Ugandans on Thursday morning converged at various polling stations to cast their votes which will determine if they will remain with the 71-year old, Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 30 years or they will elect a new leader.
Over the campaign period, people have taken to social media to discuss their views on the candidates vying for the presidential seat. WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have been used to air opinions and discuss matters elections in Uganda.
Various hashtags have been trending in the past, some urging people to maintain peace during and after the elections. Some focused on the presidential debate while some other people also engaged social media to update the world about the election day on Thursday.
Even as the social media platforms are being adopted by many across the country to share their views and update the world on the unfolding events, the Ugandan Electoral Commission has already banned the use of smartphones and social media to monitor polling stations.
According to a media trend watcher, Angelo Izama, traditional media is not offering young people enough space. As such, the youth has turned to social media.
Voice of America quoted Izama saying: "Traditional media doesn't have the pace or the space to accommodate all the arguments,” Izama said. “Most of the voters are born in the era of the mobile age. So there's this generational conversation, which is also done through new technology because the mobile phone is the default [device] of the new generation."
The hashtag era is here to stay!
Uganda held its first ever televised presidential debate on January 15. The incumbent Yoweri Museveni skipped the historic occasion, arguing that most of the voters may not be able to watch the debate. The other contenders graced the debate.
On February 14, a few days before the election, another televised debate took place with President Museveni availing himself.
While these debates were going on, people took time to share their thoughts on the various candidates.
Nankwanga Eunice K @EuniceKasirye said: “I loved the maturity & respect with which the candidates treated each other even wen [sic] they disagreed on a point.
Earlier, a youth group in Kampala started an off and online campaign called #IPledgePeaceUg to promote peace and cohesion in the Thursday elections.
With photos and post updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the group attracted a following across the nation calling for peace to avert violence which has marred past elections.
#Ugandadecides and #ugandavotes was the final platform to share the activities of the election day.
Even though the Ugandan Electoral Commission barred the use of social media in monitoring elections, people found a way around it. They posted and shared their whereabouts and activities on the ground.
Initial results are expected to start streaming in on Saturday. Over 15 million Ugandans are registered to vote in the more than 28,000 polling stations across the East African nation. Uganda is conducting presidential and parliamentary elections.
According to election officials, more than 150,000 police, soldiers, and other security forces have been deployed all over the nation to oversee security.
About Uganda Elections
Polling stations were opened at 07:00 am and will be closed at 04:00 pm on Thursday. Due to delays however, the voting process was extended to 07:00 pm local time.
For a candidate to get an outright win, they have to secure more than 50% of the vote to avoid a second run-off with the contender ranked second.