NewsEast & Horn AfricaTensions rise in Uganda ahead of polls


Posted on Tuesday, 09 February 2016 12:07

Tensions rise in Uganda ahead of polls

By Godfrey Olukya

Tensions are rising in Uganda ahead of a potentially tight presidential election amid concerns that growing use of hate language by politicians could fuel post-election violence.

Ugandans will vote in parliamentary and presidential elections on February 18 where long serving President Yoweri Museveni will run for another term. Museveni will face seven other candidates including perennial opponent Kizza Besigye.

We have noted that there is a prevailing situation where candidates use hate speech against one another

The candidates have accused each other of plotting to rig the elections, raising fears of post-election violence in the country.

One of the groups monitoring the campaigns – the Inter Religious Council of Uganda – bemoaned "intimidation and threats of violence being exhibited by some supporters and candidates."

Mufti of Uganda Shiekh Shahban Mubajje said the group had "received reports of intimidation between supporters of the presidential candidates and also between supporters and security forces."

"Cases of fighting have been cited," he said. "We condemn all such acts." Hundreds of election-violence related cases have been reported around the country by the police.

"Tearing and defacing of opponents' posters have become rampant although it is categorically said by police it is illegal and several culprits have been arrested," said senior police officer Henry Odyek said.

At one of his rallies, Besigye told his "supporters to guard our votes jealously so that they are not stolen as has been the case in the past elections". Museveni also told his supporters that " the opposition wants to rig the elections."

Mubajje urged all "Ugandans to follow the law and always endeavour to use good language."

Launching an anti-violence campaign, "let peace prevail", Uganda's National NGO Forum director Richard Ssewakiryanga, expressed concern over the use of hate speech by candidates.

"We have noted that there is a prevailing situation where candidates use hate speech against one another, it might cause violence during or after election," he said.

Meanwhile, some foreigners are reportedly leaving Uganda temporarily fearing post-election violence.

A number of Ugandans in the capital, Kampala have also started stocking up food and other basics ahead of the elections.

"Some of the Asians have gone to their relatives in Kenya and Tanzania while others have flown to their countries in Asia," a Kampala-based city councillor, Richard Ntulume said.

Patel Sanjal, an Indian national said he had been informed of threats of attacks on foreign nationals should the ruling party win the elections, due to a widespread belief that most Asians support Museveni.

"It is common for us to leave whenever elections are taking place because our lives are threatened," Patel said. "We come back later after the elections".

Museveni and his National Resistance Movement have been in power for 30 years.

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