Saturday, February 19, 2011

--Kampala “quiet and calm like Christmas day”

7:00 PM DAY AFTER ELECTION—Kampala remains very, very calm. I took a brief walk today, and was startled by the lack of traffic—1/5 the traffic of a usual Saturday. The newsstand where I typically buy my newspapers was closed. Only a few boda boda (motorbike taxi) drivers lounged around. Usually, I see dozens of bodas. One Tweet summed it up: “Kampala calm and quiet, like Christmas day. Too quiet?” The Daily Monitor newspaper reports beefed-up security, including a heavy arm presence, at Electoral Commission headquarters.

There are several current unconfirmed reports of police deployments, shots fired, and tear gas incidents in eastern districts. Again, these have not been verified.

Meanwhile, new partial vote tallies are being released every two hours. The latest totals indicate a landslide for the sitting president, who is garnering 70% of the vote. His lead is no surprise, but there’s shock at the huge margin. The final tally is expected tomorrow. The leading challenger, Kizza Besigye, just held a press conference wherein he rejected the results as tainted by bribery and intimidation. An NGO monitoring the election, DemGroup, said in today’s Monitor that it has recorded 6,090 incidents of bribery, mostly by the ruling NRM party.

A reporter friend emailed me that residents in Gulu in the north are still upset about all the electoral process snafus. She wrote, “Many voters were bitter about their names missing in voter register yet they say during the voter display last October their names were in the register; this denied them opportunity to vote. Few arrests within the municipality as result of some indiscipline acts of some campaign agents trying to woo votes even at polling stations. There was a brief fight between polling officials and the RDC and his men in Pader district. On the whole Northern Uganda is calm. I hope the situation remains the same after (final) results are announced.”

My family and I are fine, though starting to go a little stir-crazy. We’ll hang out one more day in the apartment, and if Kampala remains calm, we’ll venture out on Monday.

--Still no reports of media induced or exacerbated violence

9:30AM SATURDAY—DAY AFTER ELECTION—Things seem to have been quiet overnight. I haven’t run across any new reports of protests, unrest, or violent incidents. The Daily Monitor reports that as of about 9pm last night, “Kampala City Centre is deserted in the early evening hours as both military police and army deployed heavily soon after elections closed. All the major roads in the centre… are all under close surveillance with foot and mobile military patrols.” (See yesterday’s blogs below for details about the violence, which the New York Times dubbed, “sporatic flare-ups”.)

Ugandans will be discussing for weeks (months) the confusion at the polling places yesterday. One journalist friend writes, “I am not happy and very disappointed with the Electoral Commission, not sure of the new name they should be given. Is it, “Electoral Confusion”? Many people could not vote because of missing names, displacement and misplacement of pictures etc and my disappointment is that even now, the EC Chairman has not come out to apologize and explain. This is total confusion from EC. What exactly went wrong with the voter register, is that a smart way of rigging? Not fair for citizens to fail to exercise his voting rights.” (Photo above--Counting ballots early Friday night in Kampala. Source--NY Times).

Meanwhile, in no surprise, President Museveni leads his rivals in early provisional results with 72% of the vote. (4700 out of 23,000 polling stations reporting). The Independent reports that Museveni’s vote take has increased even in Northern Uganda, where he has traditionally received few votes.

Personally, everything is calm and quiet here in the center of Kampala.

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