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Fear, Mistrust Stopped Kampala Residents from Voting

A common thread from responses of people who never voted, and community leaders in areas that had a low voter turnout are panic that there was going to violence after the election, which prompted people to run to their countryside homes and belief that elections cannot result in change.
26 Feb 2021 18:18
2021 Presidential elections voting in Makindye division

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Perennially, Kampala has had a low voter turnout.  In the January 2021 presidential election, it had a 43 per cent voter turnout. In 2016, it polled 51.48 per cent, 41.52 per cent in 2011, 58.7 per cent in 2006. It is only in 2001 when Kampala registered a voter turnout of 71 per cent, just above the national average of 69 per cent.

A common thread from responses of people who never voted, and community leaders in areas that had a low voter turnout are panic that there was going to violence after the election, which prompted people to run to their countryside homes and belief that elections cannot result in change.

Other voters say they never wanted to spend their money travelling to polling stations when they found that their polling stations had been moved to distant places. And particularly in Naguru parish which had a string of polling stations with less than 20 per cent voter turnout, voters of these polling stations live within or adjacent to the police barracks. Local leaders say police officers could not vote when they were on duty while others had been transferred.

URN reporters visited 30 polling stations and interviewed more than 45 people. Julius Mwanje, a father of two and a resident of Lungujja, says he shunned voting after hearing Deputy IGP, Paul Lokech telling Ugandans to strictly vote and go home. Mwanje claims this directive triggered a sense of fear, making him believe that there was going to be violence on polling day if people refused to adhere to the directive.

//Cue in; Baagenda nebagamba nti…

Cue out… asigadde ewaka’ basinga.”//

Similarly, Zahara Issa, a resident of Kabowa, says she travelled out of the city to Mbarara to avoid being caught in possible violence after elections. She says she was surprised that there was no violence at all.  “I was surprised that the election period was peaceful but also I don’t regret not voting because democracy has not yet been established in this country,” said Issa.

Not worth their money.

Annet Nabulime and Doreen Kamuhairwe, both residents of Nabulagala in Lubaga North say they didn’t have transport to go to vote from their home village in Busega where they are registered voters.

//Cue in; Ensonga eyangaana okulonda…

Cue out... eyangaanisa okulonda.”// 

Joan Nalumu,22, and Faith Nabukwasi, 24, both students from Makerere University said they were supposed to vote from Mary Stewart Hall in Makerere but the distance from their residence in Ndeeba to Makerere was far and decided to quit voting.

//Cue in;  Nze ntekemu...

Cue out…have been ok.” //

Zipora Namuyanja, a mother of seven children residing in Bakuli says frustration from the 2016 election results made her avoid participating in January 2021 election.“I voted amidst violence by security teams and unfortunately, even the candidates that I voted did not go through,” said Namuyanja. She said that she couldn’t bother voting again.

Moses Kagowa, the Vice-Chairperson of Church Area Naguru II Parish says there are many Indians who did not show up yet they are registered voters. This, he says could be the reason why there was an extremely low voter turn up in the area. Only 74 of 234 registered voters turned up for voting which is 31 per cent voter turnout.

//Cue in; “Ensonga eyokubiri…

Cue out…naye tebagaala kulonda.”//

At Shell Ground which had four Polling Stations in Naguru II Parish, no polling station had above 16 per cent voter turnout, the lowest in Kampala. Godfrey Eyang, the Chairperson of Ntinda Police Barracks who voted from Shell Ground polling stations, named a number of issues including the transfer of families and early security deployments for those who are registered voters at these polling stations caused low voter turnout.

//Cue in; “Eventually, you find…

Cue out…one thousand seven hundred.”//

Henry Mugisha, a registered voter at Shell Ground (BI-LE), living in the barracks says he failed to vote due to lack of time. “Army barracks should have special arrangements since soldiers are always busy on duty on voting day,” Mugisha said.

Moses Bwambale, also a registered voter in Naguru Parish II said with his family, they remained home because they feared the heavy deployments. He thought there would be violence if people disagreed with one another at polling stations.

Mutaka Bukenya, the chairman of Kifumbira zone in Kamwokya, where Homisdallen Primary School polling station is situated, that had 868 total registered voters with 35 per cent voter turnout, attributed the low turnout on the heavy deployment prior the elections. Like many interviewed, he also claims that many people ended up going to the village before the polling day out of fear.   

//Cue in; “Bagenda okulaba ng’embeera…

Cue out…basembera bwebatyo.’’//

    

Iddi Mukwana, Chairman for Nsambya - Kitawuluzi zone blames the low voter turnout on people who work, but do not stay in the zone, but then registered to vote.  

//Cue in “now the reason…

Cue out …come and vote.”//               

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