Rage as voters are turned away
Reported by FRANK NYAKAIRU, IZAMA ANGELO & PETER NYANZI KAMPALA
THOUSANDS of Ugandans woke up to vote in yesterday's general elections only to be turned away because their names were not on the voters' registers. Ugandans voted yesterday in the first multi-party presidential and parliamentary elections after 26 years.
Early voting appeared calm, with long lines at the outdoor polling stations despite some delays and thunderstorms. Voting started late in some polling stations in the capital, Kampala and the eastern town of Jinja due to the late arrival of election materials.
In Kampala, there were complaints that the ink used at the polling stations was substandard. Unlike the indelible ink that would take days before it finally washes off, the one used this time round needed one wash and it was gone. Several voters Daily Monitor talked to questioned the quality of the ink.
However, the EC Secretary, Mr Sam Rwakoojo, came out strongly in defence of the ink. "That ink was tested and approved, I have voted and had it on my finger, I have washed my hands twice and I still have it (finger) inked," he said.
In Kampala Central, voters took their complaints to the EC accusing their parish councils of deliberately deleting their names off the register. About 10 enraged voters, all young men stormed the EC headquarters in Kampala to demand for an explanation.
Mr Ssebuliba Hamis, a voter at Munno B, polling station in Kampala was one of those whose names were missing from the register, on the recommendation of the parish tribunals.
Ssebuliba, reg. number, 11169256 did not get any help at the EC. He and others accused their area parish tribunal members of deliberately removing their names from the register because they were opposition supporters. "Mr Abubaker Nsereko, Jamir Nsubuga and Takalinga took our names out," he told Daily Monitor at the EC offices.
Ramadhan Ebrahim, another voter, number 12061011913 said the move was political because he supports the opposition.
"I have lived in that place for 20 years, I have voted in every election including recent referendum and I also verified that my name was still in the register, how come now its off?" Ramadhan asked.
EC lawyers yesterday said the parish tribunals had the power to recommend deletions if there was reasonable grounds on account of their knowledge of the area and its residents.
Section 25 of the Electoral Commission Act 2005, empowers the parish tribunals to recommend the deletion of names from the register. However the decisions of the tribunals, according to the law, are subject to review by the EC. The tribunal consists of a parish chief, one elder, three members of the LC, 11 executive committee members, one of whom must to be a woman.
On the other hand an official at the EC, who declined to be named, said the deletions recommended by the tribunals "came in late" and were sent to the data department where the deletions took place.
In Kireka's Zone A, over athousand voters were turned away. The zone, had seven polling stations, all located in one area. There was congestion and confusion.
"I have been in all these seven lines and my name is not on the registers," said Hadijah Matovu number 01406916. For the bigger part of the day no EC official turned up at the stations as people waited in anger.
Much as the EC had writings stuck on trees directing people to polling stations in alphabetical order, confusion continued. The communication was ignored as hundreds of voters queued on wrong stations and subsequently were turned away.
In Lira district at Church of Uganda Camp polling station 270 voters with registration certificates were tuned away. This follows a register update exercise. There were complaints that the ink was substandard.