Thursday, July 22, 2010

Campaign Season--I Can't Escape It

It's campaign season in Rwanda.
On Monday night, as I left pub trivia, I noticed several little signs like the one above that had been placed on columns lining the street between the time I went into the pub and the time I left. I thought this was curious.
Then, as I traveled to work to work on Tuesday, I noticed that the same signs were EVERYWHERE in Kigali--on (huge) billboards, on the bumpers of cars, on the backs of (public) buses, on the city's shiny new LED advertising screens. I realized that campaign season, which lasts only 3 weeks in Rwanda, had officially begun. There was even a FPR/Kagame rally at Amahoro Stadium on Tuesday afternoon, which was attended by tens of thousands of people (including most of the employees of the Ministry of Justice). And all day, every day this week there have been trucks full of people in Kagame shirts with megaphones and (incredibly loud) music cruising up and down the streets!
Notice anything about my comments so far? Yeah, in case you were wondering, there aren't any signs or bumper stickers (and certainly no scheduled rallies in soccer stadiums) for opposition candidates. At least, I haven't seen any. **Sigh**
As an American who's just visiting this country for the summer, I try to withhold judgment of things that I don't completely understand, i.e. the Rwandan political system, but I am... conflicted, to say the least... about this campaign season. It's exciting, eye-opening, and interesting. It's also frightening and worrisome.
But I don't have the energy to get into that here and now.
One week til Zanzibar!


Gary said...

It doesn't really sound like much of a democracy to me. But then again, in 2000 when Al Gore got more votes than "W" (we all know how that turned out) it doesn't really seem that different from here in the U.S.

Rebecca Morrison said...

How do you feel about a short campaign season? It is only a month prior to the elections here as well.

Cory Biggs said...

I don't really like a short campaign season.

Yes, it's nice to be bombarded by this stuff for only a 3 week period, but I think the intensity of the Kagame campaign here--brought on, in part, by the short length of the campaign season--leaves you hit with just as many campaign advertisements as you might see over the course of 6 months in the U.S.

Also, I think the short campaign length really, really hurts opposition candidates. People here see Kagame in the news every day, whether it's election season or not. In the face of that, giving your opponents only 3 weeks to present their case to the public seems incredibly unfair. I think that's a big part of the situation here in Rwanda.

Valerie said...

Here, in Dominica, they literally give away free stuff- Bread, clothes, flour, school books- during campaign season. No stickers or buttons, their chum is legit.

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