Phone App Fights Fraud in Ugandan Election

17 February, 2016

This week, 15 million registered voters in Uganda will go to the polls to elect a president, parliament and local officials.

Incumbent president Yoweri Museveni faces two opposition candidates: Kizza Besigye and Amama Mbabazi.

Museveni took over Uganda in 1986 by force after a civil war. Before that, the country was controlled by a series of dictators, including Idi Amin. Amin ruled the country in the 1970s.

Thousands gather at a rally in support of President Yoweri Museveni in Kisaasi, a suburb of Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 16, 2016.
Thousands gather at a rally in support of President Yoweri Museveni in Kisaasi, a suburb of Kampala, Uganda, Feb. 16, 2016.

Museveni won his first election in 1996.

Observers who follow elections around the world say Uganda does not have a free election process. They say the country's elections are manipulated and opposition candidates are not free to campaign.

For example, just three days before the election, Bessigye was detained for a short time. The BBC reports that police said he was disrupting traffic on his way to campaign event.

Freedom House is a pro-Democracy organization that monitors elections around the world. The organization releases a report called "Freedom in the World" each year.

In 2015 Uganda was rated "not free" and was given a score of 6 for political rights. Seven is the worst score.

But a team of recent computer science graduates from Makerere University is hoping their new app, called "E-Poll" will be able to change that.

The developers say the app is supposed to make elections more fair. It compares the number of voters at polling places with official numbers announced by Uganda's Electoral Commission.

Observers are looking for a difference between the number of votes and the number of voters reported by poll. If there is a difference, the election results could be challenged.

Shafiq Kauma is one of the developers.

He says an election-tracking app seemed like a good way to help his country.

The developers say the time it takes to certify the election in Uganda allows those in power to rig the election. They believe their app can help make election results more clear.

Kauma says election results from each polling place pass through a number of stages before they reach the electoral commission.

E-Poll sends election data straight from the polling place to the tally center, Kauma says.

There is another way officials in Uganda hope to make this year's election more transparent. A system that uses biometrics, or a person's physical characteristics, is in place to confirm voters' identities. Those characteristics include fingerprints, faces and the retina of the eye. A scanner can read those characteristics and confirm identities.

I'm Dan Friedell.

Serginho Roosblad wrote this story for VOANews. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

Do you think the election in Uganda will be more free this year? Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

manipulate – v. to control something in an unfair way

incumbent – adj. holding an office or position

rig – v. to control or affect something in a dishonest way

biometric – n. a physical characteristic that is different from person to person – fingerprints, for example

transparent – adj. easy to understand

app – n. a computer or mobile phone program