Delays fuel suspicion in Uganda vote

2011-02-18 11:13

Kampala – Long after voting was to begin, there was no sign of ballot papers in some Kampala opposition strongholds, fuelling suspicion Uganda’s veteran leader, Yoweri Museveni, was rigging his way to re-election.

“Of course I am suspicious. Government didn’t expect to get many votes in this area,” Nasib Kasuli, 24, an opposition supporter, said in Kampala’s Rubaga district.

Rubaga, like other parts of the capital, had a ghost-town atmosphere today, with few people and few cars visible in a city where stifling traffic and busy streets are the norm.

Overlooking the Rubaga election headquarters lies the palatial home belonging to the king of Uganda’s largest tribe, the Baganda.

A majority in Kampala voted against Museveni in Uganda’s 2006 election, but relations between the Baganda and government have worsened since the last poll, and some believe the opposition could make further gains.

Museveni’s main challenger, Kizza Besigyek, has claimed only rigging by the regime could deprive him of victory and has pledged to release his own set of results within 24 hours of the end of polling.

Well after voting should have started at 7am, ballot papers had not left the district election headquarters, and election workers could not say when voting would begin.

“If everything is supposed to be prepared one year ago, why is this fracas happening,” complained Stuart Nathan, 26, who was hired to transport election materials from the headquarters to the district’s polling station.

Nathan was part of a scrum of contracted election workers, milling around the headquarter’s gate, agitated and uncertain of when they would begin their work.

EU election observers, also on site, quizzed officials about the delays.

At a nearby voting station, Miriam Kiryawa, a polling assistant, was vexed that her superiors had not yet explained the cause of the delay.

“You see how the electoral commission is delaying people. We don’t know when voting will start,” she said, some 90 minutes after polling stations were due to have opened.

Several kilometres away, in the Nakasero market near Kampala’s commercial hub, long lines had eventually formed by 9am and voting was under way.

When their turn came, voters collected a ballot paper, headed towards a brown plastic basin rested on a chair, placed the ballot inside, using the basin’s rim to conceal their choice.

“As you can see, we are very interested in voting,” Moses Musisi, in line with hundreds of others, told AFP while two men shoveled garbage nearby, forcing voters to endure a foul odour as they waited.

Asked which of the eight presidential candidates he plans to back, Masisi, 50, said: “That is my secret. I can’t just mention it in public like that.”

Several opposition supporters in line together also complained about delays, and one, who asked to remain anonymous, blamed “rigging, especially on the government side”.

Others, who said they hoped Museveni wins re-election, also expressed frustration at the orderly but slow voting process in the market.

“They are acting as if they don’t know what they are doing,” said Margaret Kaliisa, 30.

Explaining why she is supporting Museveni, in power since 1986 and widely expected to win another five-year term, Kaliisa said: “He is giving us peace. Why should we remove him? The other candidates are just giving words. We want someone who knows what to do.”

 

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