Ugandan parties form militias ahead of poll-CommissionJambonews | Category: News
KAMPALA, Jan 19 20111 (Reuters) – Uganda’s electoral commission admitted for the first time on Wednesday that political parties in the east African country have formed militias to protect their turf ahead of next month’s presidential election.
President Yoweri Museveni is expected to win a fourth term in the Feb. 18 poll, but may face a stiff challenge from arch-rival Kizza Besigye, standard bearer for an opposition coalition, the Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC).
Diplomats, analysts and aid organisations have warned there could be violence during the election and some leading opposition figures say they expect the vote to be manipulated.
Electoral Commission Chairman Badru Kiggudnu told government, opposition and civil society representatives meeting in the capital Kampala nine militia groups had been identified and police were investigating them. He did not name any parties.
According to Uganda’s Supreme Court, presidential elections in the east African country in both 2001 and 2006 were marred by violence, rigging and intimidation. The court blamed soldiers and government-allied groups for the violence.
“The Commission is concerned. Reports have been received that certain political parties and candidates have organised militia groups with the pretext of guarding their votes,” Kiggundu said.
“The police are aware and are doing the necessary investigations on reported groups,” he told the meeting.
Kiggundu did not name the leaders of the nine militias nor to which political parties they were allied.
“My appeal to those alleged masterminds is to refrain from disrupting the much desired peace in the electoral environment.”
Last month, the IPC accused the government of unlawfully recruiting and training a large militia to intimidate the opposition during the presidential and parliamentary polls.
Human rights activists and government critics have previously accused the government of sponsoring two of the nine militias named by the Commission — Kiboko Squad and Black Mamba. The government has denied any affiliation with them.
The opposition has threatened to form “counter-brigades” to go up against militias such as Kiboko Squad and Black Mamba, which it says back the ruling party, but has never put names to any such groups. No militia has been linked to the IPC as yet.
Uganda last week beefed up its stockpile of heavy-duty anti-riot gear, a move opposition leaders fear foreshadows a crackdown on protests that may erupt if the poll is rigged.
The equipment imported from China included water canon, teargas-spraying trucks, armoured personnel carriers, pepper sprayers and fire-fighting gear.
Political analysts say Besigye is eating into Museveni’s rural support base, paving the way for the tightest contest yet as the pair face off for the third straight poll.
Opposition parties say the electoral commission is biased in favour of Museveni’s ruling party. The government denies that and says all members are vetted by a parliamentary committee.
Besigye has said he will declare his own results as relayed by his polling agents and computed by his tallying centre. President Museveni, however, has warned Besigye he would be arrested if he published his own results.
Kiggundu warned against any declaration of results tallied by individual candidates.
“I appeal to groups threatening to unlawfully declare results to desist,” he said.
Reporting by Elias Biryabarema
Editing by David Clarke and Philippa Fletcher
Source : Reuters