Tracking the Money and Charm That Never Won Museveni Votes in Kampala

But tracking Museveni’s donations in Kampala and analysing what technocrats said were likely cost implications of the president's policies over the last three years, this article is an attempt to compute the cost of Museveni’s charm offensive scheme strategy that didn’t deliver votes in Kampala. The analysis reveal Museveni’s charm offensive strategy to win voters the city may have costed more than UGX 50 billion.
26 Jan 2021 18:24
Tracking Museveni's donations in Kampala
“You people of Kampala, you have been complaining that you don’t see me, you have not been seeing me because you rejected me,” Museveni said in Luganda at Nakasero Marketas he kicked off Kampala tour on a rainy Saturday, October  8, 2018.

He said that Kampala voters had rejected him for two decades and embraced opposition politicians. He used a Runyankole adage loosely translated as “when water rejects you, you respond by saying; I am not dirty to bathe.”  He asked for forgiveness, but at the same time, implored the voters to seek a pardon because they had rejected him first.

He visited five groups—Nakasero Market traders, Old Taxi Parker taxi operators, Owino Market Traders, Kampala Association of Disabled Traders and Kiseka Market. And by the end of the day, Museveni had donated about 3 billion Shillings.   

This visit is a perfect illustration of a charm offensive strategy that Museveni used in the past three years to win the hearts and souls of Kampala voters. It cost billions of money in direct donations and policies that affected local revenue usually collected from Kampala businesses.    

It is hard to compute the precise amount of money Museveni spent on vote hunting schemes in the city: some groups received equipment; some donations weren’t made public and the cost of policies can’t be precisely computed.  

But tracking Museveni’s donations in Kampala and analysing what technocrats said were likely cost implications of the president's policies over the last three years, this article is an attempt to compute the cost of the strategy that, however, didn’t deliver votes in Kampala. The analysis reveals that Museveni could have spent up to 50 billion Shillings.   

Unsparing generosity   

Museveni’s strategy, as he toured Kampala, was to ensure that donations reached the last person. For instance, he would give the main group (SACCO) a donation but also donate 5-10 million Shillings to what he called smaller groups within the markets.

The president, for instance, was told in Owino Market, where he promised 10 million Shillings to each smaller group, that the entire market had 97 Saccos. These would receive 970 million Shillings.

The president’s first money giving incursion in Kamwokya ghetto happened two weeks before his Kampala tour: he sent six cheques worth 100 million Shillings to ghetto youth and women groups.

Also in September 2018, Museveni visited seven carpentry shops in Kampala and Wakiso district commissioning SACCOs and, according to what URN has computed, Museveni donated 440 million Shillings to these groups,  six of which were in Kampala. Each received machinery for carpentry and joinery, welding and metal fabrication.

At the commissioning, Lucy Nakyobe, the State House Comptroller said that each unit in every carpentry was procured at a cost of193 million Shillings, while the metal fabrication and welding equipment were procured at 490 million Shillings.

A month after Museveni’s city tour, Nakyobe fondly called “mama” pledged 2.5 billion Shillings to Kampala National Resistance Movement (NRM) youth who had been seething, claiming they were sidelined during the president’s tour.  

Kampala’s untaxed taxis  

Museveni’s consequential policy that severely affected Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) internally generated revenue is a November 2017 directive that stopped collection of tax from taxis operating in the city. The taxi operators, who were paying 120,000 Shillings per month or 1.4 million per year, blocked Museveni’s convoy at Clock Tower in Kampala and expressed discontent with the KCCA policy to hike tax. 

A meeting held at State House in November 2017 agreed that taxi operators pay 720,000 Shillings per annum. And this payment was supposed to start on January 1, 2018. But three years later, it has never been effected.  The KCCA Director of Revenue Collections Sam Ssserunkuma says that the taxi operators have paid nothing thus far.” As the political season winds down, Sserunkuma is optimistic this directive will be effected.  

State Minister for Kampala Benny Namugwanya says that the lack of a “legal instrument” to effect collection of tax is what has derailed the process for three years.

Taxi operators were supposed to start paying on July 1, 2020, but it was pushed forward to January 1, 2021, because of the coronavirus lockdown. This collection starting date, she says was pushed forward because some meetings with taxi operators were supposed to take place in December. However, they didn’t take place due to politics.   

Namugwanya says collecting this tax will certainly start around March. Taxi operators will only pay for this financial year that started in July 2020.  

Mustapha Mayambala of Uganda Transporters Development Agency (UTRADA) told URN that taxi operators are “ready to pay. We agreed how much we should pay and we are not contesting it.” It’s a response he has been giving since 2018 when taxi operators were scheduled to start paying.   

In March 2019, then KCCA Acting Director of Revenue, Fred Andema told URN that there are about 11,000 taxis plying routes in Kampala. If we calculate the financial implication of this policy based on the 120,000 Shillings per month figure that triggered the operator's strike, the government has lost more than 46 billion Shillings. And we if we calculate its cost implication based on 720,000 per annum figure, the government has lost 23.7 billion Shillings.   

A letter dated July 2017 from the president that prompted tax operators to strike directed that informal sector players such as market and roadside vendors should not be overtaxed and should only be taxed annually not daily. Museveni argued that informal sector players can be taxed from the consumption end.

“Once these groups get some income, they will start spending and that is how the government will get taxes through consumption taxes,” the president said. In an attempt to dissuade KCCA councillors from endorsing the president’s directive in August 2017, Sserunkuma said KCCA could lose the 28 billion Shillings they had projected to collect from the transport sector in Kampala.

Bizarre appointments   

Then came the unusual appointments. To appeal to ghetto voters, Museveni handed offices to celebrities like Mark Bugembe aka Buchaman  as a ghetto envoy, Catherine Kusasira as a senior Kampala presidential advisor and Jeniffer Nakangubi aka Full-Figure as a presidential youth advisor. Such personalities can fittingly be described as campaign agents since they got titles without offices.   

Museveni also snatched Kampala Deputy Lord Mayor, Sarah Kanyike, appointing her as State Minister for the Elderly in July 2020. After 2016 election, Museveni handed State Minister for Youth office to Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi who had lost the Kampala Woman MP race, and the Kampala ministerial position to Beti Kamya, who had also lost the Rubaga North parliamentary race. She promised him 80 per cent of Kampala votes.   

And in September, 2019 Kamya told the president during the graduation of more than 8,000 Presidential Initiative for Skilling the Girl-Child graduate that she had fulfilled the promise. “When I pledged three years ago that I will deliver 85 per cent of Kampala to you [Museveni], some people laughed at me. But isn’t this 85 per cent,” she said pointing at tents full of youths at Kololo Airstrip.     

Diminishing vote per cent score  

But quite astounding, this money did not win Museveni votes. And he continues to cede ground to the opposition. He scored 24 per cent as per preliminary results in Kampala, during the presidential election held on January 14, about 6 per cent less of what he scored in 2016.

It is Museveni worst score in Kampala since 1996 when he won the city with 56 per cent.   The president hastily blamed sectarianism for the loss NRM suffered in Buganda. Some ministers quickly re-echoed Museveni’s “sectarian” argument.   
Money did not win votes in Kampala

In Kampala, Museveni voters think the stinging loss he suffered wasn’t a consequence of tribalism. “People who live in Kampala are intelligent, they are educated. They, unlike people in villages, cannot be manipulated to vote Museveni,” a voter said.  “Kampala people are tired of this government. Some say they are overtaxed, others say they don’t see services,” says Namatovu Faith from Nansana.  

A Museveni voter argued that Kampala is populated by the youth who can never vote for NRM.  Damali Kibirige, from Rubaga, said the presidential aides who don’t respect ordinary folks contributed to his loss. “People who work in the president’s office don’t care, they don’t respond to our letters. Even those at Kyadondo, we would go there and they just don’t bother to even give us transport refund,” she said.   

As the president’s convoy made its way to the City Square on Friday last week—the last of his several stops thanking voters on his way from Kiruhura, bands blared, hundreds of his supporters cheered, danced and sang tajja Kugenda, tajja Kugenda (he will not go).

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