Ugandans started voting in a tense election Thursday underneath heavy safety and an web blackout as veteran chief Yoweri Museveni pursues a sixth time period towards a former pop star half his age.
The web went down on the eve of the vote, with some elements of the nation reporting full disruptions or vital slowdowns, after one of the vital violent campaigns in years.
Museveni is looking for a sixth time period in workplace, having dominated for nearly 4 many years, towards singer-turned-MP Bobi Wine, 38, whose recognition amongst a youthful inhabitants has rattled the previous insurgent chief.
Within the Kamwokya slum, the place Wine grew up and is vastly well-liked, voters streamed to a polling station as police tried to implement social distancing after weeks of surging coronavirus instances within the East African nation.
A gaggle of about two dozen riot officers marched previous, with heavy navy and police presence in different elements of the capital.
“I’m right here to alter the management of this nation as a result of for years they’ve been telling me they are going to safe my future. They haven’t executed that,” mentioned driver Joseph Nsuduga, 30, one of many first in line to vote.
“I have to see change for my youngsters. Individuals are craving for change however we’re seeing nothing.”
Voting was delayed in a number of places within the capital Kampala, starting about half an hour after the official beginning time of 7am (0400 GMT). Polls shut at 4pm (1200 GMT).
Some 18 million voters are registered for the presidential and parliamentary vote, and outcomes are anticipated by Saturday.
Museveni has dominated Uganda with out pause since seizing management in 1986, when he helped to finish years of tyranny underneath Idi Amin.
As soon as hailed for his dedication to good governance, the previous insurgent chief has crushed any opposition and tweaked the structure to permit himself to run time and again.
The run-up to polling day was marred by a sustained crackdown on Museveni’s rivals and authorities critics, and unprecedented assaults on the nation’s media and human rights defenders.
In November, no less than 54 folks had been shot useless by safety forces loyal to Museveni throughout protests towards one among Wine’s quite a few arrests.
On Wednesday armoured-personnel carriers with mounted machine weapons patrolled elements of Kampala and armed forces helicopters and surveillance drones flew over the teeming capital the place the political opposition has historically loved help.
The energetic and infrequently genial Museveni is lively on social media equivalent to Twitter — the place he launched an train video to assist residents keep match throughout lockdown — and retains help amongst voters equivalent to Ceria Makumbi, 52.
“He has introduced safety to our nation… He constructed hospitals, roads and introduced Uganda to a world commonplace,” the businesswoman informed AFP.
The US, EU, UN and world rights and democracy teams have raised issues in regards to the integrity and transparency of the election.
Just one overseas organisation, the African Union (AU), has despatched screens, together with an AU girls’s group.
On Wednesday, the USA, a significant help donor to Uganda, introduced it was cancelling a diplomatic observer mission after too lots of its employees had been denied permission to observe the election.
In a press release, US ambassador Natalie Brown warned the refusal meant the election “will lack the accountability, transparency and confidence” introduced by impartial oversight.
On Tuesday, Museveni introduced the suspension of social media networks and messaging companies like Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp in response to Fb closing accounts linked to authorities officers the tech large mentioned had been spreading misinformation.
Wine is the strongest of 10 opposition contenders making an attempt to unseat Museveni.
However most observers anticipate the ageing president and his ruling Nationwide Resistance Motion to emerge victorious.
He has by no means misplaced an election, and has been counting down the times to victory in assured marketing campaign ads, promising to speculate extra in infrastructure, well being and training and construct Uganda’s financial system.
However Wine, whose actual identify is Robert Kyagulanyi, has accused the president of presiding over corruption and failing to ship jobs.
The inhabitants has a median age of simply lower than 16, and lots of Ugandans have by no means identified anybody however Museveni in cost.
In Kamwokya Cate Nabbale, 20, a major faculty instructor, voted for the primary time.
“I’m so excited … I wish to see Uganda rising, issues altering,” she informed AFP.
Wine has vowed non-violent avenue protests ought to Ugandans really feel the election was stolen.
The opposition chief has urged them to prove in massive numbers and vote, saying they need to not concern intimidation by the authorities.
Museveni has warned his opponents towards taking to the streets.
“When you use violence to protest towards an election end result, that’s treason,” Museveni mentioned in a nationwide handle Tuesday.
© Agence France-Presse