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The art of ugly campaigning

By Tracy Gwambe

Hooliganism tramps issues as FDC’s Adeke wins at Makerere University

Anna Adeke Anna is the new guild president of Makerere University after she swept the polls on March 4 with 6000 votes and won in all, except one, polling stations. Her nearest challenger, Okot Boniface managed 2000 votes.

To win, Adeke braved the hooliganism, was chased by a mob from campaigning in one of male student halls, and endured taunts as she placed a condom on the famous male ancestor, Gongom, of Lumumba.

The tightly contested race saw the usual candidates posters going up on building, tree branches, and electricity poles all over the university and the neighboring suburbs, amid deafening drumming and dancing by swarms of rowdy students clad in chilly-red gowns.

It was a tense campaign coming just days after a student strike over new tuition rules that saw university neighborhood shops raided and looted in unprecedented acts of hooliganism.

National politics fused with campus politics in a race driven by money, oratory, and a fair amount of shallowness.

Adeke, from the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, is said to have rode on the financial support of her party president, Mugisha Muntu while Martin Segawa of the Democratic Party was reportedly funded by solidarity from his former school, St. Henry’s Kitovu, which is well known for supporting its old students aspiring to be guild presidents.

Isaac Sekonge, an independent contestant was not so lucky. Penniless and panting, he was forced to kneel and plead with the mob when he failed to raise the Shs 10,000 fee required to appease the `spirits’ of Lumumba. He was not allowed to campaign even after the humiliation. In Mitchel Hall, he begged to pay Shs 2000 instead of the Shs 10,000.

One of the contestants, Martin Twinamatsiko, who was obviously inebriated as he staggered when stepped on the dais to campaign, illustrated how low student politics at Makerere has sunk.

Occasionally, sparks of issue-driven campaigning peeped through the mobocracy. Candidates promised to end the absurdity of examination results of some students going missing, lecturers handing in marks late, and even ensuring the university gets a new swimming pool and elevators in some faculties. Is there no alternative to strikes whenever students are aggrieved someone asked?

The Democratic Party, which holds the guild presidency, lost popularity amongst students after the incumbent, Kata, was accused of taking part in the signing of the new unpopular 60% tuition policy.

“I pay over Shs 3 million every academic year and get almost universal primary education (UPE) services,” said one of the students.

The runner up, Boniface Okot, was from NRM but when asked why the ruling party is always unpopular in the university politics, Paul Ntege, a student, said the university community inadvertently opts for the opposition to create a balance.

“Students prefer the opposition because it always opposes everything that the university might come up with in terms of policies that might be unrealistic,” he said, “this might not be the same with the NRM which might rule as the NRM government wants”. That is how Adeke possibly scooped her win.

Even then, I can still recall the answer I got when during the campaign I asked three female students who their favourite contestant in the race was.

“I am an Itesot voting for Adeke,” said one of the girls. Perhaps wining was as easy as that.

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