In Summary
  • Some 6.9 million Rwandans have registered to vote in the poll which pits Kagame, 59, against two little-known candidates seen as unlikely to pose any threat to his Rwandan Patriotic Front's (RPF) tight control of the country.

  • At a school in the capital, several Rwandans praised Kagame for his leadership since his rebel army routed extremist Hutu forces who slaughtered an estimated 800,000 people — mainly minority Tutsis — and seized Kigali.

  • She said she "doesn't even know the names" of the two other candidates, Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party — the only permitted critical opposition party — and independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana.

  • Another farmer, Claudine Uzamukunda, 34, waited in line with her baby on her back. "Voting is a duty," she told AFP. "I came early so I can get back to my daily tasks."

Rwandans began voting Friday in a presidential election widely expected to return strongman Paul Kagame to office for a third term at the helm of the small east African nation.

Across the country dubbed "the Land of a Thousand Hills," voters trooped to polling stations covered in the blue, yellow and green colours of the national flag to cast their ballots in the third election since the end of the 1994 genocide.

6.9 MILLION

Some 6.9 million Rwandans have registered to vote in the poll which pits Kagame, 59, against two little-known candidates seen as unlikely to pose any threat to his Rwandan Patriotic Front's (RPF) tight control of the country.

At a school in the capital, several Rwandans praised Kagame for his leadership since his rebel army routed extremist Hutu forces who slaughtered an estimated 800,000 people — mainly minority Tutsis — and seized Kigali.

"We don't lack anything with him (Kagame). He was sent by God," said farmer Marie-Rose Nyiraguro, 53.

She said she "doesn't even know the names" of the two other candidates, Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party — the only permitted critical opposition party — and independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana.

Another farmer, Claudine Uzamukunda, 34, waited in line with her baby on her back. "Voting is a duty," she told AFP. "I came early so I can get back to my daily tasks."

GENOCIDE

Kagame was just 36 when he became the de-facto leader of the country after the genocide. He was appointed as president by lawmakers in 2000.

The lanky former guerrilla fighter was first elected to the post in 2003 and again in 2010 with more than 90 percent of votes.

His close friend former British prime minister Tony Blair hails him as a "visionary leader" while others see him as a shining example of post-colonial leadership in Africa.

Kagame is credited with a remarkable turnaround in the shattered nation, which boasts an annual economic growth of about seven percent, is safe, clean and does not tolerate corruption.

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