Stark differences between the Kenyan and Rwandan elections

Sunday June 25 2017

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame in the past. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame in the past. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

More by this Author

As Rwanda prepares for general elections on August 4, President Paul Kagame who has been in power since 2000, is almost assured of victory.

Last week, he was unanimously elected the Rwanda Patriotic Front flagbearer — not surprisingly after a constitutional change in 2015 paved way for his re-election.

Kenya will hold its elections four days later. The election month and a few other things seem to be the only things the two countries have in common.

After being chosen the RPF candidate, Kagame urged Rwandans to work hard and do things differently in the coming seven years.

“I want you to think about the things that have made you to ask me to stay longer. There is a lot of work for us to do,” he said.

Compared to Kenya, political talk in Rwanda is less inflammatory, less volatile, sober and thoughtful.


Despite the election day being less than 50 days away, there is little political activity in Rwanda.

According Rwanda National Electoral Commission executive secretary Charles Mnyaneza, the country will spend 5.5 billion Rwandan francs ($6.57 million) in the elections.

The country has seven million registered voters. Some 75,000 people will volunteer as election commissioners, making the Rwandan poll one of the cheapest in the world. The country has tested biometric vote kits but the August process will be manual.

“We will get to the point of digital voting,” Mr Mnyaneza said said at NEC headquarters in Kigali.

In Kenya, the 2017/8 budget allocated Sh42 billion ($420 million) to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Kenya also wants to use the electronic kits.


Party primaries raised political temperatures, with Mr Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga trading accusations.

By the time RPF was endorsing Mr Kagame, only three other people had declared interest in the presidency. Most of the opposition parties have thrown their weight behind him.

This is the one aspect of Rwanda politics that is surprisingly at odds with its progressive image.

Journalists and anti-RPF have been killed in recent years

Like President Kenyatta, Mr Kagame is making promises to voters. Fortunately, he does not have a lot to do as his record speaks for itself.

Rwanda is one of the few food secure countries on the continent, exporting maize, cassava and other produce to neighbours.

And unlike Kenya, women participation in politics in Rwanda is very high. Leaders of almost all political parties are women. The immediate former parliamentary speaker was a woman.