Published by Patra K on

PWD elections settled by who had deeper pockets

A person with disablity casting his ballot. (Photo Courtesy of Electoral Commission Uganda)

SecretsKnown has previously published a series of stories exposing how monetized the Special Interest group (SIG) (youth, elderly, and workers) elections under the Electoral College system have become. The elections for People with Disabilities (PWDs) have not been spared either from the monster of commercialized electoral politics. 

In an interview with SecretsKnown, Mr. Candia Emmanuel, managing partner Candia Advocates and Legal consultants also former candidate, National representative for PWDs, revealed the extent to which money determined electoral outcomes of the PWDs elections held in 2021. 

The elections held on 20th January in Jinja brought together about 730 delegates from across the country. Candia described the election as obscene reporting that voter bribery was a normative practice yet it is an offense in the electoral laws. He witnessed outright voter bribery to his dismay. 

In his narration, Mr.Candia shared that his ordeal began on the eve of the election where he met the delegates at the venue where they were being accommodated. He hoped to leverage on this opportunity to sell his manifesto to the delegates convening in one place, having failed to reach them during campaigns.

While addressing the delegates, they moved out of the meeting venue in groups of 5 and came back later smiling. He never understood what was going on as the delegates looked distracted and were not paying attention. Only later to learn that one of his opponents had camped outside the meeting venue, distributing money reportedly ranging from   UGX 100,000 ($28) to UGX 150,000 ($42) to each delegate. The delegate’s district committee chairpersons received about UGX 300,000 ($84). Some of the candidates especially the incumbents gave each delegate up to a sum of UGX 1.5 million ($422)

The jaw-dropping moment for Candia was when one of the female delegates in the room commented,

My son, you have spoken very well, the problem is that you are only using saliva.

This was a literal comparison between what he had to offer and what his opponents were offering, “money”. Mr. Candia received very reliable information depicting that on average, each delegate took home not less than UGX 3.5 million ($985).

Even though the SIGs follow the same processes of electing delegates starting from the village to district level, the PWDs do not vote at the regional but rather national level. The candidates, therefore, have to traverse the whole country just like the president, which is too much to ask of the candidates already challenged with a disability. This national wide traverse is also very costly requiring one to incur costs on fuel, accommodation, and sometimes having to cater for an aide. Mr. Candia was only able to visit only 60 districts out of the 146 districts in the country. 

Mr. Candia estimated to have cumulatively spent UGX 20 million ($5,630) which he raised from personal savings, friends, and well-wishers. He admitted that fundraising was tough because many people who would have ordinarily contributed were facing the economic hardships brought by the pandemic. 

Candia who was the Forum for Democracy (FDC) flag bearer acknowledged that the party supported him with the nomination fee of UGX 3 million ($844) with an additional UGX 2 million ($563) which was used in facilitating the delegates. 

In an electoral college election, the cost of facilitating delegates is the biggest. It involves, transporting delegates from their districts to a central location, pay for their accommodation and feeding including giving them an out-of-pocket allowance. Some delegates travel with aides that are equally facilitated. Candia gave the delegates each UGX 30,000 ($8) to UGX 50,000 ($14) to facilitate their transport. If the meetings were long, he had to provide meals too.

Beyond all these costs, was another challenge of meeting the delegate’s expectations. By mere virtue of contesting, voters assume that one automatically has a lot of money. As he campaigned, many delegates continuously demanded for money in order to support him. The delegates alluded that they waited five years and it was their time to “eat” and travel.  

Because of his meager budget, he was forced to engage more electronically by utilizing print media, television, and social media platforms, SMSs to sell his manifesto even though this was hefty too. 

According to Candia, even though the NRM took all the seats, unlike the previous elections this one at least had multiparty semblance because candidates were fielded from different political parties. This was in contrast to the previous elections that only had NRM candidates competing against each other.

Mr. Candia recommended that the electoral structure for PWDs be reformed to cater for regional representation rather than national as is the case presently. He hopes for reforms where every region has a representative so that candidates don’t have to traverse the entire country for votes but only in their respective regions. This will ease the cost burden placed on candidates making it more affordable to campaign and less monetized.

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