By Nangayi Guyson – Kampala – Millions of Ugandans turned up to vote on Friday in the east African nation’s presidential ballot pitting the country’s long-serving president against his former ally and personal physician, officials said.
Opposition threats of street protests and the looming start of oil production have raised the stakes in the vote – just the second multiparty election to be held in Uganda in 30 years.
Most polling stations in Uganda opened on time on Friday, said John Mary Odoy, the director of a local election observer group, the Democracy Monitoring Group.
About 14 million people are registered to vote for the presidential and parliamentary races being decided.
Voting was supposed to begin across the country at 07:00 (04:00 GMT), but there was delays throughout Ugandan capital, Kampala in delivering voting materials due lack of vehicles.According to John Mary Odoy of Democracy Monitoring Group in Uganda
Paul Bukenya, a spokesperson for the Electoral Commission of Uganda, downplayed the problems in Kampala.
“We have been waiting for hours, but they are so delayed,” said voter Robert Mwanja, a 35-year-old shopkeeper. He was queuing at an open-air polling station at Nakasero market in central Kampala. “The officials are so confused. They don’t know what they are doing.”
Security has been heightened around Kampala and at the nation’s nearly 24 000 polling stations.
Beyond potential election violence, police and embassies warned of possible terrorist attacks. Last July twin suicide bombings in Kampala claimed by the Somali militant group al-Shabaab killed at least 76 people.
Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba said on Thursday night the situation in the country had been generally calm with only isolated disturbances.
Museveni’s main challenger, Besigye, already has called the election “fundamentally flawed”, pointing to the incumbent’s control of the electoral commission and the failure to give new voters identity cards as proof that the president will rig the vote.
Besigye, the candidate for the Inter-Party Co-operation coalition who lost to Museveni in 2001 and 2006, and failed to get the results overturned in court, despite proof of widespread intimidation, this time, plans to release his own tally of results and has ruled out launching a court challenge.
He has threatened street protests and insists that 25 years after Museveni seized power as the head of a rebel group Uganda is ready for an Egypt-style popular revolt.
“I am voting for change. We need change,” said Stephen Asiimwe, 40, a market vendor. “I am not a fool to let someone rule for 30 years.”