Exactly five weeks until Ugandans are given the choice to elongate or curtail President Yoweri Museveni‘s 34-year reign, the only female presidential candidate among the 10 looking to unseat the 76-year-old granted a TV interview in which she revealed that her campaign was broke.
On Thursday night, Nancy Kalembe told Ugandans that her campaign had been hit by financial challenges which would mean that she would have to re-strategize but not necessarily pull out of the race. Earlier in the day, she had posted a thread of tweets asking her supporters to chip in through official mobile wallet accounts.
This would not be the first time Kalembe’s presidential hopes have hit a snag due to a lack of funds. In November, the country’s elections regulatory board had to turn her away from a national event after she failed to show evidence of paying the non-refundable 20 million Ugandan shillings, about $5,400, as election filing fee.
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But Kalembe seems to have put the embarrassment behind her and wishes to forge on. In a recent interview with Monitor, one of Uganda’s biggest news outlets, the 40-year-old mother of two expressed the desire to see the national conversation focus on the issues that matter to Ugandans although she did not hide her frustrations with how expensive it is to run for the top job.
“Someone recently asked me a question: “You mean you went into elections and do not have money? I believe in order to run for the highest office, one does not need a lot of money, so, if you can help me, please go right ahead. If you cannot, then, please pray for me,” Kalembe told the newspaper.
Kalembe is a deeply religious woman who, on one hand, may appear simply as a product of her religiously conservative East African country. On the other, we are also speaking of a politician who lists faith as one of her seven cardinal points of attention if she should become president.
“My manifesto is hinged on 7 aspects: Faith, family, education, economy, media & communication, arts & entertainment and leadership,” she said in a recent TV interview.
She does not hide the fact that her Christian principles guide her politics. Nonetheless, Kalembe believes the task of putting Uganda to work is a very physicalist exercise of confronting the national debt, unemployment as well as fighting what she has called “artificial poverty”, the state of income and wealth disparities she believes is intentioned by Museveni’s government.
Her philosophical inspiration for politics is José Mujica, Uruguay’s farmer-turned president who became famous for donating the lion’s share of his salaries and instituting pro-poor policies. For most African citizens, Mujica sounds like that which would never happen in their countries, and Kalembe understands the reasons for this severe lack of hope and the pungence of cynicism.
Politics may not have been a turn we are used to for a woman who was once a contestant on Miss Uganda, a one-time actress, and also a former news anchor on Ugandan TV. But stereotypes cannot hold back the ideas she wishes to actualize for the sake of her country. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Population Studies and is capable of espousing her agenda quite clearly.
Running for a job in an African country with 10 other men is its own race but Kalembe promises that does not worry her. She is not one of people’s favorite, frankly. Those berths belong to the incumbent president and Robert Ssentamu, – also known as Bobi Wine – a man who has himself incurred the wrath of power by daring to run for the presidency.
The election is a tall order for Kalembe. But whatever the polls say after January 14, 2021, she would hope she has pushed the boundaries of the imaginable for her nearly 43 million compatriots.