On 18 February 2011, Uganda held its second presidential election since the introduction of a multiparty system in 2005. The incumbent President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, was re-elected for another five-year term in a hotly contested election. Museveni has led the people of Uganda for the last 25 years, having been in power since 26 January 1986. The election campaign, though generally peaceful, was termed by various observers and the opposition as having been characterized by voter bribery, uneven campaigning opportunities, intimidation through the use of state security forces, unprecedented extravagance on the part of the ruling party (NRM) and vote rigging.
Frederic Charles Schaffer has argued that ‘Vote buying and vote selling can be understood no longer as an economic transaction between those who sell their freedom and those who buy them in the hope of regaining their investments when they get into power ... From the standpoint of ordinary people ... elections are the times when equality and justice are temporarily achieved as their patrons fulfill their financial obligations to support them in times of need.’9 The use of money to influence election processes and outcomes is a reality in Uganda. It was evident in the 2001 and 2006 elections, and occurred again in the 2011 elections. The NRM is said to have spent a huge sum of money during its campaign, some of it on campaign organization and the balance on bribery to influence voters. This definitely gave the ruling party unfair advantage over the opposition parties, which did not have such resources at their disposal.
“Of particular note is the lack of a level playing field and the “commercialization of politics”, both of which will need to be addressed,” 2011 Uganda Elections - Interim Statement Interim Statement by Dame Billie Miller, Chairperson of the Commonwealth Observer Group further, “The ruling party in Uganda is by far the largest and best-resourced party and following many years in power, elements of the state structure are synonymous with the party. Further, reports regarding the “commercialization of politics” by the distribution of vast amounts of money and gifts are most disturbing”. The main concern regarding the campaign, and indeed regarding the overall character of the election, was the lack of a level playing field, the use of money and abuse of incumbency in the process. The magnitude of resources that was deployed by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), its huge level of funding and overwhelming advantage of incumbency, once again, challenged the notion of a level playing field in the entire process. Indeed, the ‘money factor’ and widespread allegations of bribery, and other more subtle forms of buying allegiance were key features of the political campaign by some, if not all, the parties. By all accounts, the 2011 elections were Uganda’s most expensive ever. It is therefore important that for the future serious thought be given to election campaign financing and political party fundraising. This is more so given that there are virtually no checks on the levels of campaign financing and expenditure due to the cash-based nature of the campaign and the lack of stringent campaign financing regulations, both of which facilitate the use of illicit payments to voters as inducements and has the potential to undermine their free will. “The February 2011 Ugandan Presidential elections can be characterized as nothing more than an attempt to satisfy the international community who believe that holding elections are proof of democracy.
Money Matters: Financing Illiberal Democracy in Uganda
By Julius Kiiza, PhD (Sydney)
This paper discusses the financing of Uganda’s illiberal democracy with reference to the 2011 multiparty elections. To describe Uganda as an ‘illiberal democracy’ is to suggest that it is a hybrid polity gravitating between semi-democracy and semi-authoritarianism ‘along the spectrum of hybridity’ (Trip, 2010: 3). Hybridity has persisted despite the fairly regular presidential and parliamentary elections since 1996. The duality of democratic and despotic characteristics questions the viability of elections as avenues for deepening constitutional liberalism. As Fareed Zakaria (1997; 2003) notes, the increase in elections in certain polities (in Latin America, Asia and Africa) has not translated into deepening constitutional liberalism. The problem in hybrid polities is that ‘democracy is flourishing, constitutional liberalism is not’ (Zakaria, 1997). This suggests that elections (which are central to the theory and practice of democracy), have not necessarily enhanced the rule of law, the separation of powers, and respect for basic liberties of speech, assembly, and property.
Nor has the consent of the governed been adopted and regularized as a principle of government. While the regularity of elections has increased, democratic consolidation has not. This begs the question: ‘Why’? Why has the regularity of elections not been associated with rising levels of consent of the governed (as a measure of deepening democracy)? This paper highlights one aspect of the problem, namely, the corrosive effect of political cash on the principle of government by the ‘consent of the governed’ (Locke, 1690; Cassinelli, 1959). The theory of consent holds that government without people’s consent is tyranny. To what degree did Uganda’s 2011 elections serve to enlist people’s consent as a basis of forming government?
I draw a distinction between ‘voluntary’ consent and ‘induced’ consent. The former is deliberate; the latter, a product of coercion. Voluntary consent is issue-based; induced consent is politically constructed. One is rooted in a participant political culture; the other, in subjective (or parochial) political cultures (Almond and Verba, 1963). One variety of consent seeks a just (or lawful) government deriving its legitimacy from the consent of citizens; the other establishes a government whose raison d’etre is to dispense political patronage (via, for example, voter-bribes or ethnicized political jobs). The financialization of elections, I contend, enhances induced consent, not voluntary consent. This makes political finance an obstacle to the deepening of democracy. Thus, while money matters in all polities – in America and Europe as well as Asia and Africa – political finance risks blocking people’s struggles for increased democratic space.
In present-day Uganda, political finance has played an important role in inducing voter preferences, thanks to the obscenely high degree of financialization of elections. DEMGroup (2011), for example, decries the ‘pervasive vote-buying’ that characterized the 2011 elections. Vote-buying (in the broad sense of using money, material inducements or promises of politicized ‘goods’ such as new districts) took place in the presidential, parliamentary and local council elections. Both the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party (1986 – to-date) and the leading opposition party, that is, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) were involved. Both used more political cash in 2011 than in previous elections.1 However, the incumbent president and his NRM politicians out-spent the opposition by a huge margin. According to Gatsiounis (2011), candidate Museveni and his NRM party purchased ‘their way to re-election, outspending the opposition – 10-to-1, by some estimates – in what is widely considered the most expensive campaign in Uganda’s history.’
The central hypothesis of this paper is that elections in Uganda have become procedural rituals, not opportunities for establishing government by consent, defined as an elected, capable, and accountable government. This hypothesis is discussed with reference to the financialization of the 2011 elections, and in particular, the role of money in inducing the consent of voters. The information presented herein was collected via critical reviews of secondary literature, ‘grey’ documents, and press reports. These were augmented with primary data which was collected prior to the elections (in December 2010) during elections (in February 2011), and after the elections. Interviews were conducted with key politicians, academics, and ordinary voters in Kampala and Hoima districts. A Focus Group Discussion was also held at Joker’s Club on 11 March 2011.
The evidence gathered suggests that political corruption (on both the demand side and the supply side) is associated with state failure to deliver durable developmental outcomes. The economy has undoubtedly grown at a rapid rate of 7.3 percent between 1992 and 2010. Over the same period, income poverty has declined ‘considerably’ from 56 percent of the population to 24.5 percent (Ssewanyana, 2010). Unfortunately, these rosy socio-economic figures are hardly reflected in ordinary people’s lives. For example, no fundamental socio-economic transformation has taken place. Over 80 percent of Uganda’s 31 million people are still rural-based peasants who are stuck in the Garden of Eden (Kiiza, 2007). Uganda’s ‘rosy’ economic growth has simply by-passed them. Moreover, 85 percent of the youths aged 15 – 35 years are unemployed. These depressing socio-demographics, are in large part, a product of state failure to deliver what Linda Weiss (1998) calls ‘transformative’ developmental outcomes.
State failure has resulted in the erosion of trust in the corruption-ridden political leadership. This has triggered voter apathy. Voters apparently use the election season to demand for deliverables ‘here and now.’ Theirs is a widely held view that ‘elected officials will not reverse the deep-rooted cancer of state failure to deliver’ (Interviews, Hoima District, February 2011).
Thus, the financialization of Uganda’s elections is saddening but not shocking. What is shocking is the metamorphosis of voter bribes and political corruption from shameful forms of unaccountable governance into distinctive ways of holding government officials to account. The corrupt political elites who ‘decentralize’ their fruits of corruption to the electorate are rewarded with electoral victories. Politicians in the opposition and the ruling party who campaign for clean government lose out. Shockingly, Mr and Mrs Clean politicians who advance issues (such as clean government or quality roads, education and health services) are largely ignored by the poor (who constitute the largest voting bloc for the ruling NRM party). Those that refuse to give voter bribes lose precisely because they are perceived to be ‘mean,’ ‘stingy,’ ‘unaccountable’ or simply ‘hungry’ men and women who are ‘looking for their turn to eat,’ not to serve (Focus Group Participant, Jokers Hotel, Kampala, March 2011).
Two campaign managers from ICT State Minister Alintuma Nsambu's camp are under arrest for bribing people to support his election bid. Masekele Ssebwaama and his assistant Maria Kalule were detained in a citizen arrest conducted by members of an opposing camp. It is alleged that they were caught distributing sugar, salt and maize flour to people in Bukoto East, Alintuma Nsambu's constituency. Ssenyondo Lukyamuzi the campaign manager of one of Nsambu's opponents, Florence Namayanja, says he has been keeping an eye on the State Minister's camp for a while. He says he finally found concrete evidence that Nsambu's campaign managers were distributing food to people in Bulando, Gulama and Bulayi. Lukyamuzi claims that Masekele Ssebwaama and Maria Kalule were caught in the act. Their car keys were confiscated and they were detained until the police arrived on the scene and arrested them. A blue truck, registration number UAM 064V, in which the two campaigners were traveling, was loaded wit a large number of sugar, maize and salt. It was impounded and taken to Masaka Central Police Station.
DEMGroup conducted a research on money in politics to assess whether money is being used inappropriately to influence the freeness and fairness of the electoral process. The research which was conducted through Focused Group Discussions and DEMGroup’s Long Term Observation effort and analysis of documentary evidence during election campaigns focused on:
a) Vote buying – giving of gifts and donations to groups of voters, buying off candidates and campaign agents and bribing voters.
b) Timing and making of important decisions (promises of projects, fulfilling previous pledges, jobs, etc)
c) Use of government institutions to generate patronage, inappropriate use of public resources and facilities for campaign purposes.
B: Voters faced with Poverty
The use of money in elections has become a culture in Uganda. Voters have become accustomed to receiving bribes for their votes. Voters seek to extract resources from candidates because they feel that it is the only way they can gain from their vote. In most cases, when politicians get to the office they never return to the voters or deliver the required social services during their term of office. This is not particularly surprising since a large number of the electorate are poor and vulnerable a monetary gift can have an outsized impact. Besides money, other items used to bribe voters include gifts like foodstuffs, drinks, salt, soap, mattresses, plates and cooking pans.
“The campaign was conducted in a fairly open and free environment, in which the freedoms of expression, assembly and association were generally respected. Candidates and parties campaigned intensively, and were mostly able to move freely throughout the country. The distribution of money and gifts by candidates, especially from the ruling party, a practice inconsistent with democratic principles, was widely observed by EU EOM observers,” reported The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) in their statement dated 20th February 2011 on UGANDA 2011 ELECTIONS: IMPROVEMENTS MARRED BY AVOIDABLE FAILURES.
Widespread allegations of vote buying and bribery of voters were reported by all EU EOM observers deployed across Uganda. In many cases it was difficult to distinguish between bribing voters and “facilitating” party supporters46. It has been observed and reported that most NRM candidates use government projects such as the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) and the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF) as tools to press voters to adhere to the NRM should they wish to benefit from such projects.
Beatrice Anywar Atim, the incumbent Woman Member of Parliament for Kitgum, claims to have evidence that National Resistance Movement members held meetings to distribute bribes to voters in Kitgum town.
Anywar, who is contesting to retain her seat in parliament, says the bribery occurred in Padwong Parish. She says the NRM members were dishing out huge sums of money to induce people to support them in today’s elections.
Anywar says she informed the police of the matter. The police say no action was taken because they could not locate the bribers.