UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
RWANDA: Rwandans prepare for first post-genocide elections
NAIROBI, 26 March (IRIN) - For the first time since the 1994 genocide, Rwandans will go to the polls on Monday to elect local officials.
The elections will be held at "cellule" level, to be followed by "secteur" level polls two days later. Rwanda is made up of 12 prefectures, which are divided into 155 communes. These are further sub-divided into 1,531 administrative "secteurs" and then into 8,987 "cellules".
"This grassroot election is a test of whether the country should go ahead with elections at national level, or just stop there," a regional analyst told IRIN on Friday.
The national government is a coalition, led by the Rwandan Patriotic Front.
The Rwandan authorities have said the elections, described as "participatory democracy", are aimed at "empowering the local populations to decide their own destiny".
Polling will be for an individual - using the "queuing system" - rather than a political party, and critics have pointed out that voters may be initimidated by the lack of secrecy as they will have to line up behind the candidate of their choice.
"There is a risk that the election system could be hijacked by sympathisers of the genocide, which could bring about a backlash from genocide survivors," one analyst told IRIN.
Other observers have said people will simply vote for the person closest to the authorities.
Rwanda's Local Government Minister Desire Nyandwi told the Rwanda News Agency that the country's previous election experience was "sad, limited and ethnically-based". Since the 1994 genocide, in which extremist Hutus slaughtered around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, the country has been undergoing a slow reconstruction, against the background of renewed extremist threats.
Nyandwi urged voters to elect "competent, capable" officials, not based on ethnicity, religion or politics.
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999 13:55:48 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Rwanda: Rwandans prepare for first post-genocide elections 
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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