Ugandans wearing face masks to brave the pandemic voted on Thursday as police and soldiers patrolled the streets of the capital during a presidential election pitting long-time leader Yoweri Museveni against popular singer Bobi Wine.
Long lines of voters snaked out of polling stations visited by Reuters in Kampala, a stronghold for an opposition galvanized by popstar-turned-politician Wine despite a campaign scarred by deadly crackdowns.
Polls closed at 4 p.m. (1300 GMT) but voters in line then were allowed to cast their ballots. At two stations in Kampala, between 75 and 100 people were still queuing after 4 p.m. while at three others, staff were preparing to count votes.
The government in the East African country of nearly 46 million people ordered an internet blackout until further notice on Wednesday, a day after it banned all social media and messaging apps.
Reggae artist and lawmaker Bobi Wine, 38, is channelling the anger of many young Ugandans who say former guerrilla leader Museveni, now 76, is an out-of-touch dictator failing to tackle unemployment, corruption and surging public debt.
Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, calls Wine an upstart backed by foreign governments and homosexuals and says his administration guarantees stability and progress, including much-needed hydropower dams and roads.
There are 17.7 million registered voters and results are expected within 48 hours.
Voting began up to 90 minutes late at six polling stations visited by Reuters as ballots did not arrive on time. Polling started late in some places due to glitches with biometric voting machines, said Rogers Mulindwa, a spokesman for the ruling National Resistance Movement party.
He also said Ugandans were turning out in big numbers. Turnout appeared robust, based on footage from polling stations broadcast by private TV channels.
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