KAMPALA – Professor Nuwagaba Augustus, an international consultant on economic transformation has warned on high bribes associated with Uganda’s politics saying that the vice is sinking the country’s transformation.
According to him, people are still defining themselves by tribes, wondering why they don’t define themselves as Ugandans.
The Professor was on Sunday evening making a case during the 4th Annual Symposium on the role of money in electoral politics in African countries at the NEXT Media park.
The e-Symposium is an annual event organized by the Alliance for Finance Monitoring (ACFIM) with a view of stimulating debate towards fostering open, transparency and accountable political financing.
ACFIM says the high cost of election campaigns (including monetary and in-kind donations) makes it impossible for those political parties and/or candidates without access to campaign money, to compete in elections.
This year’s theme is “Money, Elections, and Covid-19: Implications on the Credibility of Electoral Outcomes in Africa.”
Nuwagaba, a one-time MP contestant loser in Kabale district has revealed that whereas in developed countries people join politics for service delivery, in Uganda politicians go for money.
“I stood for MP in Kabale Municipality, and I almost got zero. A whole professor like me!”
“I was saying things that politicians must be talking about, but unfortunately, people don’t want to hear these things,” he said.
Professor says that politics is central for economic transformation. “Good governance is extremely important for social and economic transformation.”
“The money I spent on campaigns in 2016 would have bought me a commercial building in any town in Uganda,” he said.
However, the government Chief Whip, Thomas Tayebwa said that much as money in politics is key, but the most important thing is to connect with people.
“The moment you want to represent people, you must connect with them,” he said.
On bribery, Tayebwa says the issue is about the implementation of the law because it is there.
“Ideally, if your election is nullified because of bribery, we shouldn’t allow you to participate in the by-election.”
He also challenged MPs to stop using their money to implement government programs but instead lobby for the funds from the government.
UPC’s Michael Osinde, a two-time MP loser said that there a law is that requires the government to support political parties with resources, however, in Africa, “no government can facilitate the opponent to come and take over power.”
“I lost two elections in a row not because the opponent was a strong candidate but because my party wouldn’t support me enough with the resources,” he said, adding that “I was given UGX 30 million, and that could only afford posters.”
Gram Matenga, country representative, Kenya, and regional thematic lead, participation & representation, Africa at International IDEA revealed that research noted that African politicians’ dependence on private funding is enormous.
He says voters in Africa are increasingly becoming dependant on politicians for gifts and tokens in exchange for votes.
“When you look at Africa, 63% of the countries have regulations that ban campaign donations from foreign entities. However, only 35% of these countries have regulations that ban foreign donations to individual candidates. This means money from foreign entities can use unregulated means to reach these candidates.”
For Sheila Bunwaree an Eminent Scholar and Professor of Development, Democracy & Governance in the African Region, she called for more gender representation.
“We need to look at the under-representation of women in key decision-making processes.”
“We still have unregulated financing of political parties. In many countries, there is no regulation regarding this in place.”
The purpose of the Symposium was to engage politicians, leaders of political parties, political analysts, academia, civil society and media, in a discussion about feasible solutions to challenges posed by monetized politics and its negative influence on democracy.