Time check 4am, Monday morning. The sun has at least another hour’s lie in, but residents of Munini sector, Nyaruguru district are already awake and decorating a polling station at a primary school.
Thirty minutes away is the next polling station, and Vincent Rugenintwaza, 60, visually impaired is one of the first voters to arrive at the Nyabimata polling station, in the village of Rwerere.
He carries a white walking stick, but is also escorted by his solicitous, softly spoken older sister, Veneranda Mukashema.
“I may not be able to see what time of the day it is, but am sure I want to vote for change in parliament. I want my vote to count,” he said while stepping forward to cast his vote.
In July this year, residents of Nyabimata, and neighbouring Kivu were attacked by armed gangs who according to Police had come from Burundi.
The area is only a few miles away from the Burundi boarder. The attackers killed 2 residents, badly beat up many others, and burnt property.
The attack had all the hallmarks of a terrorist incident, designed to spread fear within the two communities.
Barely two months later, could one forgive the residents of the two sectors if they had stayed away from the polling stations? But the scene in Nyabimata, and Kivu, was as normal as any other polling station.
Many voters had brought their children, and were chatting freely as they waited for the election officials to usher them into the polling booths.
Security reflected a relaxed atmosphere. Almost as disinterested observers, a couple of officers from the Rwanda National Police, lightly armed, stood at least two hundred metres away, watching the crowd.
They were supported by local District Administration Officers (Dasso). Given the recent attacks however, no chances were being taken, members of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), were present, but, conspicuously stayed out of sight.
Nyabimata is one of three sectors, along with Kivu and Muganza in Nyaruguru district which KT Press visited on Monday.
Everyone who spoke to KT Press said they felt perfectly secure to come and cast their vote.
For Rugenintwaza, it was particularly important to make sure that the voice of the disabled in parliament was represented by a strong candidate.
“Voting is important and if you do it yourself you get the services you need without being pushed around. First priority is my security, and safety, but I would also like the incoming parliament to champion the rights of the disabled, in particular the education of the disabled children,” he said.
Rugenintwaza is among the over 400,000 persons living with disability in Rwanda. One of the eighty seats in parliament represents the disabled.
Representatives of the disabled voted On Sunday – September 2, but, Rugenintwaza voted on September 3 in the general election.
He wants all parliamentary members to speak for the disabled. His area was represented by Gaston Rusiha in the outgoing parliament. In the new parliament, Rusiha was beaten by Eugene Mussolini.
“If one is elected they must come and visit us so that we can evaluate if they are implementing what we voted them to do,” he said.
The area’s local leaders echoed residents’ confidence about their safety and security.
“Life is back to normal here and citizens have a lot of morale. The attacks that happened here are now history for us,” said Afrodis Rudasingwa, the Executive Secretary of Nyabimata sector.
There were similar sentiments at Muganza polling site located at Groupe Scolaire Muganza. Like their neighbours, most voters had already cast their votes by 11am.
“Those who attacked us are like ants which enter the house. They get out the same way they came in. We have security forces here, and we are secure as you can see,” said Pierre Uwimana Executive Secretary of Muganza Sector.
Among voters who arrived early morning to the polling site was Dativa Mporayonzi, 40.
She is a single albino mother. She says she could not miss the vote because she needs a parliament that will help her and her son Venuste Maniraho.
“I delayed because of my skin problems but I couldn’t miss this voting because I need to be helped to change my life – I need a parliament that will help me and my son to get a residential house,” she said.