Uganda Decides: Museveni in early lead, poll overshadowed by social media blockade, Besigye arrest

Ugandan voters queuing to cast their votes in Thursday's general election

Ugandan voters queuing to cast their votes in Thursday’s general election

Counting votes is underway in the East African nation of Uganda in a crucial Presidential and Parliamentary election, characterized by late arrival of voting materials and ballot stuffing in some areas.

In Provisional results announced by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission Engineer Badru Kiggundu shortly after midnight at the Tally Centre , Namboole, the incumbent and long serving leader Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was leading the race in the 580 polling stations out of the total number of 28010 that had been sent in by 11: 50 pm.

In his first preliminary results reading , Engineer Kiggundu said that candidate Yoweri Museveni had polled 117,298 votes , about 63.17 % of the total number of votes counted so far , ahead of his closest challenger and FDC President Warren Kizza Besigye Kifefe who had 59,695 , about 32.4% of votes counted so far.

Former Prime Minister had 2246 votes, about 1.22% while three time Presidential candidate Dr Abed Bwanika had 1723 votes, representing 0.94%. In some areas especially in the capital Kampala, one of the main opposition strongholds, there were challenges with the voter identification machines while in some areas voting materials arrived at the polling stations after mid day, way ahead of the stipulated starting time of 7:00 am.

Ugandan woman voting

Ugandan woman voting

The electoral commission extended voting time by three hours from 4: 00 pm to 7: 00 pm in areas where voting started late. Police also fired teargas and live bullets to disperse a crowd that had wanted to lynch a security personnel who was allegedly found with over 50 booklets of pre-ticked ballot papers in Makindye Division, Kampala District, an opposition stronghold.
Opposition candidate Dr Col Kizza Besigye was briefly detained by Police for criminal trespass and assault after he stormed a Uganda Police Force security installation in Naguru , a Kampala suburb claiming that there were people ballot stuffing in favour of the incumbent Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

“Besigye was apprehended for criminal trespass and assault and later released on police bond. He was later escorted by the police to his home in Kasangati. Further investigations into this incident are ongoing,” Patrick Onyango, Police Spokesperson, Kampala Metropolitan said in a statement.

Before he was whisked away by the heavily armed police detail, Besigye questioned the police at the complex what they exactly they were doing with ballot papers. “What policing equipment is there? This must stop, if Mr. Museveni doesn’t want an election he doesn’t have to call any, but if you call an election then let it be an election,” Besigye said wondering why Museveni had wasted billions of shillings and people’s time organizing an election when he plans publish his own results.

The voting exercise was overshadowed by countrywide public outcry after President Yoweri Museveni ordered the Uganda Communications Commission, the regulator of communication in Uganda to block social media Websites Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter to stop users from “telling lies.”

The government also blocked mobile money services on all networks with clients unable to send or withdraw money. By press time, both the social media platforms and the popular mobile money services were still inaccessible.

Commenting on the closure, President Museveni said the move was for security reasons and temporary.

“There must be steps taken for security to stop so many [social media users from] getting in trouble; it’s temporary [and] it will go away because some people misuse those pathways for telling lies. You tell lies but you do not know that the authorities [can] restrain [of the] them (platforms) until sometime,” Museveni told reporters after casting his vote in Kiruhura district.