By Raymond Baguma
Rwandan nationals in Uganda on Sunday participated in the parliamentary elections by casting their votes at the High Commission in Kampala.
Officials of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) at the High Commission’s premises in Kitante oversaw the voting with assistance from youth volunteers who issued ballot papers and guided voters.
Voting started at 7.00am local time (EAT) and had earlier been scheduled to end at 3.00pm local time.
The polling station consisted of tents erected in the diplomatic mission’s compound where nationals arrived and went through a check-point before their names were crosschecked and then guided to the voting queue.
Rwandan High Commissioner to Uganda Maj. Gen. Frank Mugambagye said that there are over 6,000 registered voters living in various parts of Uganda.
Although Rwandans in Uganda voted Sunday, polls take place tomorrow Monday for the election of representatives in the Lower House of representatives in the Rwandan parliament. It is the culmination of a month-long campaign.
According to The New Times newspaper, Monday will be a public holiday in Rwanda to give citizens time to exercise their civic rights.
Mugambagye said that the voting in Uganda was conducted on a Sunday to avoid interfering with people’s work schedules on a weekday.
He said that Rwandans visiting Uganda but not registered in Uganda could also cast their votes which would later on be crosschecked by the NEC in Kigali.
“There is one polling station. We expect all those registered to come and vote. We are not voting for individuals but for political parties,” added Mugambagye.
Gregory Twagirayezu, 26, a Rwandan student at All Nations Theological College in Kampala said that it was a good arrangement by the Rwandan government to enable Rwandans vote from outside their country.
Also Didas Munyanihware, 23 and David Karuhigye. 26 said that it was their first time to vote from outside their country, Rwanda.
Marié Grace Nyirahirwa, a volunteer at the polling station, said the exercise has been smooth, except for an interruption by an afternoon rain shower.
Olivier Rutaganira also a volunteer said, “It is a sign of democracy in Rwanda. It is an opportunity for Rwandans in Uganda to participate in national development.”
According to Rwandan New Times newspaper, the RPF-led coalition is seeking to retain its majority in the 80-member Lower House of Deputies.
There are 53 seats to be directly competed for by political parties. The Rwandan constitution ring-fenced 27 seats for special interest groups, with 24 reserved for women who are elected in the exclusively woman polls.
The remaining three seats are shared amongst the youth (2) and persons with physical impairments (1). There are 410 candidates, each battling for the 53 directly elected seats with nearly half of them women.
The youth MPs are elected by the National Youth Councils at district and national levels, eight student representatives from secondary schools and eight from tertiary institutions.
According to NEC, 5,953,351 registered voters are eligible to cast their ballots in this year’s parliamentary elections with the election of directly contested seats and end on Wednesday 18 with voting representatives of special interest groups.