Published by ACFIM on

A dollar for a vote in Kayunga by-elections

A picture of the two candidates from the Kayunga bi-election (Photo courtesy of nilepost.co.ug)

A video clip is circulating on social media showing voters in Kayunga district last night (eve of the by-election) leaving a scene where they were supposedly each given UGX 4,000 ($1.12) to vote for National Resistance Movement’s Muwonge Andrew. This clip by BBS Terefayina- a local Ugandan TV broadcaster reveals that these voters were instructed to line up for money with directives to vote for the NRM candidate.

The Kayunga by-election was last month announced by the Electoral Commission for December 16, 2021, after the seat fell vacant following the death of Ffefeka Sserubugo, the LCV chairperson for Kayunga district whose body was found hanging by a tree near his home in Kayunga in June.

A number of other Kayunga residents interviewed by BBS Terefayina who identified themselves as boda-boda riders complained that the UGX 4,000 given to them is useless and they should have been given more because that money is not even enough to transport them to the polling station. They admitted that even though they took the money with instructions to vote the NRM candidate, they would still vote for the National Unity Platform candidate Nakweede Harriet. “People power is in my blood” one of them said. 

The assertions by some of the voters solidify a recent story by SecretsKnown from the recently concluded elections showing how People Power defeated Money power in central region. The SecretsKnown is that alongside a system of commercialized political elites who use money to access political office, there can be a parallel system propagated by another kind of politicians voted to office on the basis of how their campaign message resonates with the electorate.

An ACFIM Report on Commercialized Politics and captivity of state institutions in Uganda shows that money is a permanent fixture in Uganda’s electoral politics. Political parties and candidates contending for elective positions spend massively to induce rather than persuade the electorate to vote for them. Political candidates ‘buy votes’ and citizens/electorates sell the same in a manner akin to a market place just as seen in Kayunga district where there are willing sellers and willing buyers.

It is disheartening that some of the Kayunga voters have unknowingly sold 5 years of service delivery for a dollar. Voter bribery fosters a broader environment of corruption that impedes economic development, political accountability, and the provision of public goods (Stokes, 2005; Robinson & Verdier, 2013; Khemani, 2015).

Still, in the Kayunga district by-election, the Prime minister of Uganda, Rt. honorable Robinah Nabanjja’s name has come up with allegations that she is the one behind the cash being given out. In response to these allegations, Lewis Rbongoya, NUP’s Secretary-General on the Morning at NTV show this morning is quoted saying:

 “Today you are commemorating an anti-corruption day, and the next day, the country’s Prime Minister is in Kayunga bribing people with UGX 4,000, so that they can vote an NRM candidate. How shameless can you be?

SecretsKnown argues that moneyed individuals are increasing their influence within the body of politics with the objective of controlling political leaders, political parties, and state institutions by investing significantly in election campaigns. Injecting excess money into election campaigns is partly the reason why politics is commercialized.

Even though buying and selling votes is illegal in Uganda and punishable by up to three years in prison and/or a fine, according to the Parliamentary Elections Act (Government of Uganda, 2005), most Ugandan politicians not only in Kayunga but all over the country provide money and goods to voters and target gifts to constituents who are likely to reciprocate with their votes.

Many experts have asserted that commercialized politics fuels violence and the happenings in Kayunga give this assertion grounding. The Electoral Commission among the eight places described as hotspots indicated that Kayunga district was among those on their watch list. Scenes of violence were witnessed in Kayunga yesterday with politicians and journalists arrested and beaten by state security operatives including the NUP candidate herself who sustained severe injuries. 

Based on observations from previous by-elections, #SecretsKnown believes that by-elections are very commercialized if not even more than the general elections. Aside from Kayunga, the country still has a number of by-elections to go and the downside is that Uganda has not enacted laws in accordance with international good practices for mandatory public disclosure of campaign income and expenditure, capping campaign spending, and reporting on campaign spending. And because of this, SecretsKnown predicts that the remaining forth-coming by-elections just like the one in Kayunga will still be soiled by vote bribery and violence.

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