State Department warns of ‘irregularities’ in Rwandan election

State Department warns of ‘irregularities’ in Rwandan election
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The State Department says it is troubled by "irregularities observed" in Rwanda's presidential election, which resulted Friday in the landslide victory of controversial President Paul Kagame.

With four-fifths of the ballots counted on Saturday, Kagame, a former guerilla leader who led rebel forces to end the 1994 Rwandan genocide, was on track to win the contest with nearly 98 percent of the vote, The New York Times reported.

"The United States congratulates the people of Rwanda on their active and peaceful participation in the presidential election held August 4," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

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"However, we are disturbed by irregularities observed during voting and reiterate long-standing concerns over the integrity of the vote-tabulation process," she added.

Kagame was first elected to the presidency in 2000 and won re-election in 2010 with 93 percent of the vote.

Kagame has garnered international praise for his economic development efforts in the wake of the 1994 genocide. But critics have accused him of being an authoritarian ruler responsible for quashing political opposition. 

He faced just two opponents in the country's most recent election, Frank Habineza of the Green Democratic party, and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent candidate. 

Another would-be contender, Diane Rwigara, was barred from the race, despite her claims that she qualified to run.

Nauert said Saturday that the U.S. remained concerned about the lack of transparency in Rwanda's process for determining a potential candidate's eligibility. 

The country's latest presidential election was its first since voters approved a 2015 constitutional amendment allowing Kagame to run for a third term.