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Uganda Opposition Fears 'Intimidation' Ahead of February 18 Vote

  • Peter Clottey

Uganda's main opposition leader and Inter Party flag bearer, Dr. Kiiza Besigye, addresses his supporters at Masaka Lyantonde, about 200 kms west of Kampala capital Uganda. Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010

The national chairperson of Uganda’s main opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Women’s League said President Yoweri Museveni’s government has, in her words, strategically employed state security agencies to systematically intimidate and harass opponents ahead of next Friday’s presidential and parliamentary vote.

Ingrid Turinawe, who is also a parliamentary candidate for Rukungiri district, told VOA the composition of the electoral commission poses a herculean task for the opposition parties ahead of the February 18th poll.

“We are getting used to what is happening here, intimidating voters, using security organs to tear (down) our campaign posters, beating up supporters, beating up journalists and it’s actually a strategy for him (Mr. Museveni) to either win or rig the election.”

But, supporters of the ruling National Resistance Movement have denied the accusations as baseless and without merit.

Ugandan opposition groups have rejected previous election results saying the electoral commission is biased towards President Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) party – a charge supporters of the ruling party deny.

President Museveni’s opponents have expressed concern that his re-appointment of the same members of the electoral commission that organized the previous two elections will undermine the credibility of the vote.

Turinawe denied accusations the opposition is arming militias to cause instability ahead of the election.

“I don’t think the opposition is forming militia groups to counteract (government) intimidation because President Museveni is using the strong hand of government to intimidate people and, obviously, you can’t fight with all those security organs,” Turinawe said.

“He (Mr. Museveni) is using the army, he is using the police, he is training the local police, he is training the youth, militias and we actually don’t know what is going to happen in the next (few) days remaining till voting day.”

They say next week’s vote will be rigged unless there is an independent electoral commission that is determined to organize a credible vote.

“The beauty of it is that the population is like fed-up (and) they are now ready to face whatever comes. They are saying shedding blood or dying for peace and democracy, they are ready to die. It’s like this time around they are ready to protect their votes, I think they will fight back,” said Turinawe.

“The situation on the ground gives us hope that the people will make a strong decision and protect their votes.”