Wednesday, February 23, 2011

BULLETIN: Rigged Kampala mayoral election leads to several isolated clashes

Allegations of ballot box stuffing along with several isolated violent clashes forced election officials to cancel today's Kampala mayoral election.

Seven boxes of pre-checked (“pre-ticked”, as they say here) ballots were discovered at three different polling stations in Kampala, according to the Monitor and Independent newspapers. Reports say the ballots were filled out for the ruling party (NRM) candidate. As the bogus ballots were discovered, brief, violent clashes between supporters of different candidates broke out at least three polling places—Kawempe, Rubaga, and Kapeka. No word on injuries. Two unconfirmed violent incidents consistent with the newspaper reports were also registered via text message on Uganda Watch. The Monitor reports the police and military have responded by sealing off some polling places, and by deploying heavily in Kampala to prevent widespread violence.

Note: In Uganda, polling for different elected posts is held on different days. Last Friday was for president and parliament; today was for local officials and Kampala mayor.

Today’s incident is also instructive as to the relative value of Twitter. The good news—reports are posted fastest here. The bad news—a great deal of the information I’ve read today on #ugandavotes is nothing but speculation and wild rumor. If the press disseminated some of these tweets, it would certainly lead to panic and possibly incite violence. Twitter is also dangerously viral, as I see the same hyped or bogus rumor repeated verbatim in tweet after tweet.

--My family and I are fine. I would say normal, but we are talking about my family...

A journalist's-eye view of the Ugandan presidential election

I received the following email today from a Fort Portal, Uganda radio journalist who attended one of my peace journalism workshops. Her perspectives on the election and peace journalism are enlightening.

Here is her email:

In this part of the country (western Uganda), it was very free and fair and there was no chaos or violence anywhere. I am sure it was all because most journalists were trained and aware of what and how to handle the elections. I am sure your work greatly contributed to this peaceful election countrywide.

(Photo: Fort Portal is surrounded by beautiful, fragrant tea plantations).

There was tight security because they expected some chaos because the two parliamentary contestants were of different tribes. One is a retired col. who likes violence and is most feared. so tribal clashes were expected but they did not happen. As peace journalists we are using the radio to educate the masses about the dangers of such clashes.

...The MPs that lost in this region met on Sunday after elections in a closed meeting but invited me and another journalist to be there. They discussed things like forming a pressure group and lots more. Today one of the defeated MP's (members of parliament) sent me a message on my breakfast show (morning radio program) saying that I should inform his supporters that, "We seem to have lost the battle, but not lost the war. The struggle continues." This made me feel so bad. I instead criticized such acts with out mentioning his name but just told my listeners that they should not even associate themselves with anything similar to violence.

I am sure I will exercise all my abilities as a peace journalist.

--From a radio journalist, Fort Portal, Uganda, February, 2011

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