Lack of funds foil presidency bids by Ugandan women: Ex-candidate

KAMPALA (AA) – Former female presidential candidate Betty Olive Kamya believes that a lack of funding constitutes the main obstacle to the election of a woman as Uganda’s president.

“Uganda is ready for a woman president. But the only thing that can sell a woman [as a presidential candidate] in Uganda is money,” Kamya, who came in at fifth place in 2011 presidential polls, told The Anadolu Agency.

“If you have money, you can match anybody. You can do fundraisers, sell your program, print t-shirts, etc.,” she said.

In 2011, Kamya won only 0.66 percent of the vote. President Yoweri Museveni, by contrast, clinched a whopping 68.3 percent.

Kamya cites Uganda’s “patriarchal values” as a main reason why voters don’t take women seriously.

“The majority of our population is women, but this has never translated into more votes for women,” she said, going on to point out that her party – the Uganda Federal Alliance – was also still new to the local political scene.

“People didn’t really know about me yet [in 2011]. I was contesting elections on an ideology of federalism, whereas the seven other candidates campaigned on administrative issues,” she said.

“I was saying we needed to sort out governance issues from the colonial system, which is a centralized system, to a more democratic, revolving system, which was a new concept for voters,” Kamya recounted.

In Uganda, each of the 112 districts has a seat set aside for a female representative in parliament.

Uganda’s 375-seat legislative assembly currently has 35-percent female representation, with only 19 female district representatives beating their male competitors for seats.

-Monetized politics-

Lina Zedriga Waru, a lawyer, agrees that politics in Uganda has become overly monetized.

“The majority of women cannot afford the kind of money that is usually thrown around during elections,” she told AA.

“So eventually, when women come to parliament, they are forever grateful – they even say it: ‘Mzee has helped me’, ‘Mzee has not helped you.’ It’s about partnership,” Waru said, using the Swahili word for “elders.”

“So our space as women in political positions is really pathetic. Our positions are more vulnerable and our issues are not coming out,” Waru lamented.

She added: “We have credible candidates for the presidency. If we continue to organize, we will see a credible, progressive woman president by 2016.”

Political analyst Julius Lebo, by contrast, does not believe Uganda is ready for a female president.

“Whoever says it’s because of money, these are just excuses for anyone who gets in the ring and is beaten; they should stop,” he told AA.

According to Lebo, Ugandans won’t vote for a female president. He cited recent unsuccessful presidential bids by female candidates Kamya and Miria Obote.

“Look at how poorly they performed [in elections]. Maybe it’s because their political parties weren’t known,” he said.

Lebo argues that Ugandans have become accustomed to dictators due to the country’s post-colonial history of insecurity and bloodshed.

“Our politics has been so militarized and monetized, we like people who are autocratic,” he said, adding that candidates drawn from non-military backgrounds were at a natural disadvantage.

“We look at them [non-military candidates] as people who are just taking up space; they are not necessarily serious political contenders,” added Lebo.

© 2014, Halima Athumani. All rights reserved. – The views expressed here are purely those of the author and not necessarily those of the publishers. – Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.

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