Kampala — Demands for the government and other political actors to end the monetisation of politics dominated debate yesterday during the National Symposium on election financing at Speke Resort, Munyonyo in Kampala.
The symposium, organised by ActionAid Uganda, Alliance for Financial Monitoring (ACFIM) and The Alternative, which are civil society organisations (CSOs), was held under the theme; 'Commercialised Electoral Processes as Barrier to Democratic Dispensation in Africa'.
The CSOs stated that about Shs2.4 trillion was spent by the different political parties and independent candidates in the campaigns for the 2016 elections, something they say influences the choices the voters make.
Ms Donah Ankunda from Rwampara County in Mbarara District revealed that in 2016, she voted against a candidate who had facilitated her journey from Kampala to the village polling station and went for one she thought had ideas.
"I was given money to travel from Kampala to vote someone but I decided to vote for Kyamadidi [former Rwampara MP] because I thought he had ideas but many people voted in favour of those who provided money," she said.
Mr Jonathan Tundulu, the Kyambogo University guild president, said political parties have been funding their candidates in university elections, urging students to defeat this by sticking to the cause of finding a good leader.
The guest speaker, Prof PLO Lumumba, the head of Kenya School of Law, said political offices in Uganda have been turned into money making places but argued that voters need to be sensitised to demand for services instead of campaign money.
"Getting elected into political office is now a guarantee that things will come because in Africa, a politician is a gatekeeper, a tax collector and so on. Parliament should not be a place of thieves because it is a holy place," Prof Lumumba said.
He urged the electorate to abandon their "appetite for things they have not worked for", arguing that when a politician spends more than the expected salary for the entire term of office on campaigns, he or she strives to reap whatever they injected in campaigns.
However, renowned pan Africanist Kaihura Nkuba argued that campaign financing is the only way poor citizens have their needs catered for.
"We should not have a crisis in politics because of money. Our people need wealth so that they get dignity but the governments have given up on them. If leaders increase taxes to have money for their big salaries, why would people not demand for money to elect them?" said Dr Nkuba.
Kasese Woman MP Winfred Kiiza asked the Electoral Commission to always publicise campaign expenditures of political parties, the source of the money and the audited books of accounts.
Democratic Party president general Norbert Mao said there is a need to empower the citizens to demand what they want by voting for the right candidates despite receiving money from their rivals.
One of the founders of the Alliance for National Transformation, Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, urged the voters to replicate the vigilance exercised in the parliamentary by-elections in Bugiri, Arua and Jinja municipalities and vote for values despite the money poured in the areas by the ruling NRM.
NRM electoral commission chairperson Tanga Odoi said the ruling party should not be blamed for using money in politics, saying campaign financing is used by individuals and parties to compete.
"If you don't have money, don't join politics; don't start a political party that will compete with those that have money. The excess of it is what should be curtailed," he said.
EC legal officer Jennifer Angeyo said they tried to educate the masses against the use of money in politics but the population has treated "bribery as a norm".