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.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Judge to hold hearing on stopping Wisconsin recount

    World News CTV News
    MADISON, Wis. -- A federal judge is set to consider halting Wisconsin's presidential recount. Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by more than 22,000 votes in the state. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein requested the recount to determine if election machines were hacked. Source
  • Alabama executes man convicted of killing store clerk

    World News CTV News
    ATMORE, Ala. - A man convicted of killing a convenience store clerk more than two decades ago in Alabama was put to death Thursday night, after two brief delays by the U.S. Supreme Court. Ronald Bert Smith Jr. Source
  • Woman accused of killing twin in Hawaii due in court

    World News CTV News
    ALBANY, N.Y. -- A woman accused of killing her twin sister by driving their SUV off a cliff in Hawaii is expected to clear the way for her extradition from upstate New York. Alexandria Duval is expected to waive her right to an extradition hearing in an Albany court on Friday morning. Source
  • Hillary Clinton blasts 'epidemic of malicious fake news'

    World News CBC News
    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called "fake news" a danger that must be addressed quickly, in a rare public appearance on Thursday, a month after she lost the presidential election in a campaign marked by a flood of such propaganda. Source
  • Indonesian president vows to rebuild after deadly quake

    World News CTV News
    TRINGGADING, Indonesia - Indonesia's president travelled to areas devastated by a magnitude 6.5 earthquake and vowed that torn-apart communities would be rebuilt. Stopping Friday morning at a collapsed mosque in Tringgading not far from the quake's epicenter, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gave money to people who had lost family members. Source
  • Elderly fraudster sentenced to three years in prison for bilking women, businessmen

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    A 70-year-old fraudster who "bamboozled" $315,000 from five Albertans, including a disabled Wetaskiwin woman who ended up losing her home, was put behind bars Thursday. Gary Richard Walker was sentenced to three years in prison after earlier pleading guilty in Edmonton's Court of Queen's Bench to five counts of fraud relating to bogus investment schemes. Source
  • Lethal mistake leads to harrowing ambush in Mosul

    World News CTV News
    IRBIL, Iraq -- As Iraqi forces advanced toward the al-Salam hospital in Mosul earlier this week, encountering only light resistance from Islamic State fighters, commanders decided to seize the facility instead of sweeping the neighbourhoods along the road leading to it. Source
  • Video shows struggle, then shooting that paralyzed Iowa man

    World News Toronto Sun
    CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — An unarmed black driver struggled with an Iowa officer and a police dog before the officer shot the motorist as he tried to get away in his pickup truck, paralyzing him, dashcam video released Thursday shows. Source
  • Bolivian official breaks silence about air crash in Colombia

    World News CTV News
    LA PAZ, Bolivia -- A Bolivian aviation official who signed off on the flight plan for a chartered aircraft that crashed in the Andes is breaking her silence and accusing her bosses of trying to stage a coverup. Source
  • Official accuses bosses of cover up in crash that wiped out soccer team

    World News Toronto Sun
    LA PAZ, Bolivia — A Bolivian official who signed off on the flight plan for a chartered aircraft that crashed in the Andes is breaking her silence and accusing her bosses of trying to stage a coverup. Source