Ugandans vote in tense elections

By Pablo Moraga

Kampala, Jan 14 (efe-epa).- Ugandans headed to polling stations Thursday to cast their votes in a contentious election marked by an internet blackout in the African country.

Sitting president Yoweri Museveni is hoping to land his sixth term and extend his 35 years in power but he faces competition from popular music artist turned candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, better known by his stage name Bobi Wine.

More than 34,000 polling stations opened first thing in the morning, although some stations in opposition stronghold areas in Kampala were delayed due to a shortage of material, Efe observed.

Local media reported issues and delays with the electronic devices used to register voter IDs, which rely on the internet.

Uganda’s communications director Irene Ssewankabo late Wednesday ordered the country’s internet providers to temporarily halt access, meaning 44 million Ugandans are spending Thursday without using apps such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

The streets of Kampala and the city’s surrounding area awoke to armed vehicles on patrol, creating an atmosphere of intimidation. The voting process got underway peacefully.

“The soldiers don’t scare me because I am a Ugandan citizen and I have the right to be here and to vote,” Ronald Mutebi, a voter from the suburb of Kamwokya, where Wine was born 38 years ago, tells Efe.

“I want to vote (for a change) because President Museveni has not done anything for the people of my social class or the youth of my generation,” he adds.

Museveni, in power since 1986 and popular among the older generation as a symbol of stability in a country with a tumultuous history of military overthrows and murderous regimes, cast his vote on Thursday and told press he would accept any outcome.

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