Thursday, January 21

Ugandans go to the polls for tense presidential duel

The electoral campaign, particularly violent, punctuated by arrests and riots and bereaved by dozens of deaths, ended on Tuesday with the suspension until further notice of social networks and courier services in this landlocked country of East Africa.

The 18 million Ugandan voters are expected between 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (04:00 GMT and 13:00 GMT) in some 34,600 polling stations for this presidential and legislative ballot.

They will have to decide between Mr. Museveni, a former guerrilla who has turned into an authoritarian leader since he came to power in 1986, and Mr. Wine, who despite his young age has established himself in a divided opposition as the president’s main opponent.

The opposition, orphan of veteran Kizza Besigye, who did not wish to compete after four attempts and as many defeats against Mr. Museveni, presents 10 candidates against the National Resistance Movement (NRM), the hegemonic ruling party.

In the home stretch of the campaign, the face of Mr. Museveni, adorned with his iconic wide-brimmed hat and a yellow t-shirt – the color of the NRM – was plentifully plastered in the streets, along with the number of days separating it from the “victory“.

On the continent, only Teodoro Obiang Nguema in Equatorial Guinea and Paul Biya in Cameroon have spent more time in power without interruption than Mr. Museveni.

On Tuesday, the last day of the campaign, Mr Wine and two other candidates, Patrick Amuriat and Mugisha Muntu, called on Ugandans to vote en masse and “protect their vote“by monitoring the ballot.

We encourage you to use your phones, your cameras. Your phone is a very powerful weapon“, a enjoint Bobi Wine.

While Mr. Museveni speaks to a rural and older Uganda, Mr. Wine is popular among youth, especially urban ones, a significant population in a country where the median age is below 16.

– Leaving Kampala –

The three opponents also described as “illegal“the order given to voters by the Electoral Commission, referring to the risks of coronavirus contamination, to move quickly away from polling stations after slipping their ballot into the ballot box.

Fears have emerged over the fairness and transparency of the ballot during a more violent than previous campaign, where journalists, regime critics and observers have been barred from working.

US Ambassador to Uganda Natalie Brown announced Wednesday that the United States was canceling an observation mission scheduled for the vote, the majority of their observers having been denied accreditation by the government.

The day before, Mr. Museveni, one of the political heavyweights of the region, confirmed in a televised intervention the suspension of social networks and messaging services, such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Signal and Viber, explaining that this measure came to sanction the closure by Facebook of several accounts linked to power.

Whether it constitutes an act of deliberate censorship or a childish reprisal, this decision will continue to further deteriorate the conditions for an open, pluralist and transparent public debate.“, the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reacted on Wednesday.

Violence punctuated the campaign: arrests of opponents, tear gas and sometimes live ammunition at their supporters. In November, at least 54 people were killed by police in riots sparked by yet another arrest of Bobi Wine.

In Kampala, where the military presence was very strong on Wednesday in the streets and in the air – traveled by helicopters and drones – many residents have been flocking in recent days to bus stations to reach their polling station or to leave the city ​​for fear of violence.

In previous elections, there has always been chaos in Kampala. I think this time with all the tension there should be a lot of violence“, thus declared Tuesday to AFP Charles Abigaba, a 31-year-old accountant, who goes to Masindi (west) to vote but intends to remain there after the election for fear for his safety.



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