As Uganda prepares to go to the polls, opposition against the country's president, Yoweri Museveni, has been growing steadily.
Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for nearly 30 years, is widely expected to be elected to another five-year term – his fifth – but just days before the 18 February general election, memories of previous election-related violence have emerged across the country and abroad. The 2011 polls were held in an extremely bitter atmosphere, and followed by an unprecedented campaign of Walk-to-Work protests, riots in different cities and live bullets beingused against demonstrators.
Around a dozen Ugandan exiles, all UK residents, stood outside Uganda House, home of the Ugandan embassy in London, on 8 February, to call for voters to choose either of Museveni's two opponents. These are Dr Kizza Besigye – leader of opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) – and John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and former ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party secretary general, who will be running under the GoForward banner.
A new democratic 'roadmap' for Uganda
"Uganda's problem is 30 years overdue. We want to tell the world Ugandans are tired. They don't want Museveni," Richard Okwon, a political activist for Uganda Transformation Union, told IBTimes UK.
Okwon, whose organisation was set up in August 2015 to "restructure and reboot the now dysfunctional democracy in Uganda", claimed Besigye and Amama Mbabazi were the "best alternatives for peace in Uganda".
"Let them come into the system and the rest of the Ugandans will make a new roadmap for Uganda, with a new constitution accepting ourselves and reconciling ourselves," he said, citing the example of Uganda's ethnic northern war led by the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) for the rights of the region's Acholi people, against perceived discrimination by the government.
'Rigged' elections amid intimidations
While the preparations are under way in Kampala, Okwon highlighted claims of "rigged" elections amid growing concern about intimidations, including the alleged killing of one of Amama Mbabazi's security officer,"crime preventer" militias and attacks on journalists and NGO workers.
"These are intimidations to scare people off. The electoral commission should have updated the registry, but they didn't – it's the military that did it. And the trick we know from past records, they will put your name in the wrong polling station, so by the time you go for the voting, your name is not there; you go to the second one, your name is not there again, so people give up and just go home," Okwon said.
In the activists' view, it will be up to Ugandans to decide for the fate of their nation, as he believes the African Union ("a dog without teeth that can bark but have no influence") might only stand and watch if electoral violence were to occur, as it has in Burundi.
"My appeal to the militias is they should understand the blood trail of Museveni. My concern is Ugandans are upset and it may flare up. That is my greatest concern. So I would appeal to [Museveni's] great supporters to peacefully let Uganda transcend this period and have a new roadmap for Uganda, agreed by all corners of Uganda."
It is believed Uganda has the largest East African community in the UK, where around 100,000 Ugandan British live.