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Where do students get campaign money?

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With several Uniz holding student elections within the next two weeks, we seek to find out the source of campaign money especially at UoN where student election is a high-stake battle. Student leaders have the opportunity to mingle with politicians and senior government officials plus control of the Sh56 million student budget. Where does the money to pay the campaign team come from? publicity, security and convey of cars – all part of student campaigns.  

 

Its early Wednesday afternoon at the University of Nairobi main campus. The tranquil atmosphere belies the buzz that is usually the student body election week. But not for long.

 

The peace is suddenly interrupted when a convoy of about 20 cars mostly mini-buses makes its way into the campus with  loud hooting and vuvuzela sounds coming from all directions.

 

 

 

There are more occupants hanging dangerously from car doors and rooftops than inside the vehicles. From one of the vehicles, a small group of men and ladies emerge, cladding expensive dark suits, each surrounded with mean looking men clearing the way for them.

 

We soon realize they are the contestants in the 2012/13 student elections for various posts of the Students Organization of the University of Nairobi (SONU).

 

Looking around, the otherwise neat kept buildings of the campus look like a collage contest, with thousands of posters and banners of the contestants everywhere, even on the enviable green grass and in the washrooms. Others have literally taken the place of curtains in the lecture halls.

 

Some students have got a full time job to campaign for specific candidates, missing out weeks of lectures.

 

 

But where do these student contenders get all this money and resources to campaign?

 

One of the most flamboyant among them, Collins Clifford, who is running for the post of main campus representative tells us he has spent hundreds of thousands in only a matter of days and expects to fork out more than a million shillings before the election date.

 

Judging by the huge crowd of adoring supporters around him – some helping him to answer the questions – his estimates could be an underestimate.

 

“I got the finances from my savings, family and friends,” says Collins.

 

But there are allegations from his challengers he is being funded by a certain foreign embassy, claims he denies strongly.

 

The man tipped to win the chair of SONU, DMK Kiogora, could very well pass for a sitting MP given the crowds that follow his every move.  He is said to have been funded by known politicians from his home region and enjoys the support of well placed business tycoons in his region.

 

Weeks to the election, contestants are seen hopping from government office to the next  sourcing for funds from even ministers, some of whom are known to be exceedingly generous to them.

 

This year’s elections are however nothing compared to the standards set last year by the former SONU chairman Babu Owino who is said to have spent millions of shillings in campaign.

 

He could be seen cruising around in a motorcade of sleek Mercedes Benz vehicles complete with motorcycle outriders and almost two dozen bodyguards.

 

 

Most people, including ordinary Kenyans humbly gave way mistaking his arrival for that of the President. Owino remained evasive about his source of finances, while it is common knowledge he came from a very humble background – a profile that fits most student contenders who are in public universities, sponsored by the Government.

 

However, those in the know explain that all these money spent will always come back to them and in huge amounts.

 

The current SONU budget as allocated by the school stands at Ksh56,000,000,  all of which is at their disposal, explaining why they go to great lengths to win the election.

 

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