KAMPALA – Ugandans have been voting Thursday in a presidential election tainted by widespread violence that some concern may escalate as safety forces attempt to cease supporters of main opposition challenger Bobi Wine from monitoring polling stations. Web entry has been lower off.
Lengthy traces of voters snaked into the space within the capital, Kampala. “It is a miracle,” mechanic Steven Kaderere mentioned. “This reveals me that Ugandans this time are decided to vote for the chief they need. I’ve by no means seen this earlier than.”
However delays have been seen within the supply of polling supplies in some locations, together with the place Wine voted. After he arrived to the cheers of a crowd and forged his poll, he made the signal of the cross, then raised his fist and smiled. He mentioned he was “assured” of victory.
Issues have been reported with some biometric machines to confirm voters. “Our equipment failed to begin as a result of mismatching passwords,” mentioned Derrick Lutakoma, the presiding officer at one polling station.
Outcomes are anticipated inside 48 hours of polls closing at 4 p.m. Greater than 17 million individuals are registered voters on this East African nation of 45 million folks. A candidate should win greater than 50% to keep away from a runoff vote.
Longtime President Yoweri Museveni, an authoritarian who has wielded energy since 1986, seeks a sixth time period in opposition to a robust problem from Wine, a well-liked younger singer-turned-opposition lawmaker. 9 different challengers try to unseat Museveni.
Wine, whose actual title is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, has seen many associates jailed or go into hiding as safety forces crack down on opposition supporters they concern may mount a avenue rebellion resulting in regime change. Wine insists he’s operating a nonviolent marketing campaign.
Wine, of the Nationwide Unity Platform social gathering, has mentioned he doesn’t consider the election is free and honest. He has urged supporters to linger close to polling stations to guard their votes. However the electoral fee, which the opposition sees as weak, has mentioned voters should return house after casting ballots.
Web entry was lower Wednesday evening. “It doesn’t matter what they do, the world is watching,” Wine tweeted.
“This election has already been rigged,” one other opposition candidate, Patrick Oboi Amuriat, instructed native broadcaster NTV as polls opened, including that “we won’t settle for the end result of this election.”
The federal government’s choice this week to close down entry to social media in retaliation over Fb’s elimination of Museveni-linked Ugandan accounts accused of inauthentic habits was meant “to restrict the eyes on the election and, due to this fact, disguise one thing,” mentioned Crispin Kaheru, an unbiased election observer.
The 76-year-old Museveni’s help has historically been concentrated in rural areas the place many credit score him with restoring a way of peace and safety that was misplaced throughout the regimes of dictators together with Idi Amin.
Safety forces have deployed closely within the space that encompasses Kampala, the place the opposition has robust help partly due to rampant unemployment even amongst school graduates.
“Museveni is placing all of the deployments in city areas the place the opposition has a bonus,” mentioned Gerald Bareebe, an assistant professor of political science at Canada’s York College. “If you happen to ask many Ugandans now, they are saying the poll paper will not be value my life.”
Some younger folks mentioned they might vote regardless of the obvious dangers.
“This authorities has dominated us badly. They’ve actually squeezed us,” mentioned Allan Sserwadda, a automobile washer. “They’ve dominated us for years they usually say they’ve concepts. However they aren’t the one ones who’ve concepts.”
Requested if the heavy navy deployment fazed him, he smiled and mentioned: “If we’re to die, allow us to die. Now there is no such thing as a distinction between being alive and being lifeless. Bullets can discover you anyplace. They will discover you at house. They will discover you on the veranda.”
At the least 54 folks have been killed in Uganda in November as safety forces put down riots provoked by the arrest of Wine for allegedly violating marketing campaign laws geared toward stopping the unfold of the coronavirus.
Wine has captured the creativeness of many in Uganda, and elsewhere in Africa, together with his daring requires the retirement of Museveni, whom he sees as part of a corrupt outdated guard.
Museveni has dismissed the 38-year-old Wine as “an agent of overseas pursuits” who can’t be trusted with energy. Wine has been arrested many occasions on numerous costs however has by no means been convicted.
Museveni, who many years in the past criticized African leaders over not leaving energy, now seeks extra time in workplace after lawmakers jettisoned the final constitutional impediment — age limits — on a attainable life presidency.
“I grew up when he was president. Even my kids have been born when he’s president,” taxi driver Mark Wasswa mentioned as voting started. “We additionally need to see one other individual now.”
The rise of Wine as a nationwide chief with out ties to the regime has raised the stakes inside the ruling Nationwide Resistance Motion social gathering.
“(Ruling) social gathering members and supporters must know that this can be a watershed election to form, decide and set up a Museveni successor,” authorities spokesman Ofwono Opondo just lately wrote within the Sunday Imaginative and prescient newspaper.
The African Union and East African bloc have deployed election observer missions however the European Union mentioned “a suggestion to deploy a small staff of electoral consultants was not taken up. The position of native observers shall be much more necessary than earlier than.”
The EU, U.N. and others have warned Uganda’s safety forces in opposition to utilizing extreme power.
Ugandan elections are sometimes marred by allegations of fraud and alleged abuses by the safety forces. The nation has by no means witnessed a peaceable handover of energy since independence from Britain in 1962.
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