Rwanda’s ‘forever president’ swept back into power

Rwandans have overwhelmingly voted to extend Paul Kagame’s 17 years in power. The man dubbed the nation’s ‘forever president’ claiming almost 99% of the vote, but critics fear he will rule with an even harsher iron fist. Joel Labi reports

KIGALI, RWANDA (REUTERS/RWANDA TV/RWANDA BROADCASTING AUTHORITY) – A crushing victory for the man labelled Rwanda’s “forever President”.

Paul Kagame claiming a third term in office on Friday (August 4), extending his 17 years in power.

Election officials say it was virtually a no contest as Kagame swept the ballot with an astonishing 98% of votes.

If anything, this election has long been touted as a mere formality for the incumbent.

His leadership is viewed by many as the success story that shook off Rwanda’s brutal past:

800,000 people killed in ethnic bloodshed two decades ago, before then-rebel Kagame brought stability.

Rwanda is now also one of the fastest moving economies in Africa.

But critics accuse Kagame of abusing civil liberties and the media and of brutally supressing of opponents.

Frank Habineza, leader of the only registered opposition party, described the election as a “good step forward” for democracy.

But with barely 1% of the vote going his way, it’s clear a nation bearing so many horrible scars feels safer with the status quo.