UGANDA COUNTS VOTES; OPPOSITION CRIES FOUL
--Reports of scattered violence centered in East; Kampala quiet
10:00PM ELECTION DAY—NTV and UBC networks have begun announcing individual precinct vote totals which show President Museveni with a very early lead. Final, certified results are expected Saturday night or Sunday, although the consensus is that Museveni is a shoo-in.
There were reports of scattered violence this afternoon, although things seem to have calmed down tonight. All of the most serious incidents occurred in Mbale district in Eastern Uganda. NTV interviewed a Mbale reporter riding in an MP’s car when the reporter was shot, reportedly by the army. The Independent newspaper writes that there were injuries and one death in Sironko in Eastern Uganda. In a separate incident in Mbale district, three people died and four were injured after being stuck by a fleeing government minister’s car, according to the Monitor newspaper. There have been no reports of violence in Kampala, though the army has been heavily deployed in the city.
I have heard no reports today about irresponsible media or media-induced or exacerbated violence. This includes the media monitoring section on Uganda Watch, an SMS election monitoring tool. Since preventing media induced violence is the goal of our Peace Journalism project, this preliminary report is very gratifying.
TV and newspapers reported about unsealed ballot boxes, late or absent polling materials and personnel, names missing from voting rolls, and chaos at some polling places. According to the Monitor, Electoral Commission Chairman Badru Kiggundu apologized for the election “hiccups”, arguing that Uganda is a growing democracy. Meanwhile, European Union observers have expressed their disappointment in the general election. “The impression is that the process is not systematic,” EU chief observer Edward Scicluna told the Monitor. He told NTV that election precinct officials showed “ignorance” that reflected “a lack of training.”
The opposition is already crying foul. The FDC party told the Monitor, “The election process as has been witnessed has been characterized by electoral flaws. [There has been] mass rigging for the president.”
On a personal note, my wife, son, and I hunkered down safely in our apartment. We’re fine. As a political junkie, I’ll probably be up half the night watching election returns.
--Next Update—8-9am Kampala time Saturday morning--
5:00PM ELECTION DAY—An NPR report today discusses numerous delays and long lines of voters. News24 reports on missing ballots in Rubaga, and implies that the delays may be deliberately designed to disenfranchise opposition voters. Uganda’s NTV calls the Rubaga problems “anomolies” involving unsealed ballot boxes. Radio CBS Kampala reports three hour waits to vote in the Masaka area. One recent Twitter message details long lines late this afternoon in Kasubi, Lungujja, and Ggaba. However, The Standard (Kenya) writes that all voting materials and officials were ready to go on time this morning in Eastern districts. (Photo--Patient Kampala voters today. Source--AP)
The Times (South Africa) writes that the Ugandan government is censoring SMS messages today that might incite the public, including editing out words like “Tunisia, Egypt, Tear Gas, and People Power”.
There are several reports of scattered violence, but nothing seemingly organized or systematic. The New Vision website reports there was gunfire in the Budadiri region, but doesn’t mention any injuries. In Sironko and Moroto, two unconfirmed Uganda Watch SMS messages indicate possible violent incidents. In the East, a Uganda Watch report also indicates beatings and injuries in Mbale district. These are confirmed by NTV, which interviewed a photojournalist who says he was beaten by security forces in Budadiri. NTV says one person was killed in Mbale district, but offered few details. An NTV reporter says there is a heavy military presence in the streets of Mbale town, and that “people are scared”. In the North, The New Vision reports 11 were arrested in Apac for “allegedly beating up people”. There are no reports of violent incidents in Kampala. Our neighborhood remains quiet except for the screaming toddler next door. We’re all just fine.
NOON ELECTION DAY--A few bumps are being reported. Uganda Watch (a text message based system wherein citizens report voting irregularities) is reporting several unconfirmed, isolated violent incidents—one shooting, and several cases of government supporters allegedly beating up opponents. It’s important to note that these incidents are unverified. NTV reported some delays in voting in Jinja and Moroto because of late-arriving ballots. Also, 18 were arrested in Lira with machetes in their hands and hundreds of dollars in their pockets for allegedly bribing and intimidating voters. Meanwhile, the New York Times has an interesting piece about Uganda and the election. As for the local newspaper websites, nothing has been updated yet today. Pretty lame. Everything seems very quiet here in our Kampala neighborhood.
9:00AM ELECTION DAY--So far, so good…Ugandans began heading to the polls at 7:00 am today to elect a president and parliamentary representatives. NTV reports that some rain in eastern districts has “disorganized” the voting process, while in Masaka some voters are confused by the ballot. Uganda Watch (a text message based system wherein citizens report voting irregularities) is reporting some intimidating tactics by the Ugandan army. The Daily Monitor newspaper reports similar intimidation in Gulu in northern Uganda, where security forces have virtually taken over the city. I also have received a similar report from a journalist colleague, who has observed the army “flooding” areas near polling stations in western districts. Most importantly, at this point, there have been no reports of violence.