Rwanda: EU funds the August presidential polls, but rules out sending elections observers’ team
Kigali – The European Union which has recently injected millions of Euros into the August presidential elections has announced that it will not send observers.
According to the Rwanda News Agency, the reason put forward by the European Commission Delegation in Kigali for not sending observers from Brussels to monitor the presidential poll is lack of money.
“This is due to a large number of other observation missions in other countries this year in Africa (Sudan, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, etc.) on a limited budget,” said Ms. Esther Tidjani, a spokesperson of the Kigali Delegation, in an email.
However, in mid June, the EU will send election experts to help the block’s embassies and missions with organizing for their own observation plans.
The team of experts could support the National Electoral Commission “if it so desires”, according to the Kigali Delegation.
“In addition, we will train local observers, and coordinate with the Commonwealth observer mission,” said Tidjani.
The announcement comes just a week after the EU and Rwanda signed a 73.8million Euro grant agreement – a package which includes 5.3 million euro for the Electoral Commission.
Just after the end of the 2003 presidential polls where President Kagame scooped more than 95 percent, the 34 EU observers severely criticized the poll.
The block did not also give government any single cent for the poll – prompting a campaign in which the population was encouraged to make individual contributions. Over the past years, the EU has turned out to be the biggest money-purse for the authorities.
The EU did observe the 2008 parliamentary polls which they gave mixed approval.
In the recent months, President Paul Kagame’s party Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has shut down outspoken newspapers, sent opposition leaders to jail, split the opposition parties and erected all kind of administrative obstacles to bar opposition parties from registering and preparing for the elections. Observers, opposition parties and human rights groups predict that the August presidential elections can not be free and fair. This situation has prompted opposition leaders Ms Victoire Ingabire and Me Bernard Ntaganda, respectively from FDU-Inkingi and PS Imberakuri, to call for election’s postponement.
The European Union did not finance the 2003 elections but sent observers who fiercely criticized the poll. Now, knowing the conditions prevailing in Rwandan current social and political landscape, they are funding Paul Kagame to organize the controversial presidential elections and do not dare sending observers. A question to ask at this stage would be: “what game is playing the European Union?”