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Rwanda

Voting opens in Rwanda's presidential polls

Reuters

Voting opened for Rwanda's presidential election early on Monday. Incumbent president Paul Kagame is favourite to win what is the country's second election since the 1994 genocide.

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Polling stations in the capital Kigali opened at 6.00 am. Just over five million Rwandans are eligible to vote.

"So far the turnout is steady and strong," reports RFI's Daniel Singleton, who has been visiting polling stations in the Nyamirambo district of Kigali.

"People have been queuing since well before 6 o’clock in some parts … The queues were very orderly, everything was organised extremely well."

Ballot boxes were unsealed and shown to voters before polling started to demonstrate that they began empty, he says.

Some 1,400 observers are monitoring the polling process, around 200 of them international.

The African Union has deployed 20 observers, who have also been following the run-up to the vote.

The campaign has been criticised by some international watchdogs such as Human Rights Watch, which accuses the Rwandan government of repressing free speech and restricting opposition candidates.

"The candidates have been free to campaign," said the head of the AU's mission, Anil Gayenne, on Sunday. "If they have not been free, then they have not told us that."

Gayenne says it is "obvious to any observer" that Kagame has a massive base of public support.

Observers have to remember Rwanda's recent history, he said.

"We do appreciate that a country that has lived such terrible moments has to go through a period of transition."

Kagame has been in power since 1994 and won the 2003 presidential poll with 95 per cent of the vote.

His Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebel army is credited with defeating the forces behind the genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 people.

Kagame is facing three opposition candidates, Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo, Prosper Higiro and Alvera Mukabaramba, all of whom supported him in the 2003 campaign.

Polling stations are due to close at 3.00 pm on Tuesday, and counting will begin shortly after. Provisional results have to be declared by 11 August, with full results due by 17 August.

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