Uganda: Voters Turn Out in Droves but Rain Disrupts Exercise

15 January 2021

Ugandans yesterday woke up as early as 7pm to cast their vote for a president, Members of Parliament and District Woman representatives for the 11th Parliament in an election that police and other election observers described as relatively peaceful, compared to the previous ones.

The campaigns in the run-up to the General Election were tense and violent, painting a picture of violent polls ahead, but this was contrary, some observers said.

Yesterday's election also registered a big turnout, especially in urban centres, despite disruptions such as rain in some parts of the country and faulty voters' verification biometric machines that failed to detect voters' thumbprints.

This, however, did not stand in the way of the election process since returning officers used manual voters' registers.

There was also delay in the delivery of voting materials, which affected voting time.

The election was not without incidents following arrests in some districts over election violence and theft of ballot boxes.

Rain disrupts vote in Kigezi

Heavy rain yesterday disrupted voting for at least four hours in most parts of Kigezi Sub-region during an election reported to be largely peaceful.

Rain battered Kabale, Rukungiri, Kanungu, Kisoro, Rukiga and Rubanda districts from about 9am to 1pm, leaving hundreds of voters stranded.

When the rain stopped, officials and voters gathered to cast the ballot in an exercise that Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and police separately praised as exceptionally peaceful.

"The electoral process in Kigezi region was peaceful as we have not recorded any incident of electoral violence or electoral malpractice. So far, the process is going on well," Mr Elly Maate, the Kigezi regional police spokesperson, said.

A mini-survey by our team showed that most of the 11 presidential candidates did not have agents at most polling stations. It was unclear why or how they protected their interests.

Only Mr Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni, the flag bearer of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), had agents at all polling stations in Kigezi.

Mr Nadduli Musisi, the returning officer for Kabale District, said they received all election materials in time, adding that he had not received any complaint from his staff.

However, Ms Patricia Ainembabazi, a voter at Kabale Municipal Stadium, said the functioning of the biometric voter verification machine at the polling station was significantly slowed, delaying the process to cast the ballot.

Speaking after casting his vote at St Philip's Church Polling Station in Northern Division of Kabale Municipality, Dr Rugunda said nobody would disrupt the voting process or peace in the country.

"The security organs will ensure that Uganda remains peaceful during and after elections. The country is peaceful and shall remain peaceful because we are in-charge," he said.

Dr Rugunda thanked the EC for organising what he said was the most peaceful vote he has witnessed in Uganda amid a Covid-19 pandemic.

The PM added that the EC also did well in following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The State Minister for Planning, Mr David Bahati, said the exercise went well despite early disruptions by rain. It remained unclear how many voters may have failed to turn up due to the downpour.

Low turnout in Lira

In Lira City, there was low turnout of voters at various polling stations.

At Lango Cultural Centre A Polling Station in Senior Quarters Cells, Ireda Ward, Lira City West Division, by 10:30am, out of 368 registered voters, only 26 people had cast their votes.

Electoral Commission officials manning the polling stations, attributed the low turnout to fear of anticipated violence.

Mr Jimmy Akena, the president of a faction of Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) party, and is contesting for the Lira City East parliamentary seat, told journalists that in some polling stations, voting had not started at 10am, and a few people who turned up were going back to their homes.

Dr Jane Aceng, the minister of Health, who is contesting for the Lira City Woman MP seat under the NRM party, voted at Ireda Primary School Polling Station at 12:30pm.

Dr Aceng noted that voting in some polling stations in Anai, Burlobo and Akia wards had not yet started by 12:30pm.

"Voting is going on well and is peaceful, but in some polling stations, there are no polling materials. I, therefore, call on Electoral Commission to allow chance for all voters to vote for their favourite candidates," she said.

Electoral official shot

Just like at some polling stations in Alebtong District, voters' verification biometric machine being used at Ireda Shamba Pentecostal Assemblies of God's Church were faulty.

However, polling officers allowed people to vote as long as their names and photographs were in the register.

An electoral official on Wednesday night survived death narrowly after unknown gunmen raided his home in Agali Sub-county in Lira District and shot him.

The victim, identified as Ambrose Oba, was the presiding officer attached to Ororo Primary School in Abongorwot Parish. He was shot at about 12am.

Mr Denis Opio Agen, the sub-county chairperson, said attackers, who were travelling in a white pick-up truck, disappeared after executing their mission.

Mr Agen said the victim was taken to Lira Regional Referral Hospital.

The Uganda People's Defence Forces 5th Division spokesperson, Lt Hassan Ahamed Kato, confirmed the incident.

"He is hospitalised and is improving. Police are still investigating the motive of the attackers," he said.

The incident happened hours after the Inspector General of Police, Mr Martin Okoth Ochola, ordered security forces to shoot to kill whoever tries to cause confusion.

The former State Minister for Housing, Mr Sam Engola, is battling to recapture Erute South from UPC's Jonathan Odur, who trounced him in 2016.

Mr Engola, the former NRM vice chairperson for northern Uganda, is running under the NRM ticket.

Last week, his supporters allegedly attacked Mr Odur's supporters over unclear circumstances.

Rain disrupts voting in Busoga

In Jinja, police arrested three people for allegedly disrupting the voting exercise.

Mr Abbey Ngako, the Kiira police spokesperson, said the suspects were arrested for allegedly attacking EC officials and taking off with ballot papers as they were being offloaded from a vehicle.

Voting in Jinja was also delayed by heavy rain. Some polling stations started issuing ballots as late as 1pm.

By 10am, Jinja City voters had not started casting their vote. Voting was supposed to start at 7am but electoral materials had not yet been delivered.

With the exception of PMM Polling Station, there was no activity at Railway, Narambhai Primary School, Walukuba Rippon and Danida polling stations until about 9:30am.

Mr Badru Nabugo, the Main Street LC1 chairman, said voting materials were delivered at Narambhai without pens.

However, when voting got underway, it was disrupted by rain which lasted for about two hours.

At Kabembe Polling Station, Kakira Town Council, by 1pm, voting had not yet started despite the huge turnout.

In Masese Station in Jinja South East, voting was cancelled after fishermen stole ballot papers.

Biometric machines also failed at most polling stations in Jinja. The election was, however, relatively peaceful.

In Iganga District, voters turned up as early at 7am, but were incensed by failure of the biometric machines to read their thumbprints.

At Municipal Primary School, voting was disrupted by rain, which started at about 1pm.

However, the presiding officer asked that the process continue inside closed doors but a group of rowdy youth opposed the idea, prompting voters to remain in the rain.

At Bubogo B Polling Station in Kigulu South, supporters of the incumbent, Mr Milton Muwuma, and Mr Andrew Kalulya, were involved in a physical altercation over allegations that Mr Muwuma's camp was issuing facemasks with money concealed inside them.

Campaign manager attacked

Meanwhile, Mr Jimmy Awany Cingmalu, the campaign manager for Lira City West Division parliamentary candidate, Mr Vincent Obong Eyit (Ind), is nursing injuries after he was attacked by unknown people on Wednesday night.

In Sironko District, voting started late due to faulty voters' biometric verification machines.

For instance, in Musene Polling Station in Bukise Sub-county, voting started at 11am.

In Kapchorwa District, the voting exercise was largely peaceful, with incidents of delay in delivery of election material like at Burkoyin Polling Station in Kapchorwa Municipality.

At Kapchorwa Standard Polling Station, Mr Derrick Mundy, an NRM supporter, was arrested for allegedly inciting violence.

In Budaka and Butebo districts, voting material arrived on time.

In Manafwa District, voter turnout was low. Voters said they needed to tend to their gardens first.

In the Mbale City, Namataala Ward Polling Station registered violent incidents between supporters of the NRM candidate, Ms Lydia Wanyoto, and her rival, Ms Connie Galiwango (Ind).

Ms Galiwango's supporters accused election officials of being biased and in favour of Ms Wanyoto.

This was after EC sent away Ms Galiwango's campaign agents, according to Mr Ayub Madoi, one of the latter's supporters, prompting the intervention of police.

Ms Galiwango cast her vote at Lions Children's Park Polling Station after voting started at 9am.

In Tororo Municipality, the turnout was high at Pasindi Primary School Polling Station in Mulanda Sub-county.

Bukedea

At Agagaam Primary School Polling Station in Aminip Sub-county, Bukedea County in Bukedea District, supporters of Mr John Bosco Ikojo, the NRM candidate for Bukedea County, clashed with Mr George John Stephen Ekuma (Ind).

The incident happened at 2:30pm when Mr Isaac Epilo, the vice NRM chairperson for Bukedea, allegedly arrived at the polling station in a taxi with 20 hooligans on board.

They then reportedly started beating up supporters of the NRM candidate.

In the ensuing fracas, supporters of the NRM candidate retaliated and beat Mr Epilo into a comma. Mr Ali Kakooza, the officer-in-charge of Bukedea Central Police Station, said they also vandalised the taxi .

During the scuffle, police impounded Ikojo's vehicles and those of his companions.

A UPDF Brigadier, Alex Olupot Opolot, tried to intervene but in vain. Police said they were investigating the matter.

There was a similar incident in Bukedea where a man, whose identity was not revealed, tried to incite violence in Kachumbala County before being arrested.

In Kaberamaido District, biometric machines failed to operate. For instance at Ogobai Catholic Church Polling Station and Ogobai Primary School in Ochero County, the machines failed, delaying the voting process.

In Soroti, Kumi, Bukedea and Nwoya districts, the voter turnout was low.

Mr Simon Opolot, a resident, said he did not have reason to vote since the election is a "foregone conclusion".

Voting in some parts of Ibanda District started late.

However, in five polling stations in Ibanda North, which included Kiburara Market A, Lwenkobwa, Kambendyaho, Kayembe, Ishongorero market, Nyanpsimbo and Ishongorero Health Centre IV, voting started on time.

Ntungamo Municipality

Voting in some places in Ntungamo Municipality started after 10am because the election materials were delivered late.

Standard operating procedures were largely ignored at some polling stations.

In Mbarara City South, at Kasengyengye and NTC L Polling Station, voting started at about 9am and there was no social distancing. However, whoever came to vote had a mask.

In Rukungiri, there was no washing of hands and social distancing like in Nyakagyene Sub-county headquarters, Kasorozo Primary School, Kagorogoro, Kahoko Primary School in Rujumbura constituency, and Rukungiri Main Stadium A and Rukungiri Main Stadium B polling stations in Rukungiri Municipality. Voting in Sheema and Bushenyi districts largely started on time.

However, the exercise was momentarily disrupted by rain.

In Sheema for example, the rain started at about 9am and ended at 10am.

In Bushenyi Municipality, it rained from 8am to 11:30am.

In Soroti, hawkers and vendors were forced to close business before noon following an operation by police and soldiers aimed at dispersing crowds.

Other vendors and hawkers were forced to relocate to remote places with fewer customers.

By 10am, the deployed security personnel led by the traffic police were seen chasing hawkers and small scale vendors.

Among those whose businesses were forcibly closed were newspaper and fruit vendors.

The police mounted an operation on Market Street, Old Mbale, Lira, Moroto and Gweri roads.

A traffic officer, who was at the scene to enforce the command, told vendors that they were implementing orders from above.

"Nobody is allowed to operate business around this area," the officer said. Boda boda cyclists were not spared either.

The East Kyoga regional police spokesperson, Mr David Ongom Mudong, denied knowledge of the operation.

He said the security personnel were only chasing away noise makers involving taxi and bus operators that had put up illegal stages next to polling centres inside the Independence Square.

Gulu

The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Ms Betty Aol Ochan, voted from Acholi Inn A in Gulu West in Gulu City at about 9:30am. However, the voting materials delayed.

Ms Aol criticised EC for disconnecting the internet and social media platforms.

"If you are not afraid, why would you block people from reaching out to each other? This government is not a democratic one but is being led by the military," she said.

Yesterday evening, a Democratic Party mayoral contestant was kidnapped.

In Gulu City, voting started at 9am.People turned up in big numbers.

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, who cast his ballot in Omoro District, said voting was peaceful.

At Lalogi Primary School Polling Station, voters turned up in big numbers but were not observing social distancing and had no masks.

Reported by Patrick Ebong, Bill Oketch, Alfred, Simon Emwamu, Cissy Makumbi, Tumushabe, Phillip Wafula, Sandra Babirye, Eric Katahinga, Amon Muhumuza, Elly Karenzi, Nelson Bandoho Rajab Mukombozi, George Muron Olivia Mukaaya, Joseph Omollo, Micheal Waniala, Fred Wambedde, Ronald Mukooli, Mudanga Kolyangha, Abubaker Kirunda, David Oduut, George Emuron, Emmanuel Eumu, Robert Muhereza, Naume Biira, Leonard Mbishizimana and Ronald Kabanza.

Voting in Masaka

Late delivery of voting materials in some parts of Masaka City delayed the exercise. In some areas, EC officials had not delivered the materials by 9am. However, people were at the polling stations as early as 7am. In rural areas,voting started early and by 8am, several polling stations such as Molly and Paul A and B, people turned up in big numbers and by 7:30am, they had started casting their vote, although social distancing was not maintained.

At Nakitalaka Trading Centre a man only indentified as Morison was arrested after failing to stop playing music of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, aka Bobi Wine.

After casting his ballot, the Vice President, Mr Edward Ssekandi, urged people to be peaceful during and after the polls as they wait for the EC to announce the final results. He lauded the public for turning up in large numbers.

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