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A President inaugurated

Wednesday 8th September 2010

Albert presents a Ghanaian account of President Paul Kagame’s swearing-in ceremony.

The Nkabom participants (numbering about 37) were part of the over 90,000 people who witnessed the inauguration of Rwanda’s President, H.E. Paul Kagame Oyee on Monday, 5th September, 2010 following his landslide victory in the recently held Presidential elections. Crowds began forming at the stadium before dawn – donning white and traditional imekenyero and umushanana regalia with an intense excitement that woke many participants up before it was 4am. The colourful event was also attended by at least 17 African heads of state at the Amahoro stadium, Kigali, which is directly opposite the Sportsview Hotel where the Nkabom participants were residing.

Beaming with excitement, although mildly dejected initially for not being allowed to bring cameras to the event, all the participants successfully underwent security checking and thronged to their reserved yellow stand of the Amahoro stadium looking very distinct in their blue t-shirts imprinted with the yellow sun and the inscription Nkabom 2010 in front. The first thing to catch our eye upon entry into the stadium was the magical formation of ‘KAGAME PAUL OYEE’. It was amazing to see the name created by human beings with human bodies. The moment became even more ephemeral as, after a short wait, we were awakened by a lively marching parade of the Rwandan Defence Forces, then further mesmerised by a colourful display of the ‘Army Bird’ which was actually flying in tandem with the rhythm and the pattern of the Police Band – drawing applause and cheers from the teeming spectators who had come from far and wide to witness the event.

Then, the heads of state of other African countries started appearing one by one in a motorcade also drawing clapping and applause from the crowd as they majestically made their way up to the podium. Among the attending dignitaries was President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose tumultuous welcome cheers got me as well as other foreign spectators perplexed – apparently he is one of closest allies of President-elect Kagame. Other heads of state included Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Faure Gnassingbe of Togo, Thomas Yayi Boni of Benin and Francois Bozize of Central African Republic. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, the only female President in Africa, was also at the function to at least show that all is not lost with the fight on gender inequity. Her arrival actually got one of the Nkabom participants working on gender equality screaming and shouting to the extent of stepping on my toes for about two times before calming down. Jonathan Goodluck of Nigeria and delegations from Algeria, Uganda, Swaziland and the African Union were also at the stadium to grace the occasion.

The Big Moment then came. It was 10.22am local time and the soon-to-be re-inaugurated President finally arrived. He was greeted by a standing ovation, deafening clapping and massive cheers by his supporters and the spectators. His arrival simultaneously generated the chanting of ni wowe ni wowe (which literally means you are the one) from all the four corners of the stadium to the amazement of the Nkabom participants-who has joined the chanting without actually understanding what it meant.   The national anthem was played and the chanting of ni wowe ni wowe continued until prayers were said by both the leaders of the Muslim and Christian communities. Paul Kagame was then sworn-in as the newly democratically elected head of state of Rwanda for a second 7-year term by the National Chief Justice Allosiya Cyazayire, amidst deafening applause from thousands of his supporters inside as well those following the event on giant screens outside the stadium. President Kagame who was dressed elegantly in navy blue suit with a red tie, took an oath to protect the Rwandan Constitution and the sovereignty of the country from all sorts of aggression be it internal or external. The national instruments of power in the forms of the Constitution, Coat of Arms and Flag which arrived amid tight security were handed to him by the Chief Justice amid clapping and cheers. The President then proceeded to inspect the Guard of Honour mounted by the Rwanda Defence forces.

Just as we thought the event had come to an end, there was another colourful marching parade by the Defence Forces. The excitement of seeing women as commanders in the parade led to my poor toes being stepped on once again by the same gender-quality aficionado. Just before a speech was to be delivered by the President, there was a cultural display that depicted the history of Rwanda and the contribution of President Kagame in rebuilding and restoring the country after the 1994 genocide. The President then gave a speech in which he emphasised the importance of unity in moving the country forward. He then rejected the accusations that he has failed to safeguard human rights and vowed not to let Western critics of his rule influence the path of the Country. He also stated that despite the fact that Africa has real problems — including poor democracy, poverty and the dependence that comes with underdevelopment — foreign governments and NGOs, who are not accountable to anyone, should not dictate the conduct of legitimate states. The passionate President was very clear that…“It is difficult for us to comprehend those who want to give us lessons on inclusion, tolerance and human rights. We reject all their accusations. Self-proclaimed critics of Rwanda may say what they want, but they will neither dictate the direction we take as a nation, nor will they make a dent in our quest for self-determination”. The programme then came to an end paving the way for the dignitaries to leave one-by-one before the participants left the stadium.

President Kagame won  an overwhelming 93% of the Rwanda’s second democratic polls since 1994 genocide which was held on August 9 2010, beating his closest rival, Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo of the Social Democratic Party (5.15%) of the vote and the Liberal Party’s Prosper Higiro, (who polled only 1.37%).

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