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Multi-Party Election Tests Uganda's System

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Multi-Party Election Tests Uganda's System

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Multi-Party Election Tests Uganda's System

Multi-Party Election Tests Uganda's System

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Tensions are at a boiling point ahead of the nation's first multi-party elections in 20 years. Many Ugandans expect the results to be challenged in court regardless of who wins. Such a challenge, analysts say, would be the ultimate test of the independence of the country's judiciary.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

As NPR's Jason Beaubien reports, police and military forces are being put on high alert for the election.

JASON BEAUBIEN: The head of the armored brigade of the Ugandan Army, Colonel James Mujera (ph), today announced that the full resources of the Ugandan military will be available to crush any violence that occurs on or after Election Day.

JAMES MUJERA: There's nothing that is going to be tolerated anywhere in any corner of this country, that (unintelligible) elements will kind of cause trouble and get away with it.

BEAUBIEN: Many of the supporters of Kizza Besigye, the leading challenger to President Museveni, talked with revolutionary zeal about regime change.

JOAQUIN OMAR: We are supporting Besigye because we are getting tired of the (unintelligible).

BEAUBIEN: Joaquin Omar (ph) is wearing a suit that he's adorned with pictures of Besigye's smiling face.

OMAR: When I see Besigye, it is one man trying to use all his powers to rule the country. Trying to use the Army in all the government activities.

BEAUBIEN: At his final campaign rally in the capitol on Monday, police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd before Besigye even took the podium. Human Rights Watch issued a report earlier this month stating that conditions for a free and fair election here have not been met. Ben Rollins, who compiled the report, said the treatment of Besigye is just one of the flaws in the electoral process. For many years, Museveni tried to avoid the divisions found in other African nations by banning political parties, and he operated instead what he called a movement system.

BEN ROLLINS: The principle problem is the legal structure of the state. The movement act, and the movement system is a nationwide structure of offices with vehicles, with personnel, which was designed to regulate the politics during the no party era. All of that still continues to exist and it's been inherited by the NRM, the National Resistance Movement, ruling party.

BEAUBIEN: Which Rollins says tips the playing field heavily in favor of Museveni. He says he's most concerned now, however, that a disputed election could lead to clashes between Besigye supporters from the FDC and security forces.

ROLLINS: I think at the moment the main concern is the increase in violence which we've seen over the last week. The flare-ups, where the police and FDC supporters have confronted each other everyday now for the last five days. There was a shooting last week where three people were killed by a rogue security officer.

BEAUBIEN: Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Kampala.

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