NAIROBI/MITYANA. — Much is expected from Uganda as the country goes to the polls tomorrow.
As Ugandans go to the polls this week, its neighbours will be watching in the hope that the country will teach the rest of the region a lesson or two on how to manage elections peacefully and credibly.
Of course, the people of Uganda themselves must decide whether they will vote for continuity or change, but it is important that their choice be respected and that when the results are announced, their voice will truly have been heard.
Coming just months after the Tanzanian elections, all eyes in the East African Community — indeed, the entire continent — will be on Uganda and its election officials. It is not enough for African countries to be seen to be holding elections. It is important that the results of those elections be seen to reflect the will of their people.
Whatever the outcome of this week’s election in Uganda, the rest of Africa is looking for the renewal of the promise to make life better for citizens, to secure peace, to improve the economy and to spread the benefits of critical social services, especially to the poor and the marginalised.
Meanwhile, Uganda tightened security in anticipation of election violence.
Ugly scenes played out yesterday as police blocked an opposition presidential candidate Kizza Besigye from leading a procession through the city centre. Police argued that the procession would disrupt business in the central business district.
At the end of the running battles between the police and the opposition supporters, one person had died and several others had been injured. Police figures show that 19 people had been injured, one person killed and 22 suspects had been arrested.
“With one more day of campaigns, we shall continue securing the electoral environment, free from abuse for all voters, candidates, and the general public,” Fred Enanga, police spokesperson said in a statement late on Monday.
Tomorrow’s election is one of Uganda’s much anticipated poll as the incumbent Yoweri Museveni will face off with two main presidential candidates, Besigye and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.
Museveni has been in power for over 30 years.
Kiryowa like many other Ugandans pray that such election violence scenes should not be allowed to continue because they will take the country back to its violent past where thousands of people died and other were made homeless.
“I would appeal to the current government that if it loses elections it should accept the results. Similarly, the opposition must also accept defeat if Museveni wins them,” Kiryowa, a father of seven children and five grandchildren said.
As the campaigns for the general elections closed yesterday, security in and around the capital had been beefed up.
Armed security personnel both military and police are patrolling the streets to prevent possible election violence.
Police over the last several weeks warned that those intending to perpetrate violence would face legal consequences. The warnings followed opposition candidates forming vigilante groups which they said are meant to protect their votes.
The opposition has also cried foul arguing that the police recruiting crime preventer is aimed at intimidating their supporters. Every village is supposed to have crime preventers.
For the first time in the country’s election, a biometric identifying system, considered more effective in combating fraud, will be used.
Although voters will be expected to present their National Identity Cards and voters slip, those who do not have them but are on the national voters register will be allowed to vote, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). Voters can only vote at the polling stations where they are registered.
Over 15,2 million voters are expected to cast their votes, according to the IEC. — Daily Nation/Xinhua.