Paul Kagame waves to his supporters during his final campaign rally in Kigali, Rwanda. He has been in power since 2000 and could retain power until 2034 / Photo: RNI

Kagame wins 98% of votes in Rwanda’s election

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has won a third term in office, garnering a whopping 98 per cent of votes counted, according to partial results released today.

There had been little doubt that the 59-year-old would return to the helm of the east African nation which he has ruled with an iron fist since the end of the 1994 genocide.

With 80 per cent of results counted, Kagame had secured some 5.4 million votes, far more than the 50 per cent plus one required for him to win re-election.

“We think that at this level … it will be the same result, no change after having counted 100 per cent (of votes),” said national elections commission chairman Kalisa Mbanda. Full provisional results will be released later Saturday.

The commission estimates 97 per cent of 6.9 million voters turned out to cast their ballots.

Of the results tallied, Kagame had 98.66 per cent — a figure which could still shift slightly — while his two little-known rivals barely made a dent.

Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party — the only permitted critical opposition party — won 0.45 per cent of votes and independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana scored 0.72.

Kagame has been the de-facto leader of Rwanda since, as a 36-year-old, his rebel army routed extremist Hutu forces who slaughtered an estimated 800,000 people — mainly minority Tutsis — and seized Kigali in 1994.

He was appointed president by lawmakers in 2000 before being elected in 2003 with 95 per cent of votes and again in 2010 with 93 per cent of votes.

The lanky former guerrilla fighter is one of Africa’s most divisive leaders, with some hailing him as a visionary while critics see a despot aiming to become one of the continent’s presidents-for-life.

Kagame’s win comes after 98 per cent of Rwandans approved a constitutional amendment in a 2015 referendum that granted him the right to run for a third term in office.

Observers condemned the reform, which could potentially see Kagame retain office twice more if re-elected this time and allow him to stay president until 2034.

Felix Dappah with agency reports

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