Soldiers of Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and other security operatives yesterday grabbed voter registers from a number of polling agents in Entebbe Municipality and took over management of the mayoral elections.
Both Opposition and the ruling NRM party officials accused the army of meddling in elections and intimidating their supporters at the polling stations.
A journalist with BBS TV and CBS FM, Mr George Kakooza, who was following the events at the different polling stations, was beaten by security operatives at Banga-Nakiwogo Polling Station. They took away his phones, identification documents and tore his press jacket.
His pleas that he was a journalist accredited to cover the elections fell on deaf ears as soldiers rained blows on him for close to 30 minutes before letting him go with serious injuries.
The incumbent Entebbe Municipal mayor and Democratic Party candidate, Mr Vincent Kayanja De Paul, said the soldiers’ actions are a slap on the face of democracy.
He said the soldiers have no mandate to access voter registers, which are a preserve of polling officials and appointed party agents.
“We have a challenge in polling areas that have soldiers as voters. These army officers are trampling on the rights and powers of polling agents and their candidates,” Mr Kayanja said shortly after casting his vote at Katabi-Busambaga Polling Station.
He said at some polling stations such as Banga-Nakiwogo and Calvary Chapel, soldiers grabbed voter registers from the polling agents.
“This intimidation must stop,” Mr Kayanja charged.
Mr Michael Mutebi Kabwama, a mayoral candidate on the NRM party ticket, also condemned the army for intimidating his agents.
“Army officers have kept on sabotaging my campaigns until Election Day in favour of my political opponent. The army has no mandate to control these elections. They have intimidated my agents, but no one is above the law,” he said after casting his vote at Kitubulu Playground in Katabi.
The only female candidate in the Entebbe mayoral race, Ms Olive Nassuna of National Unity Platform said whatever the outcome of elections, she will abide by it.
Six candidates are contesting for the Entebbe mayoral seat. They are Mr Vincent Kayanja Depaul (DP), Ms Olive Nassuna (NUP), Mr Mohammed Kawuma (Independent), Mr Fabrice Rulinda (Independent), Mr Michael Mutebi (NRM) and Kenneth Ssimbwa (ANT).
The UPDF and Defence spokesperson, Brig Flavia Byekwaso, said what the soldiers did in Entebbe was wrong and added that the army would investigate their officers’ actions. “I don’t think that’s the army’s work to withdraw these registers from polling agents. We are carrying out investigations because they aren’t supposed to involve themselves in politics,” she said.