A report by activists who tracked the money that was poured into the Uganda’s 2016 election campaigns has revealed that Ugandan President Museveni spent an estimated minimum of $231m to secure a fifth elective term in office reports the Daily Monitor.
Museveni’s spending was followed by the Presidential candidate of the Go Forward political party, Amama Mbabazi, who is estimated to have used $19.9m (Shs66b) to market his first-time bid for the presidency.
FDC flag bearer Kizza Besigye, who was the Presidential runner-up in the election, is estimated to have used $4.5m (Shs15b) to traverse the 112 districts. The other five candidates are estimated to have spent less than a billion shillings each.
The report estimates that the presidential candidates spent a combined total of at least Shs857b to run their campaigns that is excluding nomination fees paid to the Electoral Commission and money spent at national level to for instance, convening delegates’ conferences and holding party primaries.
The report by Alliance for Campaign Finance Monitoring (ACFIM), a loose coalition of CSO activists, is based on data that was collected from a sample of 16 districts throughout the three-month campaign period and extrapolated to cover all 112 districts in the country.
The report notes that spending on selected campaign material such as branded paraphernalia accounted for the biggest chunk of presidential candidates’ expenditure. Another chunk of the money spent was Shs28b on campaign materials, Shs23b for donations & fundraising and Shs16b for transport expenses in the 16 districts surveyed.
Museveni is estimated to have spent Shs25b on campaign materials such as branded T-Shirts, fliers, caps and bandanas while Mbabazi spent Shs1.4b and Dr Besigye is spent Shs662m on the same.
But campaign teams of the three leading candidates all reacted to the report’s findings with skepticism, insisting that the figures are an exaggeration.
NRM deputy Secretary General Richard Todwong dismissed the report’s findings as “nonsense and total rubbish”, saying the party spent Shs20m per constituency during the campaigns.
Margaret Lukowe, the deputy communications director of Mbabazi’s Go-Forward team, said her candidate could have spent a maximum of Shs10b, saying expenses like accommodation were catered for by supporters who offered them at no cost.
FDC spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda said Dr Besigye was spending a maximum of Shs3m daily for the three-month campaign period, with the major chunk of the party’s expenditure going to nomination fees for parliamentary candidates. If this figure is to go by, then Dr Besigye spent Shs300m in 100 days of the campaign trail.
Vote-buying which has been a recurrent issue in national elections was also tracked. On a national scale, 9 per cent of the voters interviewed recorded incidences of voter bribery.
During the unsuccessful election petition that challenged his victory, Mbabazi argued that Museveni bribed voters by distributing Shs250,000 to all village councils.