Published by Patra K on

Former presidential candidate wallowing in debt

John Katumba, the youngest presidential candidate to take part in the election. (Photo courtesy of Matooke Republic)

“To contest for the presidential race in this country, finances are the most important thing one must have,” this is according to the “Untold story of John Katumba” an auto-biography of the former presidential candidate.

Mr. Katumba, who was featured on last week’s edition of ACFIM Talks pointed out that he contested for president, not for money but because he wanted to create opportunities for the youth whom he claimed had been abandoned by the current regime. He referred to democracy as a process that the rich had abducted.

Being the youngest candidate to ever participate in the presidential race, teary-eyed Katumba shared how he is currently grappling with a debt of over UGX 878 million ($247,188) and constantly living in fear because he is worried debt owners will try to reclaim their money in a brutal manner. He now sells his book in hope of raising money to clear off the debt.

Mr. Katumba narrated that taking on the presidential bid is no joke because expenses start right from the initial process of soliciting the 20,000 signatures as a requirement by the Electoral Commission.

He had to collect 100 signatures from each district, which required a lot of money to cater for fuel, mobilization, food, and accommodation costs. Note that of the 90 people that picked nomination forms for the presidential race, only 11 were nominated showing how expensive a race it is.

Even though Mr.Katumba was able to traverse the country and raise the UGX 20 million ($5,631) nomination fee by fundraising from well-wishers, it still was tough because some voters demanded money before they could append their signatures.

Mr. Katumba continued the signature collection process even after he had reached the maximum figure required. This was because the more people he met, the more contributions he got. These donations came through mobile money, hard cash, and even food items.

This was however cut short because propaganda tainting him as a mole made him lose support amongst the voters who stopped donating towards his campaign. He then started incurring debts since he had already contracted service providers but wasn’t able to pay them.

Mr. Katumba also incurred double expenses since he had to return to recollect signatures. This was because some of the signatures appeared on more than one candidate’s forms and yet voters are only allowed to only recommend one candidate.

On top of all the expenses he had already incurred, Mr. Katumba noted that hiring polling agents on Election day was stressful because he could not deploy agents in all the districts because each agent required facilitation of at least UGX 20,000 ($5.6). Post-election, Mr. Katumba was reliably informed that in some polling stations where he hadn’t deployed agents, his votes were bought off implicating that money is a necessity for vote protection.

Even though the presidential age limit was reduced to 18 years, Katumba suggested that it is still difficult for many youths to contest for this position because many of them have limited access to resources. Because of this, he began his campaigns on foot since he didn’t have a car and was disappointed to see media houses label him as a comic.

To his disadvantage since the elections followed a scientific model, movement was limited, banning open-air campaigns and yet it is during these rallies that people contribute the most.

Mr. Katumba believes that if he had run under a political party, he would have performed better. Running as an independent was difficult because he lacked resources. Unlike independent candidates, political parties are funded by the government which creates inequality among the contestants.  

He also highlighted human rights violations citing his encounter in Fort portal where he was beaten by non-uniform security operatives that injured his spinal cord.

In his recommendations, Mr. Katumba suggested that for future elections, the electoral commission should fund candidates equally in the election. He also encouraged the youth to take part in democracy.

If you missed this episode, you can still catch the full show using the link below:

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