East Africa

(Uganda) Otafiire: Vote buying makes me very sad

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The_Observer

  The minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Gen Kahinda Otafiire, has expressed disappointment at the fast growing culture of vote-buying in Uganda.

“I feel sad when I see people asking for money,” Otafiire said, while closing a workshop organised by Uganda National Health Consumers’ Organisation at Golf Course Hotel in Kampala on Wednesday.

The Ruhinda county MP said he was at least happy that his constituents are not easily swayed by money.

“I want to go and ask for votes and my people address the election question by issues, and I am glad that voters in my constituency are now asking for roads, power, water; the rest we shall sort ourselves out, and if you take money they will stone you,” Otafiire said.

The NRM ‘historical’ said the cardinal role of government is “to liberate people from poverty, ignorance and provide free health care.”

If you can’t liberate your people from those [evils], Otafiire asked, “what is your government for?”

“Once you equip people with capacity to manage their lives and do things on their own, they will have the values and we must concentrate on empowering our people to get access to the basic needs,” he said.

Otafiire told his audience that he joined the NRA/M liberation struggle in 1981, “to liberate our people from ignorance, disease and poverty.”

Otafiire’s remarks on vote buying were inspired by recent incidents of NRM members fighting for money as their MPs consulted on President Museveni’s sole candidacy in the 2016 elections.
Otafiire said the core principles of the NRM struggle were: “Total well-being of our people and freedom from ignorance.”

In keeping with those ideals, Otafiire said, he had once disagreed with a cabinet colleague who was opposed to the education of many youths in the absence of adequate jobs.

“One of my colleagues told me when we were in the ministers’ conference that we were educating too many children. He said every year we get many graduates without employment and he said it will cause us problems,” Otafiire revealed.

“I told him, ‘sir, I would rather have political discomfort from educated people rather than having political comfort from an uninformed population’.” Otafiire argued that when people are educated, they can listen to explanations and they will understand, which is unlikely to be the case with an illiterate population.

“When you have a population who say, go on…give us money [and] we vote for you, you know [that you are in trouble],”Otafiire said.

On the health rights activists’ demand that government recognises health as a right in the forthcoming constitution amendments, Otafiire argued that government doesn’t have capacity yet to give comprehensive healthcare coverage to everybody.

“If we do it now, we shall spend more money on litigation than providing health coverage,” he cautioned.

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