An election official starts to count votes after polling stations closed during the presidential elections in Kampala, Uganda, January 14, 2021. REUTERS

About 17.7 million Ugandans registered voters turned out in force on Thursday to vote in an election pitting long-time leader Yoweri Museveni against popular reggae singer and lawmaker Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine.

Police and soldiers patrolled the streets of Kampala during the day and the city was calm as night fell.

After polls closed at 4 p.m., hundreds of Wine supporters in Kampala returned to their polling stations to heed his call to “protect the vote” by watching the count. At the station where Wine voted, security forces chased his supporters away.

Bobi Wine, 38, is channeling the anger of many young Ugandans who say former guerrilla leader Museveni, is an out-of-touch dictator failing to tackle unemployment, corruption, and surging public debt.

Museveni, 76, who has been in power for 35 years, 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.

“I’m tired of Museveni because he has no new ideas,” Joseph Kinobe, 40, a mason waiting to cast his ballot for Wine, told Reuters.

A 31-year-old motorcycle taxi driver, Muhamad Barugahare, said Museveni was the only one who could guarantee peace. “We don’t want to gamble with this young man,” he said about Wine.

Results are expected within 48 hours.  All social media and messaging apps have been banned.

The East African Community Election Observer Mission (EAC-EOM) dispatched a team of 74 observers to different parts of the country.

Domitien Ndayizeye, former president of Burundi and head of the EAC-EOM told reporters that a transparent and peaceful election will be a plus not just for Uganda but for the entire EAC region.