Primaries, patronage, and political personalities in South-western Uganda

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Abstract

This paper is an ethnographic study of the National Resistance Movement Party primaries that took place in the constituency of Rwampara County, Mbarara District, between mid and late 2015. Based on fieldwork carried out during the primary campaigns, it offers a detailed examination of the five candidates’ campaign strategies in the run-up to the polls. It focuses in particular upon the ways in which they all sought to secure votes through making frequent public donations to potential voters. Building upon recent insights from a nascent anthropology of corruption, the paper argues that it is crucial to understand how these gifts were conceptualized, both by their givers and their recipients. It finds that although these donations generally made sense to everyone involved in terms of long-standing cultural logics regarding the ‘proper’ operations of power (amaani), this is not to say that they simply reflected cultural continuities. On the contrary, over the course of the campaigns, both the practices of gifting, and the meanings that attached to these, changed significantly. This helps to explain how and why, in the context of all of this gifting, the donations of one candidate – and one candidate only – came to be seen as illegitimate (i.e. as ‘corrupt’).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)660-676
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Eastern African Studies
Volume10
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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