Opaque political finance unsettles opposition Forum for Democractic Change party
Opaque political party funding for the recent elections is causing a split in the opposition Forum for Democratic (FDC) Party in Uganda. Founding party president Dr. Kizza Besigye who is now retired and a section of other leaders are accusing the current leadership of accepting a cash donation of more than UGX 7 billion ($ 1.93million) from the party’s adversary, President Yoweri Museveni.
The party’s Secretary General, Hon. Nandala Mafabi is insisting that the money in question came from another source which is being kept anonymous. Mafabi further revealed that it has always been the policy of the party not to disclose the sources of political finance contributions. This is a violation of the political parties’ law of Uganda.
A Violation of the Law
The Political Parties and Organisations Act, Section 9(3) requires all registered political parties to include as part of their annual returns to the political party registrar (Electoral Commission), state the sources of funds and other assets of the political party or organisation. However, studies by Alliance for Finance Monitoring (ACFIM) reveal that these provisions are neither followed nor enforced.
The secret known is that the money in question came into the FDC party in 2020 ostensibly to finance campaigns for the January 2021 general elections. If the party were to follow the law, it would have included a list of the amounts and sources of campaign finance donations received with respect to the general elections.
The returns would have been shared with the party’s governing council for discussion and passing before submitting to the Electoral Commission at the end of 2021, but this did not happen. And the Electoral Commission of Uganda which is also the de facto political party registrar (PPR), and political finance regulator (PFR) did not sanction them.
Secrets Known has learned that when the money in question came into the party, it was not declared to the party leadership, and was not declared to the party treasury, nor was it banked. It was kept in the houses of a few party leaders who spent it covertly and no accountability was presented to the party’s supreme governing organ.
The party’s founding president, Dr. Kizza Besigye who blew the whistle on this money, is calling it “dirty money” that allegedly came from incumbent president, Yoweri Museveni for the purpose of capturing the opposition party and turning it into his puppet.
Lack of Political Finance Transparency
Lack of transparency in financing political parties and election campaigns remains a major challenge to Uganda’s democratic politics, allowing dirty money to find its way into financing election campaigns and subsequently dividing the party into feuding factions which might ultimately lead to its death.
The situation in the FDC party is a microcosm of what is happening in many other political parties in Uganda. There are in total, 26 registered political parties in Uganda including the ruling National Resistance Movement Party (NRM), and all of them are not transparent in sourcing and spending political finance.
According to the political finance watchdog – Alliance for Finance Monitoring (ACFIM), the manner in which political parties handle access to and use of money, is the foundation on which the rest of the political finance edifice is built.