Last Thursday’s meeting between the Electoral Commission (EC) and the 2021 presidential candidates turned dramatic after one of the candidates asked the electoral body to financially support his campaign.
John Katumba, the 24-year-old presidential contender told the EC chairman, Justice Simon Byabakama, that much as he can find a car to use for his countrywide campaign tours, he cannot afford to fuel it.
He thus asked the electoral body for support but his request fell flat as the EC chairman, quoting the October 2015 amendments to the Presidential Elections Act told him that the electoral body is constrained under the law to give presidential contenders such support.
Prior to the amendment, the EC would facilitate each presidential candidate with Shs 20 million, an official car and a double-cabin truck for the candidate’s security detail.
In the 2015 Bill to amend the law, government had proposed to revise upwards to Shs 50 million, the cash given to a presidential candidate.
Parliament however knocked down this proposal after Aruu MP, Samuel Odonga Otto moved to scrap the monetary facilitation to presidential candidates in the spirit of locking out jokers from a presidential contest.
This year, all the 11 candidates received a double-cabin pickup truck and at least eight police personnel from the counter terrorism unit. Some of the guards have to move with the candidate while others keep guard at the candidate’s residence.
The EC fully maintains the car in addition to paying daily allowances for the guards and the driver.
Hearing this, Katumba suggested that, since he cannot afford a personal car, the EC should allow him to use the security truck for his campaign tours, a suggestion that Byabakama rejected.
“That vehicle is only supposed to carry your security detail, and to open the way for you,” Byabakama is quoted to have told Katumba.
Without a car and fuel, Katumba told the meeting that the only option is for him walk to his campaign meetings.
“They’ll drive behind or ahead of me as I walk to the campaign meetings,” Katumba said.
On November 2, Katumba pulled off dramatic antics when he attempted to sprint to the nomination venue at Kyambogo University after the vehicle in which he was travelling in got a puncture at the Nakawa junction.
The police picked him and delivered him to the venue but was unfortunately turned away for failure to pay the nomination fee of Shs 20 million.
He returned the following day after paying the money.
On social media, some commentators have wondered why a 24-year-old unemployed university graduate would insist on joining a presidential race than using the money he paid in nomination fees as start up capital.
Katumba says, the money he paid was not his.
“There are some people who financed my nomination. That is why when the EC refused to receive it in cash, I had to ensure that I satisfy what was required of me to get nominated because that’s what my funders wanted,” Katumba told Spark TV.
The presidential contender is reportedly still staying in a students hostel near Makerere University.