Gulu LC Candidates Rue Expensive Campaigns

2010 Views Gulu, Uganda
With the campaigns dust for the local council elections now settling ahead of tomorrow's polls, most candidates are looking back with unease about the huge amounts of money they had to part with. Most of the candidates say they were forced to pay a lot of money to the crowds that turned up to listen to their campaign speeches. They complain that the voters have become accustomed to receiving money after every election campaign rally that they would not show up if they learn a particular candidate is mean. Nicholas James Odia, the UPC candidate for Gulu district LC5 seat, said that the campaign was very costly. He explained that although he does not believe in paying out money to voters, he was forced after he realized that fewer people were turning up for is rallies because he wasn't giving them money. He estimated that up to 35 million shillings would be adequate to fund a three month campaign like one they have just been through but wondered why one would spend as much only election campaigns. //Cue in: "The campaigns have been..." Cue out: "...thirty thousand shillings like that."// Odia blamed the electoral commission for encouraging the giving of money to voters through a regulation, which allows candidates to provide refreshment for the voters. He said that the term refreshment was too broad and has needed up being abused by both candidates and the voters who demand for the refreshment in monetary form. The electoral commission does not allow offering to voters but considers provision of refreshment. Martin Ojara Mapinduzi, the FDC candidate for Gulu LC5 chairman admitted that the campaigns was costly but said he only incurred costs to maintain his campaign. Ojara denied issuing money to the voters saying at most rallies; it was people in the crowd who offered him goats, chicken and even money to praise him for addressing issues. Meanwhile, Walter Ochora, the NRM party candidate for Gulu LC5 chairman also admitted spending much money to facilitate his campaign but hastened to say that the money was provided by his party. He said NRM party bankrolled its LC5 candidates at a tune of 25 million shillings. Ochora however, accused his rival of employing smear campaign to tarnish his reputation and ensure he is not voted. He also accused his FDC rival of receiving financial assistance from foreign organizations saying he has complained to the concerned authorities although Mapinduzi denies the claim. All the candidates however agreed that the resettlement of IDPs meant that they had to travel longer distances into the villages to hunt for the voters, a situation they said consumed more time and much money. They also lamented that time was inadequate to cover all the nearly 300 villages in the district. The LC campaigns begun on December 3 2011 and only ended yesterday, February 21 2011. Four candidates are contesting for the position of Gulu LC5 chairman, however it was not possible to meet Ben Acelam, the Independent candidate. Acelam is a lecturer at Gulu University and was an executive member of the NRM party before defecting to FDC party in July only to turn independent again after he lost the party primary elections. While candidates complain of spending too much money on the campaigns, the voters are happy that this time they have had considered power to influence the issues in the campaigns. Nelson Akena, a resident of Vanguard in Pece division said that voters have been able to demand for issues that concern them fro the candidates. He also explained that voters demanded money because some believed it was the only opportunity when some of the elected leaders especially irresponsible incumbents ever turned back to meet them.