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Uganda Group Demands Inquiry into Alleged Voter List Tampering

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - Uganda opposition leaders, from left to right: Forum for Democratic Change, Dr. Kizza Besigye, former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Democratic Party President Norber Mao meet at the Democratic Alliance office in Kampala, Sept. 18, 2015.

FILE - Uganda opposition leaders, from left to right: Forum for Democratic Change, Dr. Kizza Besigye, former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Democratic Party President Norber Mao meet at the Democratic Alliance office in Kampala, Sept. 18, 2015.

The Inter-Religious Council of Uganda has called for an independent investigation into allegations that the voter list to be used for the February 18 general election is not credible, saying it has been tampered with to benefit incumbent President Yoweri Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement.

The council made the call after former Prime Minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who also is an independent presidential candidate, alleged that the police and the soldiers from the Uganda People's Defense Force had teamed up to alter the voter list.

"They have a register in every village and have been going around trying to ascertain those who are there and who are not. … It is being stealthily done," Mbabazi alleged.

Joshua Kitakule, general secretary of the IRCU, said there is a need for calm.

He also called for dialogue among the government, opposition groups and other stakeholders in a bid to ease tension ahead of next month's presidential, parliamentary and local elections.

"We are calling on the police and the electoral commission to investigate those allegations thoroughly to ensure that we have a credible election,” Kitakule said. “Because if that is not done, it creates suspicion and can lead to mistrust, and then that can turn into violence.”

Accusations abound

Opposition and civil society groups have accused the police and other security agencies of using force to intimidate and harass their supporters in a bid to suppress their campaigns.

FILE - A supporter of Uganda's former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi wrestles with the gun of a policeman, as riot police disperse a gathering in Jinja town in eastern Uganda on Sept. 10, 2015. Opposition groups accuse police of harassing voters.

FILE - A supporter of Uganda's former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi wrestles with the gun of a policeman, as riot police disperse a gathering in Jinja town in eastern Uganda on Sept. 10, 2015. Opposition groups accuse police of harassing voters.

They cited recent instances in which opposition supporters were beaten by police officers after an opposition leader went to visit an Internally Displaced Persons camp.

They also said the recent murder of the head of security or Mbabazi is an indication of the length to which the ruling party will go to maintain power.

Supporters of the NRM have rejected the accusations. They said the opposition parties are making excuses as a pretext to prepare the grounds to reject the outcome of the presidential vote, knowing they would lose to Museveni.

Kitakule says continued interaction between the opposition and the government could help ease tensions.

He says the IRCU has been meeting all stakeholders, urging them to encourage supporters to be peaceful to ensure the country's stability is not threatened.

"We have called for dialogue between the opposition and the government and we are very much aware that the prime minister … has been meeting with the head of the opposition in parliament … to discuss some of the contentious issues in the law, and they have made a lot of progress as far as we are concerned," Kitakule said.

He said the IRCU will continue with its collaboration to help avoid violence during the electoral process.

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