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Tuesday, March 30, 1999 Published at 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK

World: Africa

High turnout in Rwanda poll

The Rwandan Popular Front defeated the Interahamwe

The second day of voting is underway in nationwide elections in Rwanda - the first since the genocide in 1994.

A high voter turnout was recorded on the first day of the local poll on Monday, despite heavy rain throughout the country.

Jane Standley reports: "People have been very enthusiastic to vote."
The Secretary-General in Rwanda's ministry of local government, Protais Musoni said: "So far it has been beautiful. The elections have been conducted very peacefully, and voter turn-out has been very good, as high as 90 percent in some places."

Voting took place without incident in most parts of the country. But in Muslim neighborhoods of the capital, Kigali, authorities postponed the voting for 24 hours after residents refused to consider voting for non-Muslim candidates.

Heavy rain forced some polling stations to close until Tuesday.

"The turnout is commendable," Musoni said. "We're moving much faster than expected."

The local elections will replace appointed local officials with 10-member elected executive committees at the cell and sector levels, two of Rwanda's smallest administrative units.

Voting to continue

The government hopes that people will be elected on the basis of ability not ethnicity. For that reason candidates had to run as individuals not as representatives of political parties.

On Wednesday the newly-elected representatives will, in turn, choose self-governing councils.

The poll is being seen as a bold step by the Rwandan government, whose senior leaders are Tutsis who came to power after the genocide, which targeted their minority ethnic group.

In 1994 Hutu extremist politicians manipulated tightly-controlled local authorities to direct the massacres which led to nearly one million victims in three months.

There have been attempts since then to bring the two communities together, but Hutu insurgents are still in conflict with the government.

Election test

[ image: Paul Kagame: We'll see what comes out of it]
Paul Kagame: We'll see what comes out of it
The Rwandan leader, Major-General Paul Kagame, admits that the elections are a test of what progress has been made: "After five years I think we've been educating our people on certain values.

"I'm not sure things have gone so well, but I think we have made some progress on that. We experiment on this process and see what comes out," he said.

There will be more re-education for successful candidates, which some critics say is an attempt by the government to control them after using them to legitimise its minority rule.

Rwanda's leaders are promising parliamentary polls if the government elections work, but they say the country will first need a new constitution which enshrines minority, or Tutsi, rights.

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