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Local observers: what went wrong?

A woman is assisted to vote. Some polling stations had more votes than registered voters, casting doubt at the credibility of the results

The February 18 general election and its aftermath was alarmingly chaotic in most parts of Kampala and the country, some election observers have concluded.

The Citizens Election Observers Network Uganda (CEON-U) listed a catalogue of problematic areas, in a preliminary report released on Friday, February 19. 

The election, according to CEON, was dogged by violence, intimidation, harassment of voters, ballot-stuffing and long delays in arrival of voting materials, among others.  

CEON-U named 25 cases of irregularities. Dr Livingstone Sewanyana, the CEON-U chairman, said most polling stations in Kampala opened late and voting started as late as 3pm and 69 per cent of polling stations didn’t have authorized party agents present during the counting of votes. He noted this during the release of the preliminary election findings at Hotel Africana on Friday.

A woman checks for her name with biometric system to cast her vote

He said some of the problematic areas included Ddungu quarters in Kitintale, Law and Joy polling station in Kampala where the biometric machines failed to work and the seal of the ballot box was already broken when it was delivered. 

At the same polling station, a number of eligible voters were relocated to other polling stations far from their designated centres. Sewanyana said that at Ddungu quarters, many voters were barred from voting because they didn’t have national identification or voter location slips much as their details appeared correctly on the register.

He said at Kyamula Church of Uganda NAM-Z, St Pontiano primary school, Kawempe Muslim SS, Greenhill primary school, Kakungulu Memorial and Kibuli, voting started very late at 1pm. Other polling stations affected include Kyebando Church of Uganda, Makindye primary school, Konge parents school, Kanyanya and Lubowa meeting place. 

“At Bukesa Baptist zone and Muyenga, the biometric machine didn’t function. At Muluka chief’s place polling station, Makindye East, polling materials didn’t arrive until after 1:55pm. At St Henry Muyenga A, the polling station opened at 1:30pm,” Sewanyana noted.

He said most polling stations in Kansanga opened as late as 3pm. The polling station at Kawempe Mbogo Muslim primary school had no voting materials by 1pm.

“At Bugema trading centre, Katale, Nalumunye PS, Nabweru Church of Uganda and Nansana Church of Uganda, voting started at 2pm,” he added.

Sewanyana said voting was called off at Kyebando Umea polling station amid heavy deployment of army and police. 

He also noted that in the western district of Kiruhura at Kinoni sub-county, there were lots of pre-ticked ballot papers in favour of NRM, which were given to voters and forced to stuff them in ballot boxes. However, he said, some voters decided to double tick the ballot papers to invalidate them.

“At Hapiba polling station II, Kanyaryeru sub-county, voters were forced to vote using pre-ticked ballot papers,” Sewanyana said.

He said at Molly and Paul polling station in Makindye division in Kampala, one Moses Watuwa delivered a ballot box full of pre-ticked ballot papers in favour of candidate Yoweri Museveni. He was arrested by voters but he shot his way out. He was later arrested by Katwe police.

Sewanyana said that at St Bruno polling station A-M, Mbuya, voters got rowdy, angry at delays in the delivery of polling materials. The polling station was closed and put under police control.

At Kajjansi B polling station in Wakiso district, he said the polling station was closed after three boxes with pre-ticked ballots of candidates Yoweri Museveni and candidate Peter Ssematimba were found in a vehicle Reg. No. UAN 522H. 

Sewanyana said many stuffed ballot boxes were found with the NRM chairperson of Katabi zone at Kitala polling station, who is now under arrest. 

At Kihanga playground primary school, Rwamucucu sub-county in Kabale, the presiding officer, one Justus Twesigye, was found with pre-ticked ballot papers in favour of the incumbent. 

In Kikoni II primary school in Ntungamo, FDC supporters were beaten by security operatives in police uniforms, Sewanyana said.  At Kabojja coffee factory in Wakiso, materials delayed to arrive and the biometric machines failed to work. Voting materials arrived late and voting started at 2pm.  

Sewanyana said in Naguru, Kampala, Dr Kizza Besigye reported an incident where ballots were pre-ticked in a residential house. 

Sewanyana said the toll-free telephone lines provided by Electoral Commission (EC) were not working and social media platforms as well as mobile money networks were suspended by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).

“This was against the law since article 41 of the constitution allows people freedom of speech and access to information,” he said.

zurah@observer.ug

 

 

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