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A Tale of Trials, Costs, and Pains of Virtual Campaigning for Makerere Guild Candidates :: Uganda Radionetwork
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A Tale of Trials, Costs, and Pains of Virtual Campaigning for Makerere Guild Candidates

Candidates like Ronald Ayebale find the virtual campaign process costly and less effective in reaching all students. While online strategies help propagate their candidature, personal interactions remain crucial for engaging students who may not be active online.
Former Makerere Guild President Shamim Nambasa addressing students

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Ronald Ayebale is among sixteen contenders vying for the 90th Guild Presidency of Makerere University in the upcoming polls slated for March 7, 2023, held virtually. 

Ayebale allocates a minimum of 200,000 shillings daily to enlist influencers who propagate his image, manifesto, and persuasive content across various social media platforms, including Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook, to garner votes.

The University administration has mandated the virtual sphere as the sole avenue for guild aspirants to present their manifestos to peers, following the decision to transition the entire election process to virtual platforms. This decision came after a tragic incident in 2022 involving a Uganda Christian University student, Betungura Bewatte, who lost his life during the election campaigns. 

Consequently, the University council banned all physical guild elections and mandated future elections to be conducted virtually. Furthermore, the University resolved to limit the influence of political parties in the University Guild affairs, citing concerns that political affiliations sow discord among the student body. Traditional campaign methods, including rallies and in-person interactions, have been discontinued to prevent violence during campaigns.

Despite the transition to virtual campaigning, candidates face challenges in reaching all students effectively. Some resort to in-person interactions, while others employ online strategies, including hiring influencers to disseminate campaign messages. However, concerns persist regarding the legitimacy of internet voting and the inclusivity of students without real-time internet access.

Candidates like Ronald Ayebale find the virtual campaign process costly and less effective in reaching all students. While online strategies help propagate their candidature, personal interactions remain crucial for engaging students who may not be active online.

Several candidates that URN spoke to said that they had resorted to going around and speaking to students in person to pitch their manifestos to them, while others prepared WhatsApp messages and sent them to random Makerere student numbers, which they say is incredibly expensive. Ayebale told URN that the whole process has proven to be very costly since they have to engage multiple bloggers and influencers to keep people informed about their candidature.

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He however notes that even when they spend as much money on bloggers, it beats his understanding when he approaches some potential voters on a personal level, and that many of them are unaware of his candidature because some of them are not always online, while others do not have enough data to stay online.  

“Since you are limited in terms of movement, it is very normal to find some people who are not aware of your candidates just a few days before the election. I have met some students and they told me that they were not aware of my candidature, it is so humiliating.” He said  

This experience is not in any way different from what Wacha Elizabeth Shakira, another candidate is going through.  Wacha told URN that she has to reach out to each individual in a population that is more than 30,000 students, which needs her to be on the ground all the time.  

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Simon Wandukwa, another Guild candidate, attempted to print a few banners and place them near his hall of residence (University hall) but was surprised when he saw a police patrol collecting them.Wandukwa told URN that, while the University had authorized them to use posters and banners as long as they did not have any political party affiliation, he was shocked to see his banners removed without giving him any explanation.    

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In a letter written by Darius Muwanguzi to the electoral Commission that URN has seen, Muwanguzi noted that posters and Banners should be placed on the Notice Board in the various units of the University. But added that self-standing banners can also be used and placed in appropriate spaces.  

While giving instructions to candidates earlier last week, Kirunda Ramadhan, the Makerere University Electoral Commission Chairperson made it clear that; any student who is found guilty of either holding a physical campaign or affiliating himself with any political party will be automatically disqualified.  Kirunda added that in addition to automatic disqualification, any candidate who violates the Guild statute will be suspended from the University for not less than a year.  

It should be recalled that last year; last year, the University’s Electoral Commission disqualified two candidates; National Unity platform- NUP flag bearer Margaret Nattabi and independent candidate Sulaiman Namwoza for holding a “Kimeza” which contradicts 10 (b) of the new students’ guild statute, 2022.

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