Kigali (Rwanda): For weeks, Rwandan
President Paul Kagame has rallied his supporters with thumping
pop music and promised to build on his economic and social
development record that has won him accolades abroad.
As polls prepare to open tomorrow at 0930 IST in
Rwanda's second presidential election since the 1994 genocide,
few doubt Kagame will win.
The lean, professorial leader is expected to easily
win the loyalties of the country's 5.2 million voters. But the
run-up to the campaign has been marred by a series of recent
attacks on outspoken critics of Kagame's government, and some
of the more vocal opposition politicians say they've been
barred from participating.
During the three-week campaign period, Kagame's
image has been everywhere. At rallies he shed his business
suit and tie for a shirt and jacket emblazoned with his Rwanda
Patriotic Front insignia topped with a baseball cap bearing
the party's red, white and blue flag. He has also tried to
shed his image as a stiff leader, joining in dances and
clapping along as crowds numbering in the hundreds of
thousands sang and danced at his daily rallies across the
tiny, landlocked country.
Those rallies were part of a carefully
choreographed campaign, which included a local pop group
playing what has become the president's re-election theme
song, "Tora Kagame," or Vote Kagame in Kinyarwanda, and live
updates on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
His supporters say the huge crowds represent
genuine popular support for the leader who transformed this
central African nation after the brutal 100-day genocide that
left at least 5,00,000 people dead.
Taye Manzi said he trusts Kagame because he has
united the nation of 10 million people.
"He supports the youth, he supports gender, he is
the one who can bring us together," said Manzi, who took time
off from his job in the capital, Kigali, to travel to his home
region to attend one of Kagame's rallies.
First Published: Monday, August 09, 2010, 00:05