Published by Patra K on

Lack of Campaign Money Fails Female Presidential Candidate

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Female Presidential candidate to Uganda’s general elections 2021, Ms Nancy Kalembe has halted her campaign trail citing campaign finance shortage. Ms Kalembe needs a minimum of UGX 150 million ($ 40,000) only, to finance hers and her campaign team’s travel and upkeep to cover 77 districts in just over 30 days remaining before Election Day. It is remembered that raising the UGX 20 million ($5,400) to pay for her nomination fees was also an uphill task.

This is not an isolated incident because in 2016 a female Presidential candidate Ms Maureen Kyalya wrote the Electoral Commission notifying them that she was taking a break from the campaign trail due to a shortage of campaign finance. The secret known is that female politicians in Uganda have limited or no access to campaign money which as a consequence excludes them from competing with men on electoral positions.

Uganda has 146 districts which a presidential candidate for 2021 has to cover in 65 days. This means that a candidate must at the very least cover two districts a day hence calling from a substantial investment in transport for the candidate and campaign team. 

It is also a known secret that the incumbent Presidential candidate who is looking for his sixth term in office, spends in excess of UGX 1.2 trillion on his campaigns. For a candidate to cover the basic expenses of fuel, lodging for self and campaign team, media, posters, and campaign agents, one should have a campaign war chest of at least UGX 1 billion ($0.27 million). That is just enough for one to complete the campaign trail but not pose a meaningful challenge against the incumbent who spending power always clouds out the rest of the candidates.

The cost if electoral politics in Uganda has been escalating since 2005 when the country returned to multi-party democracy. Since that time, politics has been greatly reduced from ideas to who has a fat wallet. The commercialized nature of our campaigns can’t allow candidates like Kalembe deliver her plan across the country.

This the trajectory Uganda has chosen to take by turning from being a service to the people to being a platform for self-enrichment. Whereas the past governments did many wrongs, they at least the saved the country from profit making politics. But the secret known is that the lack of access to meaningful campaign financing has relegated opposition political parties to being just participants in the race as they constantly fail to challenge the spending power of the incumbent National Resistance Movement (NRM) Party.

The growing spending power of the NRM party surrounded by opposition political parties and candidates that are finding it difficult to access campaign money, creates an impression that Uganda is tending towards a one-party state, and this should not be the situation in the 21st century. 

To reverse the situation, there needs to be some serious structural changes and legal reforms to ensure that we have better presidential campaigns. Among these is the enactment of a stand-alone law to regulate election campaign finance in Uganda. Whereas enforcement of laws is often the issue in Uganda, being with a law in place is a better situation that being without.

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