Candidates adopt new campaign strategies as EC ban bites hard

Residents pray for Mr Matia Lwanga Bwanika, the contestant for the Wakiso District LC5 seat, while campaigning in Kasozo Village, Busiro North, at the weekend. PHOTO/JOSEPH KIGGUNDU.

What you need to know:

  • Due to the surging Covid-19 infections, EC last month suspended campaign meetings in Kampala and 15 other districts and cities in the country.

As the clock ticks towards the January 14 General Election, candidates in districts where the Electoral Commission (EC) suspended physical campaigns have devised new ways of reaching out to voters.

On December 26, the EC suspended physical campaigns in 16 districts, citing rising Covid-19 cases. The affected districts are Jinja, Kabale, Kalungu, Masaka, Tororo, Kampala, Luweero, Wakiso, Mukono, Buikwe, Buvuma, Kayunga, Mbarara, Kabarole, Kasese and Kazo.

A Daily Monitor snap survey in some affected districts indicate that some candidates, who had not earlier embraced the use of radios and TVs,  are currently appearing regularly on paid talk shows, while others have embraced social media and door-to-door campaigns.

Some have recorded songs which play regularly on local radio stations while others invite small groups at their homes or take advantage of every social gathering in the area such as burials and wedding ceremonies to deliver their campaign messages.

Mr Fredrick Ssali, an independent candidate for Ntenjeru North constituency, says the ban worsened an already bad campaign terrain, and they are currently spending more money to reach out to the voters. 

“Had the EC heeded calls to postpone these elections, we couldn’t be facing this.  I have to move from one home to another canvassing for support. I am sure there are many voters I will not be able to reach and talk to,” he says

Ms Jackie Birungi, an independent candidate for Kayunga District Woman MP seat, says she has paid for adverts to address her supporters on radio.
“I have resorted to using the radio in the district to reach out to the people. I also visit homes to meet voters so that they can see me and tell me what they want,” she says.

Ms Rose Nakyejwe Kibudde, the NRM flag bearer for the Masaka City Woman MP seat, says she is using the same method of door -to-door and radio announcements to reach out to voters in the remaining days to the polling day.

In Jinja District and Jinja City, a good number of candidates are currently using social media platforms to endear themselves to the voters.
Ms Enid Maganda Nabukwasi, a Forum for Democratic Change flag bearer for Jinja City Member of Parliament, says she is using social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and SMS text messages to campaign.

“All this requires money, but also a big section of voters do not have smartphones, and even those who own them cannot afford Over The Top (OTT) daily tax and megabytes,” he says.

Ms Hawa  Minga, who is aspiring for  the Jinja City Member of Parliament seat on the Justice Forum (Jeema)  ticket, says  the EC ban complicated her vote hunting process and she is only waiting for the polling day .
“Many voters today want money, which I don’t have. Very few can understand what some of us are going through,”   Ms Minga says.

Public address system
Mr Andrew Ssenyonga, the independent candidate for the Mukono District chairperson seat, says he uses the public address system, which he mounts on a truck and the local radio known as Dunamis to communicate to the voters.

“Part of my team is moving door -to -door, but it’s expensive because some voters are asking for money to listen to them,” he says.

Mr Abas Ssozi, the NRM flag bearer for the Mukono Municipality parliamentary seat, says the ban on physical campaign meetings couldn’t have affected them if EC had paid for them airtime on both radios and TVs.

Mr Badru Ssenyonga, Jeema candidate for  Nyendo/ Mukungwe constituency in Masaka City,  says  he has embarked on the door-to- door strategy to gather more support  .

Mr Fred Mukasa Mbidde, the Democratic Party candidate in Nyendo/ Mukungwe Constituency, says by the time EC banned  physical planning meetings, he had already covered most parts of the constituency .

“I am lucky the said ban has not affected me;  I am now concentrating on consolidating my  support and  I am sure I will emerge as the  winner,”   he says.

Mr Godfrey Kayemba Afaayo, the Forum for Democratic Change candidate for Kimaanya/ Kabonera Constituency, says he is also resorting to door –to- door campaigning though the exercise is too hectic.

“I am also trying to use some local radio stations where we have placed campaign messages to reach out to more voters,” he adds .

Mr Robert Asiimwe, the NRM flag bearer for Kimaanya /Kabonera constituency, says  he uses radio announcements and outdoor advertisements .
Mr Robert Luswata, one of the independent candidates aspiring for mayor  of Kyengera Town Council in Wakiso District, is using audio and video recordings to reach the electorate.

“Before the ban on physical campaign meetings was declared, I used to drive around and reach out to a big number of voters within a short period of time but now I campaign from door- to -door, which is time consuming,” he says  

Mr Matia Lwanga Bwanika, who seeks to retain the Wakiso District chairperson seat on the NUP ticket, says his campaign team is massively using Facebook as well as attending  churches and mosques  to talk to voters .

Door-to-door
“I suspended the big meetings because I don’t want to expose our people to Covid-19. We want them to remain safe but I will use other alternative ways  to reach out to them such as visiting individual homes,” Mr Bwanika says .

Ms Rosemary Seninde, the State minister for Primary Education and NRM flag bearer for Wakiso District Woman MP seat, says she is currently focusing on meeting small groups of people.

“But we ensure that they strictly observe all the set SOPs, we would love to go digital but the situation has not favoured us because we have no enough money,” the minister says

Ms Seninde’s closest rival and NUP flag bearer Betty Naluyima says she has printed more posters to be placed in strategic locations around the district. “What is worrying us is that the posters we pin up are vandalised but we will not give up,” she says.

Background
Due to the surging Covid-19 infections, EC last month suspended campaign meetings in Kampala and 15 other districts and cities in the country. However,

Daily Monitor provided Ministry of Health data, showing how Covid-19 numbers contradict the EC’s decision to ban campaign meetings. It emerged that half of the 16 districts in which EC suspended campaigns, each cumulatively registered less than 400 infections in 10 months.  
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