Former presidential candidate Nancy Linda Kalembe has asked parliament to reinstate funding of presidential campaigns claiming the status quo facilitates only the rich or those whose who have stolen from government.
Ms Kalembe made the call during an interaction with the Human Right’s committee of parliament on Wednesday which is currently conducting a probe on alleged human rights violations committed by the state during the 2021 elections. MPs are also gathering opinions from stakeholders on how to improve the electoral process in Uganda.
Kalembe said while it may sound unrealistic and laughable, it is until one contests that he or she can appreciate the hardships associated with one taking care of their campaign expenses. She said, considering the poor road infrastructure, it puts lives of candidates as well as their teams’ at a high risk.
She decried the status quo saying it is void of equity with the incumbent enjoying leverage while other contestants suffer all hardships. Kalembe said the system favors the rich and the country risks losing good leaders who cannot sustain huge campaign spending.
In September 2015, parliament passed an amendment to Presidential Elections Act scrapping government funding towards campaigns for presidential candidates.
Prior to the amendment, the Electoral Commission would facilitate each presidential candidate with Shs 20 million, an official car and a double-cabin truck for the candidate’s security detail. At that time, government was proposing an increment of this funding from 20m to 50million.
MPs, then, claimed the move to scrap the funding was to stop “wasting taxpayers’ money on people who had turned the presidential race into a money minting scheme.” The legislators also noted that candidates should demonstrate financial strength by facilitating their campaigns.
During the 2021 elections, all the 11 presidential candidates received a double-cabin pickup truck and at least eight police personnel from the counter terrorism unit. These privileges lasted only during the campaign period.
“I believe that the ground should be levelled that either they all fly to the different destinations or they all go by road. But until you have to cover all 146 districts in 63 days, that’s when you can understand what it means” She said.
On top of cars and funds, Ms Kalembe proposed that air transport should also be considered, as candidates have to endure bad roads and conduct campaigns within a short campaign period. She claimed, she and her team ran a risky campaign trail including incidents when they had to go through roads submerged under water.
“It puts all the lives that you are with on the campaign at risk. People’s health is at risk and if government cannot see that, then we have a problem” Ms Kalembe said.
“In our case were just 11; even if each one was given 200 million, it would have been better than to selfishly facilitate RDCs who are NRM cadres to do what.. apart from protecting the incumbent’s interests?” she added.
Ms Kalembe who emerged in the 8th position above three male contestants, also questioned the basis that informed the decision of MPs to strip facilitation towards presidential candidates, and said the notion that for one to contest for any office must have money, is wrong.
She narrated how on several occasions she had to meet bills for some members of her security detail ranging from feeding to personal problems despite EC’s pledge to fully facilitate the guards.
Gulu Municipality MP Lyandro Komakech and Soroti Woman MP Angelline Osegge thanked Nancy for demonstrating capacity and potential that women can lead Uganda.
The Acting Chairperson of the committee, Hon Ouma George Abott said the concern raised will be captured in the report which will be tabled to the whole house for debate once the probe is concluded.
So far, the committee has heard testimonies from presidential candidates; Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, Joseph Kabuleta, Willy Mayambala, John Katumba, Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi (represented by NUP leaders) Patrick Oboi Amuriat, Nancy Linda Kalembe, Fred Mwesigye, and Nobert Mao.
One of the candidates, a 24-year old Joh Katumba at one point during campaigns threatened to quit the race because he allegedly lacked capacity to fuel his car. On his first attempt, he was also turned away from nominations because he had not paid nomination fees.
Ms Kalembe however told journalists that amidst challenges, she managed to campaign in 127 of 146 districts of Uganda, an accomplishment she claims majority of other candidates in the 2021 presidential race did not manage to attain. She however did not mention how much she spent on campaigns promising to provide the information later.