President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has come under criticism after donating about $100 thousand cash in a sack to a youth group in the eastern part of the country.
Mugisha Muntu, leader of the main opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), said the donation was a political stunt to win support in a part of the country where Museveni has had difficulty winning votes during general elections.
“It was a sad spectacle, but at the same time I was not surprised because it just shows the extent to which systems have broken down, which is a problem of his own creation, because he has never focused on building institutions or setting [a] functioning system in place,” said Muntu. “But on the other side, it is unfortunate that a head of state would be carrying a sack of cash to give to the youth in the district where he went.”
Supporters of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) have rejected other accusations that the money is an example of growing political corruption in the country.
But, Muntu says the president set a bad precedent by giving out the money.
“Ordinarily, there are departments of government or ministries that would be handling such programs,” he said. “Why would a president carry money to give to a youth program down at the grassroots level when those ministries have departments at the district level?”
“The unfortunate thing is that the systems that are in place don’t function at all, [and] the whole government machinery is leaking when it comes to the channeling of funds,” Muntu continued. “That’s why I suspect he himself is in a dilemma.”
Supporters of the ruling party contend that Museveni should be commended for encouraging the youth with the gift of cash. They said that the money was budgeted and that some of the funds form part of the president’s per diems and entertainment expenses that he had not yet used. They also dismissed suggestion that the money was meant to buy vote ahead of the 2016 general election.
“The sad thing is that the president would not be doing what he did, and he is not doing it because of the project that the youth would be carrying out, but I think he is preparing for 2016,” said Muntu. “That is what I am reading from these programs that he has just started.”
He says it was inappropriate for the head of state to go around the country handing out a sack of money.
Muntu says Museveni has started programs in parts of the country where his support appears to have waned over the years.
“I know that he has been giving money to different projects which were not covered by the press,” continued Muntu. “If he wants to have support for any project, the support should be through the budgeting process. Whatever money is supposed to be given to whatever project should be in the budget and should be channeled through the rightful channels to reach its destination.”