What Does Kagame’s 98.6% Win Mean? Dictatorship For Life

The Kagames voting for their dictatorship

In the least-surprising news of Friday, August 2017, President (General) Paul Kagame was reelected with 98.6% of the vote. The remaining 1.4% was given to two “opposition” candidates who spent most of the campaign lavishing praise on the transparency of the elections. One candidate, Frank Habineza went even as far as predicting that he would defeat Kagame.

So, why did Kagame win by 98.6% and not by 93% as he did in 2010?

The 93% percent win – which is very “low” in the eyes of a power hungry dictator – suggests that the autocrat cares about the international perception of his staged elections. In other words, the “poor” performance of 93% indicates that the autocratic seeks to give the appearance of having a genuine opposition. That was the option Kagame took in the 2010 elections.

The August 2017 Rwandan elections were different. These elections were about Kagame’s philosophy of “I don’t give a damn.” Most crucially, by giving the opposition a mere 1.4% to share, while retaining 98.6%, Kagame sought to achieve three things:

  1. He is determined to drive fear into the population by reminding Rwandans that his totalitarian regime has absolute control over them. We can therefore expect greater violence against independent voices who dare criticize the Kagame regime both inside and outside the country. Kagame now feels he has a free hand to terrorize.
  2. Kagame is telling his donors that he doesn’t care about what they think of his sham elections. Moreover, his main donors, USA and U.K. are currently focused on domestic issues. The Trump administration in the U.S. doesn’t even have an assistant Secretary of State for Africa as yet.
  3. Kagame is currently reforming the African Union, and will be its Chairman in five months time, with leading nations such as Nigeria and South Africa consumed by domestic troubles.

Welcome to Kagame’s Rwanda in which he is now, without doubt, dictator for life and leading “African statesman.”

Sadly, Rwanda is locked into what appears to be its historical curse. Each ruler believes that he is Kinani – indispensable – until removed violently. To use my often used Hegelian phrase, the only thing we learn from history is that we do not learn from history.

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