Voting in Uganda plagued by delays as social media is shut down

KAMPALA, Uganda - Amid delays blamed on slow delivery of voting materials, Ugandans cast ballots Thursday in presidential elections amid a shutdown of some social media sites.

See Full Article

A top international election observer called the delays "worrying."

Even at noon, five hours after voting was supposed to start, some polling stations in the capital, including a major one, still had not received any voting papers. People had formed long lines and ballot boxes had arrived mid-morning, but still there were no ballots, so no one could vote.

President Yoweri Museveni faces a strong challenge from Kizza Besigye, who has called Museveni a dictator and said he doubts that voting will be free or fair.

"If the election is free and fair we will be the first people to respect it, even if we are not the winner," Besigye said Thursday at a polling station in his rural home of Rukungiri. "But where it is not a free and fair election then we must fight for free and fair elections because that is the essence of our citizenship."

Many people complained of an apparent shutdown of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook when they couldn't open those sites on their computers and phones.

Godfrey Mutabazi, the head of the Uganda Communications Commission, said the network failure was likely due to an ongoing operation to contain a security threat.

"It's a security matter and I cannot answer on behalf of security," he told The Associated Press.

Some observers suspected it was to keep people from publicly griping about the late delivery of voting materials.

More than 15 million people are registered to vote, for members of parliament as well as president. Many waited under the hot sun to vote at polling stations that at mid-day were still not functioning.

"These cases are worrying because every citizen of Uganda has the right to vote," said Eduard Kukan of Slovakia, chief of the European Union's election observer mission. "And if they are prevented by this kind of method then it would have to be criticized, because it would mean that they didn't manage organizing of the elections the right way."

Some ballot boxes had missing lids. Voting officials frantically made calls.

"We are late simply because the lids for ballot boxes are not here. The boxes and the lids should have arrived at the same time," said Moses Omo, an official who was presiding over voting at a Catholic church in the central Ugandan district of Wakiso.

Many of those waiting said they would not leave without voting.

"This is very disappointing but I am going to stay here under the sun until it is my turn to vote," said Fred Mubiru, a taxi driver. "Nothing will discourage me."

Although opinion polls had shown Museveni to be ahead of his opponents, analysts expect this election to be his toughest yet, citing the massive crowds Besigye attracted across the country.

Museveni, 71, remains popular in some parts of rural Uganda, where he is seen as a father figure and is beloved by those who remember his time as a guerrilla leader fighting a dictatorship.

He came to power in 1986 and pulled Uganda out of years of chaos. He is widely credited with restoring peace and presiding over economic growth, and is a key U.S. ally on security matters, especially in Somalia. But his critics worry that he may want to rule for life, and accuse him of using the security forces to intimidate the opposition.

Besigye, 59, is running for the fourth time against Museveni. He campaigned on a promise to run a more effective government, vowing to stem official corruption. He said he will continue "the struggle" in other ways if he loses, suggesting a protest movement similar to the one that followed the last election in 2011. That movement was violently put down by security forces.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said a weak "human rights situation seriously undermines the prospects of free and fair elections and the ability of Ugandans to exercise fundamental human rights such as free expression, assembly, and association."

The Committee to Protect Journalists has also reported "a worsening pattern of harassment and intimidation of journalists" in Uganda.

Ahead of the polls, there has been a heavy security presence in Kampala, with heavily armed police patrolling the streets and armoured vehicles parked at key junctions.


Latest Canada & World News

  • Ontario man died in agony after nursing home neglected bed sore, lawsuit alleges

    Canada News CTV News
    A 68-year-old man spent his last days in agony after a Toronto nursing home neglected to treat a massive, oozing bed sore on his behind, a planned class-action lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit against Revera Nursing Homes, one of the biggest long-term care companies in Canada, alleges that Arthur Ross Jones did not receive proper care and was often neglected by nursing home staff. Source
  • Finance Minister Morneau to deliver economic update on Nov. 1

    Canada News CBC News
    Finance Minister Bill Morneau is to deliver his fall economic update to the House of Commons on Nov. 1. These updates typically contain little more than fresh economic and fiscal projections, although in the past they have included budgetary measures. Source
  • Man convicted of biting off fellow mourner’s nose at drunken Nova Scotia wake

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    PICTOU, N.S. — A Nova Scotia judge has convicted a man of aggravated assault for biting off part of a fellow mourner’s nose in a drunken brawl at a wake. Judge Del Atwood found Randall Edwin MacLean guilty of aggravated assault, but made it clear many people behaved badly at the 2014 wake in downtown Pictou, N.S. Source
  • Quebec Court of Appeal rules Montreal can appeal judgment on pit bulls

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- The City of Montreal has been granted permission to appeal a lower court ruling that suspended its controversial pit bull restrictions. Quebec's top court will allow the city to present arguments Nov. Source
  • Woman facing deportation issues plea to stay in country she considers home

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    HALIFAX — A 33-year-old woman facing deportation to the U.K. pleaded Thursday to be allowed to stay in the country she considers home, a day before a hearing that may shed light on her fate. Propped up in a hospital bed as she recovers from surgery, Fliss Cramman said she is terrified of being sent back to England, where she was born but left with her family at the age of eight. Source
  • Breaking Bad fanatic killed cop, dissolved body in acid after Grindr meet: Prosecution

    World News Toronto Sun
    A man “obsessed” with Breaking Bad allegedly strangled a cop then got rid of his body in an acid bath after inviting him to a “hot, dirty, sleazy” sex party. A British court was told that Italian Stefano Brizzi, 50, met PC Gordon Semple, 59, on gay dating app Grindr. Source
  • Half-mile ice cream sundae sets record in Michigan

    World News Toronto Sun
    LUDINGTON, Mich. — Guinness World Records says a roughly half-mile-long ice cream sundae that was gobbled up in Michigan this June was the longest ever. The Ludington Daily News reports that the sundae measuring a little over 2,970 feet in length and fed thousands of people lining eight blocks in the Lake Michigan town. Source
  • Tech issues mean no online literacy test for Ont. high school students

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Tens of thousands of Ontario high school students were unable to take their first online literacy test Thursday because of widespread technical issues. The Education Quality and Accountability Office pulled the plug on the "voluntary" online test for which most of the province's 900 secondary schools had signed up Online literacy test cancelled in Ontario due to widespread technical issueso participate. Source
  • Construction must begin on road after isolated reserve's ferry breaks down: chief

    Canada News CTV News
    SHOAL LAKE, Man. -- The chief of an isolated reserve under one of Canada's longest boil-water advisories says construction on a road linking his community to the outside world must begin now. Shoal Lake 40 First Nation straddles the Ontario-Manitoba boundary and was cut off from the mainland a century ago to build an aqueduct which supplies fresh water to Winnipeg. Source
  • Judge calls for changes to pool supervision after boy drowns

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON -- An Edmonton judge says more changes are needed to protect children in swimming pools following the death of a seven-year-old boy. A fatality inquiry report says there have been several improvements based on earlier investigations into the drowning at O'Leary Leisure Centre in July 2012. Source