SECURING THE VOTE?

Military at Ugandan border points as country holds elections

Business activity in Busia and Malaba towns slow with cross-border movement largely restricted

In Summary
  • Some pedestrians crossing from Kenya into Uganda were required to produce their identity cards before being allowed in.
Hawkersin Malaba town
UNUSUAL BUSINESS: Hawkersin Malaba town
Image: EMOJONG OSERE

 

The Ugandan military was deployed at border entry points of Malaba and Busia to strengthen security as the country held elections on Thursday.

There was a heavy presence of military officers at the Malaba border point when the Star visited on Wednesday and Thursday.

Ugandans went to the polls to elect a president and MPs after campaigns that have been marred with protests and killings. Dozens of opposition supporters and candidates have been arrested.

Ugandan regular police and their counterparts from the Anti-Terrorism Unit were also deployed to man border points.

The move resulted in limited movement of people across the border as security checks were mounted to control pedestrian activity into the landlocked country.

Some pedestrians crossing from Kenya into Uganda were required to produce their identity cards before being allowed in.

A woman in skimpy clothes who was crossing into Uganda was turned away and told to “dress properly” before being allowed to cross over.

On the Kenyan side, business continued normally although traders said activities had slowed for the last two weeks when presidential and parliamentary campaigns intensified.

Malaba Business Owners Association chairman Fred Papa told the Star the business community was closely following the Ugandan election.

He said the deployment of the military had scared away some traders from freely crossing the border.

“Deployment in towns around the border has scared our people and this affects business,” he said.

He said they were hopeful the polls will be peacefully concluded.

Malaba Clearing Agents chairman Kennedy Osiya said the internet shutdown in Uganda had hampered the clearance of cargo which resulted in a long queue of trucks along the Malaba-Bungoma highway.

“The internet has been shut down and we use online systems to clear cargo on the other side. So once the internet is down definitely we are not moving,” Osiya told the Star on the phone.

Uganda shut the internet on Wednesday in what authorities said was meant to block opposition attempts to mobilise their supporters through social media to disrupt peace during and after the elections.

Uganda is Kenya’s number one global trading partner having imported goods worth Sh3.6 billion in May 2020 before the exports earnings from the EAC country shot up to Sh6.4 billion in August, according to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

In June, Kenya’s export earnings from Uganda stood at Sh4.3 billion. In July, Kenya raked in Sh5.6 billion from exports into Uganda.

Ugandans working on the Kenyan side of the border said they would travel home, cast their votes and return to their work stations in Kenya from where they will wait for the election results.

Those who come from far areas in Western, Northern and parts of Central Uganda said they would not travel home to exercise their voting rights. They cited lack of fare as the main reason for the cancellation of travel.

Doreen Akankwasa, a bar attendant in Malaba town, said she would not go home to vote “because the presidential race would be won by Museveni. So there is no need to go and vote.”

President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986, was facing off with closest rival Robert Kyagulani popularly known as Bobi Wine.

The 77-year-old, one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, is facing stiff competition from the Kyadondo East MP.

Bobi Wine holds a diploma in music and drama from Makerere University and has been a musician for more than a decade.

Museveini on Wednesday promised to retire if he is fairly defeated. He said he was ready to retire to his rural Rwakitura home in Mabarara, Western Uganda.

“Uganda is not my house. If I lose election I will go to my house and do my own things if the views of Ugandans don't want me to help them with their issues,” Museveni told CNN.

“I will go and deal with my personal issues very happily.”

The opposition has accused the president of high handedness, citing the killing and arrest of their supporters.

Bobi Wine accused Museveni of using the military and police to brutalise the opposition and scare its supporters from going to vote.

“The military and police are arresting people found distributing appointment letters for our polling agents ahead of tomorrow's election,” he said on Wednesday.

Bobi Wine said he will only accept the results of the presidential election if the exercise will be conducted freely and fairly. There were 11 candidates contesting for the presidency. Nancy Kalembe was the only female candidate.

 

Edited by P.O

By Wednesday evening, there was a long queue of cargo trucks lining up along the Malaba-Bungoma Highway awaiting clearance before entering Uganda.
SLOW ACTIVITY: By Wednesday evening, there was a long queue of cargo trucks lining up along the Malaba-Bungoma Highway awaiting clearance before entering Uganda.
Image: EMOJONG OSERE
A queu of long distance trucks along the Malaba-Bungoma Highway in Amagoro. Such queues have been witnessed for the last one week when campaigns in Uganda intensified.
PATIENT: A queu of long distance trucks along the Malaba-Bungoma Highway in Amagoro. Such queues have been witnessed for the last one week when campaigns in Uganda intensified.
Image: EMOJONG OSERE
The Malaba-Bungoma Highway has seen a long queue of trucks for the past seven days when campaigns hit a notch higher.
SLOW MOVEMENT: The Malaba-Bungoma Highway has seen a long queue of trucks for the past seven days when campaigns hit a notch higher.
Image: EMOJONG OSERE