Uganda polls marred by late supply of materials

Uganda polls marred by late supply of materials

Thursday, February 18, 2016 7:17 pm


A Ugandan policeman struggles to keep hold of a box containing voting material, as excited voters surround him after waiting over 7 hours without being able to vote, at a polling station in Ggaba, on the outskirts of Kampala, in Uganda Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016.  Ugandans went to the polls Thursday but in Ggaba hundreds of people waited for seven hours for voting papers to arrive and when they discovered there were only ballots for choosing MPs, with no ballots to vote for president, they overpowered the police, destroyed the ballots for MPs, and the polling station had to be abandoned. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

A Ugandan policeman struggles to keep hold of a box containing voting material, as voters surround him after waiting over 7 hours without being able to vote, at a polling station in Ggaba, on the outskirts of Kampala. The crowd  overpowered the policeman and  destroyed the ballots for MP. The polling station had to be abandoned. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Voting in Uganda’s presidential and parliamentary polls was  marred today  by the late arrival of voting materials in many parts, especially the capital, Kampala where the leading opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye has a large support.

The head of the Commonwealth Observer Group, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, called the long delays “absolutely inexcusable.”

Several dozen polling stations never opened on Thursday, and the election commission late Thursday said they would be open on Friday

Kizza Besigye, right, arrested by the police after voting

Kizza Besigye, right, arrested by the police after voting

The government also shut down access to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook

News report said  Besigye  himself was arrested by police in  Kampala suburb of Naguru, where he had gone to investigate alleged ballot-stuffing in a house run by the intelligence agencies, spokesman of his Forum for Democratic Change ,  Shawn Mubiru, said.

Besigye is Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s main challenger in the polls, in which six other opposition candidates are also standing.

Besigye’s supporters said the delays were deliberate and were aimed at favoring Museveni, whose rival is popular in Kampala.

In Kampala’s Ggaba neighborhood, hundreds of people waited for seven hours for one polling center to open before voting papers for the parliamentary election finally arrived. When the people found out there were no ballots to vote for president, they overpowered the police, grabbed the ballot boxes and threw them all over a field.

Police fired tear gas, and polling officers fled before any votes were cast.

“If the election is free and fair we will be the first people to respect it, even if we are not the winner,” Besigye said Thursday at a polling station in his rural home of Rukungiri. “But where it is not a free and fair election then we must fight for free and fair elections because that is the essence of our citizenship.”

In Kampala, the spokesman for Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change said the delays were a “deliberate attempt to frustrate” voters in urban areas where Besigye is believed to be very popular, especially Kampala and the neighboring district of Wakiso.

“Why is it that in areas where we enjoy massive support, like Kampala and Wakiso, that’s where these things are happening?” said Ssemujju Nganda.

As people voted, young men on motorcycles who appeared to support Besigye looked on from a distance, saying they wanted to make sure there was no ballot- stuffing.

Besigye was Museveni’s personal physician during a bush war and served as deputy interior minister in Museveni’s first Cabinet. He broke with the president in 1999, saying Museveni was no longer a democrat.

*Reported by AP

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