Rwandans Vote in Poll That Looks Certain to Extend Kagames Rule

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Rwandans began voting Friday in a presidential election that’s all but certain to extend Paul Kagame’s 17-year rule of the East African nation.
Polling stations opened at 7 a.
and will close at 3 p.
8 million people in the country of 12 million registered to vote.
Electoral officials say the winner will be announced later Friday, after at least 80 percent of ballots have been counted.
Kagame is competing against the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda’s Frank Habineza and Mpayimana Philippe, an independent.
“He is the only candidate with a vision and he will move the country forward,” said Monique Mucyeshimana, who’d just cast her vote for Kagame in the Kicukiro district of the capital, Kigali.
“No one can replace him right now -- we want him to stay.
” Kagame, 59, led a rebel army that ended the country’s 1994 genocide in which about 800,000 people died, and he’s been credited with turning Rwanda’s economy into one of Africa’s best performers since taking office in 2000.
Detractors such as Amnesty International say civil liberties have been cast aside and the vote’s credibility is compromised by a violent crackdown on his opponents that’s created a “climate of fear.
” Kagame was able to run again after a 2015 referendum backed amending the constitution to remove a two-term limit.
If re-elected, he would serve a new, seven-year term, then could seek two further terms of five years each, potentially retaining his post until 2034.
He cast his vote accompanied by his family at a station in Kigali’s city center on Friday, the New Times newspaper said on Twitter.

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