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Ugandan police fire teargas at voters angered by delays

© FRANCE 24 screengrab | Ugandan police fire teargas at a crowd of angry voters on Thursday, February 18, 2015.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-02-18

Ugandan police fired tear gas to disperse angry voters Thursday in the capital Kampala as the local election commission apologised for hours-long delays in delivering ballot papers for presidential and parliamentary elections.

Voting was due to begin at 7am (4am GMT) but was stalled for several hours in some polling stations in the city and surrounding Wakiso district when ballot boxes and papers did not arrive on time.

The capital traditionally shows strong support for the opposition.

Reporting from the Kabalagala neighbourhood of Kampala, FRANCE 24’s Duncan Woodside said voters there were yet to cast their ballots at noon despite having queued since 7am.

There were scuffles in the Ggaba neighbourhood when voters were finally handed voting papers after a seven-hour wait, only to find that the ballots were for parliamentary elections but not the presidential vote.

Police fired teargas, leading polling officers to abandon the station with no votes cast.

"There has been a delay in delivery of polling materials in some parts of Wakiso district and Kampala capital city. The Electoral Commission regrets the delay," the commission said in a statement.

"The polling materials have now been delivered to all these places and polling has commenced in most of the places."

Delays 'intentional'

More than 15 million people are registered to vote, for members of parliament as well as president.

President Yoweri Museveni is widely predicted to win a fifth term at the presidential and parliamentary elections, though he faces an unusually strong challenge from former ally Kizza Besigye.

Some frustrated voters accused the authorities of deliberately stalling the vote.

"People are quite angry and everybody is believing that there is something wrong behind this because of the way they are delaying things," Moses Omony, a motorbike taxi driver, told AFP.

"We know this has been done intentionally," said Marius Nkata, a builder.

The election commission meanwhile appealed for patience, saying it "calls on candidates, their agents and supporters, to be calm and tolerant as always during the polling process".

There were also complaints of an apparent shutdown of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook when they couldn't open those sites on their computers and phones.

Godfrey Mutabazi, the head of the Uganda Communications Commission, said the network failure was likely due to an ongoing operation to contain a security threat.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

Date created : 2016-02-18

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