The People of Uganda Are Set to Vote for the President on January 14

The campaign for the presidential election has entered its final days as the people of Uganda are set to vote on January 14.

lifestyleug.com__People of Uganda Are Set to Vote (1)
The people of Uganda are set to go to vote on January 14 following a tumultuous presidential campaign. PHOTO via @TWITTER

The campaign for the presidential election has entered its final days as the people of Uganda are set to vote on January 14.

Bobi Wine, 38, the main challenger to incumbent Yoweri Museveni, has been arrested several times since he was nominated for the presidency on November 3. He compares campaigns to a battlefield.

“All of my personal aides and aides have been shot dead. As I speak, more than 100 members of my campaign team have been imprisoned by police and the military,” he told reporters on Jan. 8.

The politician, who has become a singer, has repeatedly accused the 76-year-old Museveni, who has been in power for more than 35 years, of being one of Africa’s longest-serving dictators.

Wine commands are largely supported by young people and urbanites who want change, while the incumbent has a platform among companies, security forces, the state media and individuals who have benefited from his three decades of rule.

Last month, Google was asked by Uganda to block YouTube channels affiliated with Wine, which he regularly uses on social media to communicate with its supporters.

Other opposition leaders are also routinely targeted by security forces, sometimes visiting campaign venues in tear gas clouds, often greeted by baton-wielding riot police, who have been arrested at several campaign rallies or who have abruptly blocked pre-approved campaign events.

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The Electoral Commission halted its campaign on December 26 in the opposition stronghold of Kampala, citing concerns over the Coronavirus. At least 54 people have been killed in violence since November.

Officials say power is needed to ensure compliance with SOPs to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But the rules have been used selectively by analysts.

“You could say the security forces know this is not an election,” said Yusuf Serunkuma, a researcher at Makerere. “Would you kick around someone you suspect might be the next commander?”

Politician AbduSalaam Ali Kinobe said the COVID-19 rules are being used as an excuse for political repression. “President Museveni and supporters of the ruling party have repeatedly gathered in defiance of COVID-19 guidelines in the presence of the police,” he said.

Concerns about the persecution of journalists and civil society are also on the rise.

The recent arrest and weekly detention of Nicholas Opiyo, a prominent human rights lawyer, “sent an encouraging message of respect for human rights as it faces a serious election challenge under President Museveni,” said Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch.

When US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released reports of irregularities in the electoral process in the eastern foreign country, Ugandan officials responded by saying that their efforts should be confined to the United States, where election-related controversy continues.

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Recent riots and speeches by President Donald Trump following the defeat of Joe Biden allowed leaders to reject calls for free and fair elections in Uganda. On Jan. 6, Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol, looting and looting parts of the building for several hours.

Swaib Kaggwa, a member of the Justice Forum party, told the Anadolu Agency that US events should not affect the transparent electoral process in Uganda.

“Trump lost one election and then lost several cases denying the election results,” he said. “It shows how strong the democratic pillars are in the United States, unlike in Uganda.”

Simon Byabakama, chairman of the Ugandan Electoral Commission, said voters would not be allowed to see the ballot. He said it was dangerous to keep people from different political parties and supporters of rival candidates in the same area.

The Electoral Commission also announced a ban on the use of cameras and smartphones in polling stations to ensure the sanctity of the secret ballot.

Many voters dismissed the move as illegal. The 2005 Presidential Election Act stipulates that voters must stay at least 20 meters (66 feet) from the polling station.

“The ban raises questions about the integrity of the process and re-creates fears of voter fraud.”

He said the move would be self-defeating as the same electoral system promotes virtual campaigns, virtual activities and human interactions with fewer people, which is designed to make smartphones.

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The Forum for Democratic Party has written to the Electoral Commission asking for legislation to clarify on the ban/ use of cameras and smartphones during the poll day.

Byabakama responds to ban cameras

The Election Commission has stressed that journalists and media personnel will not be allowed to take photographs inside the polling booths. According to the head of the commission, Judge Simon Byabakama, this was done to ensure the secrecy of the ballot and to protect the privacy of the electorate.

However, Byabakama said phones and cameras would not be allowed at polling stations, but participants would be allowed to take pictures outside the polling area.

“Given the nature of our polling booths, the presence of cameras inside the polling booths may affect the secrecy of the ballot, due to the uncontrolled use of cameras and other recording equipment,” he said.

“Remember that the secret of the ballot is intended to ensure that a ballot is anonymous and cannot be traced to the person who conducted it.”

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