Thousands gather at a rally in support of President Yoweri Museveni in Kisaasi, a suburb of Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 16, 2016. (Photo: J. Craig / VOA)
Thousands gather at a rally in support of President Yoweri Museveni in Kisaasi, a suburb of Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 16, 2016. (Photo: J. Craig / VOA)

Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda has assured Ugandans that Thursday’s presidential and parliamentary elections will be peaceful. He urged all registered Ugandans to turn out in droves.

The prime minister’s appeal comes as fears mount that Thursday’s vote could turn violent. But Rugunda said there is no cause to alarm.

“I personally encourage and the government encourages all the registered voters to turn out in big numbers to ensure that they vote for party and candidates of their choice and for parties of their own choice,” he said.

The reassurances come as reports say many Ugandans are fearful the elections could turn violent.

Ugandan police Tuesday blocked main opposition candidate Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and his supporters from accessing parts of Kampala to hold their party’s final rally before Thursday’s vote. 

Prime Minister Rugunda described the incident as regrettable but says Besigye and his supporters were not supposed to campaign through the central business district of the capital.

“Besigye was going to the business district which was not part of the program and the [pre-determined] route that he was supposed to take, and the police said no you cannot come in the central business district because this will disturb the active business environment. Continue to take the route that you and the police had agreed on. So that was the incidence. It is regretted but came as the result of insistence on passing through a route that was not in the plan and not agreed upon with the police personnel,” Rugunda said.

Local media have reported that while insisting that Besigye could not campaign through the Kampala business district, the police have not enforced the same law when incumbent President Yoweri Museveni has done the same.?

Presidential candidate Kizza Besigye was flanked b
Presidential candidate Kizza Besigye was flanked by supporters as he made his way through the suburb of Ntinda, Uganda, Feb. 16, 2016. (Photo: Lizabeth Paulat for VOA)

Prime Minister Rugunda said the police have been implementing the law, but there have been some instances where they have allowed some candidates to conclude their rallies beyond required time.

“The police officers who are in charge may sometime allow some candidates conclude their meetings, but all in all respect for time and the regulation about the election is indeed what has been followed by the candidates,” Rugunda said.

“The elections in Uganda are very competitive. The campaigns have been going at least for the last three months. They have been basically peaceful, and the elections tomorrow will be peaceful.  The government and its agencies are ready to ensure that peace is kept and people vote without fear, without intimidation and select candidates of their choice, and therefore there is cause to alarm,” he said.

Local media report Besigye concluded his campaign Tuesday by urging his supporters to vote early and protect the vote. He said he had garnered enough support to win the election.

“Get to the polling stations early and ensure that by midday all our votes have been cast,” Besigye said, according to the local Daily Monitor newspaper.

He reportedly urged his supporters to stay at the polling stations until the results have been declared.

Seven candidates, including former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi are vying to unseat President Museveni who has been in power for 30 years. This is Besigye’s fourth campaign for president.

The NRM's colors were on prominent display at Pres
The NRM's colors were on prominent display at President Yoweri Museveni's last rally in Kisaasi, a suburb of Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 16, 2016. (Photo: L. Paulat for VOA)