGALI, 11 August 2003 (IRIN) - The government has taken action aimed at ensuring that the 25 August presidential election in Rwanda is free and fair, President Paul Kagame, himself one of the four contenders for the post, said on Sunday.

"We have put in place all measures that ensure a free and fair election, the first being that the vote will be done through a secret ballot," Kagame said.

Speaking to reporters on his fourth campaign tour across the country, he said the election, the first since the 1994 genocide, would be held in a transparent manner, devoid of any malpractice.

"Thousands of monitors, including people backing my main opponent, have been invited to come and witness the poll," he said

Kagame, 46, is seeking to legitimise his rule through a democratic poll since the genocide in which at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed.

Kagame’s main challenger, Faustin Twagiramungu, recently complained that his supporters and campaign agents are being harassed by the government and Kagame's supporters. However, Kagame described the accusation as "cheap talk and campaign smear" that is backed by no credible evidence.

Since launching his campaign a week ago, Kagame, considered the favourite in the poll, has promised Rwandans that he would foster national unity, improve standards of living in rural areas, boost the country's economy and deliver justice.

Kagame, a Tutsi, has drawn large crowds of people in his campaign rallies across the country.

Twagiramungu held his first campaign rally on Saturday, a week after Kagame, citing lack of rally venues after government officials told him that most of the spaces had been booked by Kagame's party, the Rwanda Patriotic Front.

He has promised to double employment opportunities in the country, ensure the return thousands of Rwandan refugees living outside the country and to bring peace to a region beset by war.

Themes: (IRIN) Governance



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