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Last week on ACFIM talks: Money galore in youth college elections

A screenshot from last weks episode of ACFIM Talks

Last week on ACFIM Talks, it was disclosed that it costs a minimum of UGX 600 million ($162,162) for one to contest and win the youth electoral college as a Member of Parliament (MP). Ironically, this is more than what some other Members of Parliament spend on elections conducted under universal adult suffrage.

The revelation was made by Simon Ssenyonga (Mr) a former candidate for youth MP, Central region, and Winifred Nakandi (Ms), female youth leader at Mpigi district youth council. The two youth politicians discussed the challenges they face in Navigating an Electoral College in Uganda.

The panelists narrated how young people perceive candidates as Automatic Teller Machines (ATM), or put differently, cash cows. They expect money from candidates at every encounter. The Secret Known is that voters have turned electoral college elections to financially milk as much as they can from candidates.

Ms. Nakandi admitted that the Electoral college in Uganda is suffering from a very bad mosaic that will take long to heal. She opined that the money that flows in a general election is not as much as that of a special interest group election.

“It is also very costly, tiresome and challenging to traverse the entire country canvassing votes”, said Ms. Nakandi as she narrated her experience when she stood for president for the Uganda National Students Association.

“Whenever people see you, they want money and that is the order of the day in an Electoral college, you need to be on the ground all the time, spend money, time and employ personnel” Ms. Winnie added.

Article 21 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda addresses equality and freedom from discrimination. It espouses affirmative action that was meant to empower groups that had been historically marginalized and in this case are the youth.

Even though the youth have been offered representation in Parliament through affirmative action, issues around how expensive the electoral college elections are, have not been addressed. Youth have therefore not been empowered because many of them are excluded from participating in politics due to the costs involved. 

For example, Mr. Senyonga said that he had to traverse 27 districts with over 700 counties and had to appear in all the places. Wherever he went, he had to spend UGX 50,000 per youth voter he met. He met about 1,400 delegates on whom he spent a total of UGX 70 million ($18,918)

Senyonga further revealed that when he observed the National youth female elections in Arua, the elections were characterized by a lot of voter bribery. Delegates by law are entitled to transport, accommodation, and feeding facilitation from the Electoral Commission since many of them travel from different parts of the country to vote.

Each delegate is entitled to receive at least UGX 500,000 from the Electoral Commission as facilitation for transport and meals. However, candidates especially from the National Resistance Movement Party (NRM) have become very tactical.

The Electoral commission pays the candidates 300,000 and hoards off the balances. The NRM candidates then take advantage of the situation to come out as saviors/champions. They task Electoral Commission to send the entire amount and therefore win the favor of the voters who in turn vote for them. In addition to this, voters demand from candidates to cater for the transport, accommodation, and food expenses yet the Electoral Commission is mandated to take care of these expenditures. “Voters have turned Electoral college elections into a money-making venture so they can double feed” Simon stated.

In the same election, security officials were bribed to intimidate voters as they stood in the line. Security officials at the voting center that were meant to offer protection instead manned through the lines, telling voters to vote for the NRM candidates if they wanted access to the president.

Ms. Nakandi described her experience in beating all the odds in politics which is largely a male-dominated arena. She mentioned that it was challenging and she couldn’t get some of the positions she wanted to hold because she was female. She also noted that it is absurd some young women have to offer their bodies to get campaign finance.

It was suggested that in order to bring back political hygiene to the country, Ugandan’s have to rethink their morality and also enact an independent law that monitors electoral finance.

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