Kampala. A mixture of tension, optimism and anxiety engulfed Kampala City yesterday as Ugandans prepare to cast their votes in presidential and parliamentary elections tomorrow.
While several Ugandans flooded bus terminals and taxi parks in downtown Kampala to travel upcountry to vote, others said they would remain in the city and wait for the outcome of the elections.
Those remaining in Kampala gave different reasons ranging from work commitments, lack of transport to fear of violence, especially following Monday’s clashes after police blocked rallies of presidential candidate Kizza Besigye.
“Anything can happen on the voting day. I will stock enough food to take me and my family for a week. I will also stock first aid kits, make minimal movements and only drive to town to vote at social security house,” says Ms Irene Laker Luguza, a resident of Magere off Gayaza Road.
However, Mr Rashid Lubega, a resident in Kabowa, Rubaga Division, says he has no plans of staying home despite the uncertainty.
“I can’t leave town. The chaos will find me in town,” Mr Lubega says.
Mr Stuart Oramire, a lawyer and resident of Kyaliwajjala, Kira Municipality, says he does not expect chaos on voting day.
“After casting my vote, I will stay at the polling station and wait for the votes to be counted before driving home,” Mr Oramire says, adding that he expects Kampala to be the most peaceful part of the country.
Mr Amon Nihondiiha, a resident of Bukoto, Nakawa Division, decries the heavy police deployment around the city, which he says has caused tension and anxiety.
Voting day plans
“Since last week, this place has been like a police barracks. When I spoke to some police officers, they said there is no need to fear. They say they were deployed to maintain peace as we prepare to vote,” Mr Nihondiiha says.
Ms Allen Nabaweesi, who was found shopping at Nakumatt Oasis Mall, said she was buying dry rations to carry to Mityana District because she expects violence to break out in Kampala on voting day and after. Mr Shadrack Senyonjo, a resident of Kawaala, Rubaga Division, says security in the city centre and its suburbs cannot be guaranteed until after the elections.
“I plan to remain home and see what will follow after the results are declared. I request everyone to do the same. If violence does not erupt, then everyone will return to work,” Mr Senyonjo says.
However, despite the pessimism, religious leaders have pleaded for restraint.
Mr Joshua Kitakule, the secretary general of the Inter Religious Council of Uganda, cautioned that elections are a one-day event and, therefore, people need to preserve and protect peace. “There will always be a winner and a loser and, therefore, we call upon the winner to respect the loser and the loser to accept results and we move on,” Mr Kitakule said.
The Mufti of Uganda, Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubajje, called for calm both during and after the elections, adding that the opposing groups should remember that we are one nation.
“We are all Ugandans of one nation, and people of the same blood. Politics should not tear us apart, and nobody should hurt another,” said Sheikh Mubajje.
Transport fares rise as thousands head to villages
Thousands of people were yesterday queuing at bus terminals in downtown Kampala to travel to their upcountry homes ahead of voting day.
As early as 6am, travellers had started flocking Qualicel and Kisenyi bus terminals and taxi parks, leading to long queues in the scorching sun.
Those who spoke to Daily Monitor said they registered from their villages and were travelling to vote. Others indicated that it is safer to be in the village than stay in towns which are more prone to violence.
“I came from Nairobi purposely to vote. I have to go early because of what happened yesterday (Monday’s clashes involving police and supporters Dr Besigye). Some people are saying the city is not secure so I have to go in case anything happens,” said Brother Alex Orimwesiga, who was heading to Mbarara District.
Although the bus fares were hiked, this did not deter many travellers.
For instance, those travelling to Mbarara paid Shs30,000, up from Shs15,000.
“There has been an increase in the number of people travelling from Kampala to Mbarara. Buses from Mbarara arrive empty which has led to the increase in fares from Shs15,000 to Shs30,000,” said Mr Jude Tumwine, the Global Coaches manager.
The transport fare from Kampala to Kisoro rose from Shs25,000 to Shs40,000. Transport fares from Kampala to Mbale and Soroti, however, remained at Shs15,000 and Shs20,000 respectively.
By Roland D. Nasasira,Lilian Namagembe & Yonah Ahabwe