News / Africa

    Ugandan Presidential Candidate Arrested, Alleges Vote-rigging

    • Police in Kampala leave a polling place with empty ballot boxes, spilling many boxes onto the road as they hastily departed. E. Paulat/VOA
    • Angry voters in Kampala who say they were denied their ballots march on the police line with a Kizza Besigye poster.
    • Two police officers in riot gear talk as the line of angry voters in Kampala advances. E. Paulat/VOA
    • Military police arrived on the scene not long after to secure the area. E. Paulat/VOA
    • Members of the press stand behind a police line as they advance on protesters, moments before tear gas was fired. E. Paulat/VOA
    • Voters run from tear gas fired at them by police (E. Paulat/VOA)
    Ugandan Police Put Down Protest by Angry Voters in Kampala
    Jill Craig

    Police in Uganda briefly arrested presidential candidate Kizza Besigye on Thursday after he tried to enter a house he said was being used for rigging the national elections.

    VOA's Swahili service said Besigye was released later in the day and taken to his home in Kasangati, north of the capital, Kampala.  It was not clear whether he was being placed under house arrest.

    A Ugandan newspaper, the Daily Monitor, said Besigye and a group of supporters accused authorities of pre-marking ballots and manipulating election results in the house, located in a Kampala suburb, Naguru. Police blocked the candidate from getting inside the home.

    With the polls closed, vote tabulation was underway. Ugandans appeared to have turned out in large numbers to cast ballots Thursday for president, parliament and local government seats. More than 15 million Ugandans were registered to vote.

    Poll workers preparing for voters to come inside at Mulago polling station in Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 18, 2016. (J. Craig/VOA)
    Poll workers preparing for voters to come inside at Mulago polling station in Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 18, 2016. (J. Craig/VOA)

    President Yoweri Museveni, in power for 30 years, faced a challenge from seven opponents, most prominently Besigye, who lost to him in three previous elections.

    Uganda's Electoral Commission extended voting by three hours in some parts of Kampala and nearby Wakiso after many polling stations opened late, often because of late-arriving ballot papers.

    Would-be voters mill about a polling station at Makerere University, Feb. 18, 2016. (J. Craig/VOA)
    Would-be voters mill about a polling station at Makerere University, Feb. 18, 2016. (J. Craig/VOA)

    At one station in Kampala, police fired tear gas to disperse angry residents who had waited seven hours in line, only to find there were no ballots for the presidential poll.

    The delays led some voters to question whether the election was being conducted fairly. Makerere University education student Ivan Ssebuliba said, "If this is happening in Kampala, so close to the Electoral Commission, what is going on in the villages?"

    • Voters line up at a polling station just behind the Electoral Commission. Here around 200 names were missing from the voting register, Feb. 18, 2016. (L. Paulat/VOA)
    • Military Police were out in full body armor. Voters say they felt as though their presence was intimidation, Feb. 18, 2016. (L. Paulat/VOA)
    • In the suburb of Kyabando Erisa, voters clash with police over the lack of ballot papers. Many say they are worried their vote won't be counted, Feb. 18, 2016. (L. Paulat/VOA)
    • A woman votes at the National Theatre in the Central Business District of Kampala, Feb. 18, 2016. (L. Paulat/VOA)
    • At the National Theatre, the biometric machine used for voting worked well. Many voters here said they were pleased at how smoothly the system was running, Feb. 18, 2016. (L. Paulat/VOA)
    • Voters in the suburb of Mbuya line up at 7pm. Many said they were excited to vote, Feb. 17, 2016. (L. Paulat/VOA)

    ​At another polling station near the Electoral Commission, polling observer Simon Katum said about 200 voters had been left off the official register.

    Still others were upset by a block on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The head of the Uganda's Communications Commission said the sites were blocked for "security reasons."

    Besigye accused Museveni and the ruling NRM party of using poll-rigging and intimidation of voters to secure victory in the 2006 and 2011 elections.

    As of 7:30 am there had still been no ballots delivered to this polling station at Makerere University, Feb. 18, 2016. (J. Craig/VOA)
    As of 7:30 am there had still been no ballots delivered to this polling station at Makerere University, Feb. 18, 2016. (J. Craig/VOA)

    VOA's Lizabeth Paulat contributed to this report

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    Comment Sorting
    by: Wotabo Kebede from: Nazareth, Ethiopia
    February 19, 2016 2:04 AM
    Elections in Uganda are infected with rigging just like its model country - Ethiopia. Elections are fanfares for the members of the ruling parties to rejoice and embezzle in these regimes. Why spend so much money to imprison innocent opposition party activists and supporters for a predetermined result? The time is ripe for the true African sons and daughters to launch another round of revolution to bring peace, prosperity and and lasting democracy.

    by: Opiyo Joseph. O from: Gulu, Northern Uganda
    February 18, 2016 1:47 PM
    This "Peace" of advice & Not "Piece" of advice goes to National Resistant Movement Party - the so ruling party to evade unlawful practices during this National Election 18 February, 2016. The presidential candidate Yoweri Kakuta Museveni incumbent claims that the Army Forces, Police Forces & other security organs are his private owned security forces & his (Museveni) guns are still in sound & good conditions.

    Well, those are just words & people of Uganda in general perspective are NOT scared to hearing the words my (Museveni) guns, soldiers, etc & it's Not a new thing to them. Even though they don't possess the guns NRM ruling party claims of, they'll get it from NRM ruling party at the time of the battle since the guns don't fire it self but a human person is the one who fires it.

    At worst, the shut down of social media, money transfer, etc during this election can't stop anything when it means & that is weak ideas of the advices which needed to be redress by NRM & it would put more anger to the citizens of Uganda to go into war should the NRM rigged this election.
    In Response

    by: Andrew Gidudu from: Kampala
    February 19, 2016 5:04 AM
    We Ugandans are so so so tired of Museveni....we have lost confidence in the vote because the electoral commission chairman and the other bosses are elected by Museveni..they have rigged the elections with voter bribery at the peak. museveni's men give the poor people in the rural areas $1 to vote him for the next 5 years...rigging is so so honestly cant beat him with the vote. Ugandans...we cant win this dictator on vote, we need to think about other means to remove him from power....facebook, watsup and social networks have all been switched off...dictatorship at the highest peak...we are so ashamed as in East Africa, kenya and Tanzania have democratic governments.

    by: Valery Lomilo from: Uganda
    February 18, 2016 3:19 AM
    Uganda social media has been shut down. Facebook and Twitter are blocked on this election day, reducing the ability of people to communicate. Please investigate if possible how this happened. thanks.

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