Uganda: Intimidation and rigging to mar elections?

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Election mood has reached fever pitch levels as primary election campaigns for flag-bearers of various political parties, ahead of the January presidential polls, register increasingly unusual events. The highly competitive elections have been marred by fraud and rigging, and in some cases supporters of different candidates have settled their differences by exchanging blows in the streets.

As all major towns display photos and posters of those who want to contest on walls of buildings and electricity poles, fear is being expressed among Ugandans, especially after the death of at least 3 people was blamed to fist fights during the primary election campaigns.

To many Ugandans, the confusion and chaos warn of a particularly chaotic January 2011 presidential elections despite the eastern African country’s electoral commission warning that chaos, intimidation, violence and vote rigging will not be tolerated.

“We assure Ugandans that we are doing all we can to ensure that the elections are free and fair. We have all we need to make sure that all goes well” said the chairperson of Electoral Commission, Badru Kiggundu.

But local observers have expressed fears over allegations revealing that a figure of 15,000,336 million registered voters is inconsistent with data recently released by the Uganda Bureau of Standards to the public. They believe that the inconsistencies could trigger unrest if they are not addressed immediately. Badru Kiggundu has however denied the allegations.

After a recent report by Uganda Bureau of Standards’ recent report, indicating that Uganda’s population in 2009 stood at 30,661,290 with the number of persons aged above 18 years and eligible to vote standing at 12,593,900, has caused opposition politicians to wonder where the extra 2.4 million plus expected voters have come from.

And although Kiggundu insists that the commission has all the figures about voters in the 2011 general elections and that there will be no vote rigging, he failed to mention the cause of the disparity between the commission’s figures in relation to the data from the Bureau of Standards

Security amid accusation

While the Inspector General of police in Uganda, major general Kale Kayihura has confirmed that the “Police will deploy at all polling centres and other parts of the country to ensure security during voting”, the commander of Uganda land forces, Maj. Gen. Katumba Wamala has warned that “the army will not accept violence in 2011 elections. We are
ready to reinforce police where necessary.”

But members of opposition parties who have always accused President Museveni and his government of using the army to intimidate voters during the past elections threaten to mark the democratic exercise with chaos if the 2011 polls are not free and fair. Some believe that the announced heavy police and military deployment might prevent Ugandans from rejecting voting irregularities. However, according to the army chief, “it is accepted constitutionally for the army to help police where necessary.”

Maj. Gen. Katumba insists that the army is ready to protect Ugandans and their property before, during and after 2011 polls and that they will not
tolerate intimidation, violence and murder n 2011 polls.

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