Uganda vote will go ahead with or without observers, says commission

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Thursday’s tense presidential election in Uganda will go ahead but with or without observers, the electoral commission said a day before the vote.

The US embassy in Uganda has cancelled plans to observe the vote as accreditations were denied. Ambassador Natalie E. Brown expressed “profound disappointment” in a statement saying more than 75% of the accreditations requested had been denied.

The vote is seen as a two-horse race between incumbent long time President Yoweri Museveni, 76, and pop star turned politician Bobi Wine, who is half the president’s age.

“You can turn up or you can’t turn up if you don’t want, it’s too bad that you have said you are not coming to participate,” said Justice Simon Byabakama, Uganda Electoral Commission Chairman.

“The elections must take place as planned and organised… Yes, observers play an important role. We are not saying they don’t play an important role but in the final analysis, the elections must and shall proceed,” he added.

Campaigning has been marred by violence and the arrests of opposition candidates for breaching coronavirus regulations.

Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, said soldiers raided his home Tuesday morning and arrested his security guards. He also urged his supporters not to be intimidated by the security forces.

Uganda’s government has repeatedly alleged that foreigners are working in support of the opposition.

“Free and fair” vote

The chairman of Uganda’s Electoral Commission said all materials had been dispatched for the vote.

Byabakama said: “The commission urges all stakeholders to conduct themselves in a tolerant, peaceful and tranquil manner, and participate in the final activities of this election in accordance with the guidelines and the law to ensure that we achieve a free and fair exercise.”

Uganda’s government has repeatedly alleged that foreigners are working in support of the opposition.

Ugandan polls are often marred by allegations of rigging and militarisation.

The country has never seen a peaceful transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1962.

Museveni, who took office in 1986 was once hailed in the West as a model African leader committed to good governance. He ranks among the world’s longest-serving and, increasingly, authoritarian rulers.

In his 35-year reign Museveni has fused state and party so effectively, and crushed political opposition so totally, that any serious challenge to either him or his National Resistance Movement is impossible.

Some 18 million people have registered to vote in Uganda’s general elections tomorrow, in which General Yoweri Museveni is hoping to extend his 35-year reign.

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