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Uganda elections 2021: Bobi Wine takes on Yoweri Museveni

A man holds up a poster on how to mark a ballot paper as people queue at a voting center during the presidential elections in Kampala, Uganda, January 14, 2021.

image copyrightReuters

The internet is blocked and security has been stepped up in Uganda as counting gets under way after polls closed in a hotly contested election.

A 38-year-old singer is challenging Yoweri Museveni, 76, in one of the world’s youngest countries.

Robert Kyagulanyi, known by his stage name Bobi Wine, says he represents the younger generation, while Mr Museveni says he is standing for stability.

Dozens of people have been killed in the run-up to the election.

Polls closed at 16:00 local time (13:00 GMT) but remain open for those still queuing at the time.

Election officials empty a ballot box to count votes after polling stations closed in elections in Kampala, Uganda - 14 January 2021

image copyrightReuters

Some polling stations did not open for close to two hours and voters in the queue had grown angry and had started shouting at the polling gate officials as the cause of the delay was not clear, the BBC’s Patience Atuhaire reports from the capital, Kampala.

As vote counting began, lorries carrying soldiers drove through the city and police and local defence units were also seen patrolling, she says.

Twenty-six people from a coalition of civil society groups have been arrested for allegedly manning an illegal vote-tallying centre at a hotel in the capital.

Ahead of the vote, the electoral commission banned the setting up of alternative polling centres.

Earlier, the police said they intended to deploy officers on rooftops of Kampala during the election period, saying that opposition activists commanded protests from high-rise building in November, when more than 50 people were killed after Bobi Wine was arrested.

Dressed in military fatigues, Mr Museveni gave a stark warning during a televised speech on Tuesday evening: “If you try to disturb peace, you will have yourself to blame. The security forces, following the law, are ready to deal with any troublemaker.”

Results are not expected before Saturday.

As well as being unable to get online, people are even having trouble sending text messages.

Earlier in the week the authorities ordered the blocking of social media, messaging apps and certain sites for virtual private networks (VPNs) which people use to get around social media blocks.

The Ugandan authorities appear to have ordered internet providers to shut down the whole internet at 19:00 local time (16:00 GMT) on the eve of the election, .

In the letter, which we have not verified, the Uganda Communications Commission orders internet providers to “implement a temporary suspension of the operation of all your internet gateways and associated access points”.

While it said the order was temporary, the letter did not state when the suspension should end.

The internet access advocacy group Access Now has urged telecoms providers to challenge the order, saying they should be “”.

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By Catherine Byaruhanga, BBC News, Kampala

Coronavirus guidelines on social distancing and handwashing are proving hard to implement but here in Kibuli, which sits in the shadow of downtown Kampala, everyone queuing up is wearing facemasks.

There are reports that a new biometric system to verify people’s identities is not working in some areas. The electoral commission’s spokesperson would not confirm whether this was because the internet has been cut off.

There are questions about how results from around the country will be transmitted to the national tally centre in Kampala without the internet. The electoral commission told the BBC it has systems in place to do this but didn’t explain further.

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How bad was the violence during the campaign?

Violence has been at an unprecedented level.

Ugandan military forces and police patrol a potholed road in the capital Kampala a day ahead of the presidential elections in Uganda 13 January 2021.

image copyrightEPA

Security forces cracked down on gatherings ahead of the election and dozens have been killed.

The government says the ban on gatherings was to prevent the spread of coronavirus while the opposition say it was a smokescreen for repression.

Bobi Wine and others out of the 10 opposition candidates have been arrested on several occasions.

It depends who you ask.

The government has previously said the election would be free and fair.

But the US cast doubt over the electoral process and withdrew its election observers after most of its accreditation requests were denied.

In response, Mr Museveni’s spokesman that there were observers from the African Union and East African Community.

“I don’t remember when Uganda last sent election observers to the US,” he added.

Bobi Wine has called on voters to remain at polling stations on Thursday and use their mobile phone cameras to record the tallying process in an effort to prevent vote rigging.

Mr Museveni is standing for a sixth elected term in office, as leader of the National Resistance Movement (NRM).

A man walks past elections posters of Uganda"s President Yoweri Museveni on a street in Kampala, Uganda January 12, 2021.

image copyrightRetuers

He came to power on the back of an armed uprising in 1986 and has long been depicted to Ugandans as a liberator and peace bringer.

But he has managed to maintain his grip on power through a mixture of encouraging a personality cult, employing patronage, compromising independent institutions and side-lining opponents, says the BBC’s Patience Atuhaire.

Bobi Wine is widely thought to be the strongest of the 10 opposition candidates in the presidential race.

The 38-year-old reggae star is known by his supporters as the ghetto president.

Bobbi Wine casts his vote on 14 January 2021

image copyrightMunira Hussein

His party, the National Unity Platform (NUP) party campaigns for basic needs like improving access to healthcare, education, clean water and justice.

Over the last two decades Bobi Wine’s musical output has been filled with songs about these issues and they have inspired a fervent following.

He grew up in Kampala’s Kamwokya slum where he went on to build his now world-famous recording studio.

A woman in a mask in front of a mural

AFP

Uganda’s general election

  • 18.1mpeople have registered to vote

  • 11candidates are running for president

  • 1of the candidates is a woman, Nancy Kalembe

  • 5elected terms so far for Yoweri Museveni

  • 50% plus 1votes needed for a candidate to avoid a run-off election

  • 529MPs will also be elected

Source: Uganda electoral commission

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