Yes We Can! Great Lakes Election Series Part 1

It’s election season in the Great Lakes and Jay-Z is marauding around Rwanda calling for everybody to rock the vote.  Burundi is going to the polls in November 2010,  Rwanda  in August 2010, and the DRC will go to the polls in 2011.  Leaders have started campaigning, advertisements have been produced, and you can now buy t-shirts with a photo of current Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza hugging cute ex-rebel combatant children.

In Rwanda, we’ve got Paul Kagame, who won the presidency in 2003 with 95.1% of the vote with a margin of error of 93.2% ,vs. somebody who will most definitely lose.It looks like Bernand Ntaganda who just founded the Imberakuri Party will run as will Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, head of the United Democratic Forces. Umuhoza, who presents a credible opposition  might be banned given that she holds a Belgium passport,  which according to the very-poorly named and dubiously intended “cleaning process” would make her ineligible to run for elections. Fortunately, she has a facebook page.

In Burundi, incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza who is often chided for playing soccer instead of attending state meetings will face Time 100 most important people of the year journalist Alexis Sinduhije. Sinduhije is popular, articulate, and already has a mash up of his political speeches. Nkurunziza, who doesn’t have a facebook page, is in trouble.  The UN has already committed 44 million to election effort, which means every Burundian citizen will be entitled to a hanging chad.

There is serious anxiety building up over the elections. In Rwanda, scholars fear that growing inequality and frustration due to political repression could be ignited by another Kagame victory.  To exacerbate issues, the government has instituted a National Identity Card Project in which each individuals’ national ID photo will appear on their voter card.  Not the best decision given the country’s history with national ID cards.  In Burundi, everybody thinks they are going to win and will be pissed off if they don’t. The FNL, who  recently disarmed, are hoping for a large win and researchers think that if they lose, there is a serious possibility of the FNL rearming. Rwanda’s earlier elections will impact Burundi’s outcomes, and really, who doesn’t love a domino effect in the region with these issues on the table?

No worries though, we’ve got 10 months for these regional feelings to set in. Next up in this series, how much does a Great Lakes election cost and how the hell did the UN manage to spend 460 million USD getting Kabila elected in the DRC?

Until then, banana beer for whoever stars up a new political party in any country with a recent history of ethnic violence!

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