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Turn Out High, But Uganda Polling Marred by Delays

Voters in Uganda are flocking to polling stations to cast their ballots in presidential and legislative elections. Many, however, experienced delays in a number of areas.

Voters began moving around the country’s capital, Kampala, before dawn, making their way to their local polling station. In some areas, like the suburb of Mbuya, voting materials came on time and voters stood by to inspect the contents of the polling materials.

At the National Theatre, where European Union observers paid a visit, voting also ran smoothly, and many expressed happiness at the process.

However, in many areas biometric machines did not work, causing delays and upsetting the voters. In other areas there was an incomplete delivery of the voting material.

After reports of delays in some parts of the capital, Kampala, the Ugandan electoral commission released a statement saying “polling has started on time in various parts of the country,” but noting delays in parts of the capital and in Wakiso District. The statement said the commission expresses its regrets for the late delivery of polling materials to those locations.

Makerere University education student Ivan Ssebuliba said “If this is happening in Kampala, so close to the Electoral Commission, what is going on in the villages?”

In the Kampala suburb of Kyabando Erisa, by 11 am ballot papers still had not arrived. This caused a confrontation with residents and military police who were dressed heavily in body armor. One man named Kigozi, involved in the standoff, explained the situation.

“We are having ballot boxes present on the station, but no ballot papers… It’s making the boys and the young generation here to react. And they’re now all reacting, telling the electoral commission, why is it doing this? Is it supporting someone? Or is it trying to hide something? That is where the problem is coming from,” said Kigozi.

Incomplete registers

At one polling station near the Electoral Commission, around 200 voters were left off the official register. This was confirmed by polling observer Simon Katum.

“The total number that was submitted for the voters from 8 am is supposed to be 981 but the number of ballot papers they submitted is 784… that’s why people are asking themselves why are 200 ballot papers missing,” said Katum.

Many voters cried foul and said irregularities such as these are how elections are rigged.

“It’s not going very smooth because one we are supposed to begin voting at seven, it’s already coming to nine o’clock, and yet they won’t extend even a single minute towards four o clock. Two the number of voters that are supposed to be here and the papers that they have got so far is less by almost 200 something. So where are the other 200-something papers? So some people are not going to vote and yet our time has been wasted so far. So really the total rigging of the order so far. So I can declare that,” said one angry voter.

Social media blocked

Others were angry by what seems to be a block on social media. Residents from around the city have reported that without a VPN bypass they could not get on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. The Uganda Communications Commission confirmed it blocked social media, including Twitter, FB, whatsapp, Instagram and mobile money for what it called “security reasons.”

The Electoral Commission has apologized for the delays and has urged voters to be calm and patient.  Elections officials assured voters that as long as they are in line before 4 pm their votes will be counted.

The chairman of the Commonwealth Observer Group, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Thursday asked participants in the election to “respect the franchise and refrain from acts of violence and intimidation.” He said the observer group has been examining the whole election process, to determine whether it is compliant with Ugandan laws as well as international rules and standards.

He said, “We are all men and women of integrity and I do not believe any of us would want to sacrifice his or her integrity on the altar of unnecessary convenience.” — VOA NEWS 

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