Rwanda leader wins 3rd term by a landslide

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, right, celebrates his reelection with supporters in Kigali on Saturday at the Rwandan Patriotic Front headquarters. (AFP)
Updated 05 August 2017

Rwanda leader wins 3rd term by a landslide

KIGALI, Rwanda: Rwanda’s longtime President Paul Kagame has easily won a third term in office in what he had called “a formality.” He faces another seven years leading the small East African nation praised for its economic performance but criticized for its silencing of opponents.
Electoral authorities overnight said Kagame had won more than 98 percent of the vote with 80 percent of the votes counted, with no major change expected when final results are announced later Saturday. He had faced two challengers.
Kagame addressed jubilant supporters at party headquarters and urged Rwandans, including those who hadn’t supported him, to work together.
“The victory belongs to Rwandans who put trust in me,” he said. “I promise to build on the achievements so far registered and transform the country.”
Kagame has led the country of 12 million people since his rebels helped to end its genocide in 1994 in which more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred by Hutu extremists.
The 59-year-old president has been praised for the country’s economic growth, but human rights groups accuse his government of using state powers to silence any opposition. Rwandan authorities, including the president, deny it.
A constitutional amendment in 2015 allows Kagame to stay in power until 2034 if he pursues it.
Kagame was running against Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda — the only permitted opposition party — and independent candidate and former journalist Philippe Mpayimana. Three potential candidates were disqualified for allegedly failing to fulfil requirements including collecting enough signatures.
With 80 percent of the votes counted, Mpayimana had received just 0.72 percent and conceded defeat and congratulated Kagame. Habineza received 0.45 percent.
More than 80 percent of Rwanda’s 6.9 million registered voters cast their ballots, according to Charles Munyaneza, executive secretary of the Rwanda Electoral Commission.
In Rwanda’s tidy capital, Kigali, there had been little hint of the coming vote. Candidates had been barred from putting campaign posters in most public places, including schools and hospitals. The electoral commission vetted candidates’ campaign messages, warning that their social media accounts could be blocked otherwise.
Two decades of often deadly attacks on political opponents, journalists and rights activists created a “climate of fear” ahead of Rwanda’s election, Amnesty International said in a report last month.
In 2010, Kagame won election with 93 percent of the vote.
In July, he told a campaign rally that “the day of the presidential elections will just be a formality.”


Biden expected to nominate Blinken as secretary of state

Updated 23 November 2020

Biden expected to nominate Blinken as secretary of state

  • Antony Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden
  • Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America

WASHINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Antony Blinken as secretary of state, according to multiple people familiar with the Biden team’s planning.
Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden. If nominated and confirmed, he would be a leading force in the incoming administration’s bid to reframe the US relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances.
In nominating Blinken, Biden would sidestep potentially thorny issues that could have affected Senate confirmation for two other candidates on his short list to be America’s top diplomat: Susan Rice and Sen. Chris Coons.
Rice would have faced significant GOP opposition and likely rejection in the Senate. She has long been a target of Republicans, including for statements she made after the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lacked the granular experience in managing day-to-day foreign policy issues that Blinken would bring to the job.
Biden is likely to name his Cabinet picks in tranches, with groups of nominees focused on a specific top area, like the economy, national security or public health, being announced at once. Advisers to the president-elect’s transition have said they’ll make their first Cabinet announcements on Tuesday.
If Biden focuses on national security that day, Michèle Flournoy, a veteran of Pentagon policy jobs, is a top choice to lead the Defense Department. Jake Sullivan, a longtime adviser to Biden and Hillary Clinton, is also in the mix for a top job, including White House national security adviser.
For his part, Blinken recently participated in a national security briefing with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and has weighed in publicly on notable foreign policy issues in Egypt and Ethiopia.
Biden’s secretary of state would inherit a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Trump’s two secretaries of state, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, offered weak resistance to the administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention.
Although the department escaped massive proposed cuts of more than 30% in its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, from which many diplomats have opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancements under an administration that they believe does not value their expertise.
A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement.
“Democracy is in retreat around the world, and unfortunately it’s also in retreat at home because of the president taking a two-by-four to its institutions, its values and its people every day,” Blinken told The Associated Press in September. “Our friends know that Joe Biden knows who they are. So do our adversaries. That difference would be felt on day one.”
Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Biden also is expected to tap longtime diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the US ambassador to the United Nations.
Biden has pledged to build the most diverse government in modern history, and he and his team often speak about their desire for his administration to reflect America. He is being watched to see whether he will make history by nominating the first woman to lead the Pentagon, the Treasury Department or the Department of Veterans Affairs or the first African American at the top of the Defense Department, the Interior Department or the Treasury Department.
Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, said Sunday the Trump administration’s refusal to clear the way for Biden’s team to have access to key information about agencies and federal dollars for the transition is taking its toll on planning, including the Cabinet selection process. Trump’s General Services Administration has yet to acknowledge that Biden won the election — a determination that would remove those roadblocks.
“We’re not in a position to get background checks on Cabinet nominees. And so there are definite impacts. Those impacts escalate every day,” Klain told ABC’s “This Week.”
Even some Republicans have broken with Trump in recent days and called on him to begin the transition. Joining the growing list were Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a longtime Trump supporter, told ABC that it was time for the president to stop contesting the outcome and called Trump’s legal team seeking to overturn the election a “national embarrassment.”
Meanwhile, planning was underway for a pandemic-modified inauguration Jan. 20. Klain said the Biden team was consulting with Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate over their plans.
“They’re going to try to have an inauguration that honors the importance and the symbolic meaning of the moment, but also does not result in the spread of the disease. That’s our goal,” Klain said.