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Vol 44 No 17

Published 29th August 2003


A victory foretold

Kagame defeats ethnic arithmetic in the first presidential poll since the genocide of 1994

General Paul Kagame was right when, a few days before the presidential election on 25 August, he told Africa Confidential: 'Most likely I am going to win. RPF is going to win.' The big question is what he does with his landslide victory, amounting to 95 per cent of the votes cast (turnout was over 80 per cent). He says the resulting 'increased legitimacy' would give the ruling Front Patriotique Rwandais 'more confidence' - something it has not seemed in need of. Abroad, the result will not deflect mounting criticism of the FPR's authoritarianism at home and continued meddling in Congo-Kinshasa. Not a natural campaigner, Kagame made wooden attempts at populism, awkwardly leading election rallies in party chants and swapping military fatigues and sober suits for baseball caps, polo shirts and designer tie-dye shirts fresh from the packet. With regimental efficiency, his campaigners distributed Kagame umbrellas, tee-shirts and hats, and his beaming portrait gazed down from election posters across the country. 'I think that it's going to be pleasant to get a feeling that the majority of the people of this country support our leadership, support what RPF has ushered in,' he enthused.

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