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Uganda deploys nearly 1m vote protectors

KAMPALA, Feb 15 – Uganda\’s main opposition coalition said Tuesday it has trained nearly one million agents to counter any pro-government rigging in this week\’s general election.

"We have spent nearly 50 percent of our budget on this," said Hussein Kyanjo, a senior official with the Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC).

The IPC, whose candidate Kizza Besigye is challenging President Yoweri Museveni for the third time, has trained people to monitor voting at 95 percent of Uganda\’s 24,000 polling stations in Friday\’s poll, Kyanjo added.

He said the IPC would deploy 40 agents per station.

IPC has not sought to have all of the agents accredited by election officials, Kjanjo explained, saying this was to stop the ruling party from buying them.

Six other opposition candidates are also running against Museveni.

Police chief Kale Kayihura told AFP that all agents "must be accredited," adding his concern that a swarm of political activists at each polling station could cause "chaos."

Opposition leaders insist more than half the country will vote against Museveni, in power for 25 years, but conceded the government may still outmanoeuvre their vote protection operation.

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"There are two million more voters on the register than the absolute number of adults in Uganda assuming a 100 percent registration and turnout," Kyanjo said, explaining that the opposition is concerned about under-age voters.

The official register has nearly 14 million names listed, but government and international data put Uganda\’s population at under 33 million, with 51 percent of people under 15, according to the UN.

As Besigye expects foul play, his coalition has vowed to count and announce their own set of results, within 24 hours of the polls closing.

"We will announce the true result and we will ensure the whole world knows it," Kyanjo said.

He restated the opposition\’s pledge not to challenge disputed results in court, but to contest "through people power."

"The international community needs to understand .. we do not intend to claim a false victory. But can we live with it, if a result we know to be false is released by the electoral commission? The answer is we won\’t," he said.


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