There’s No Presidential Will To Fight Corruption In Uganda

By Abbey Semuwemba,UK

The root cause of all corruption stems from those who led us after independence. When we got independence in 1962, Uganda drifted from a bureaucratic administration that emphasized good governance to one that put more emphasis on the sovereignty of politics. We had a breather of some good governance when King Edward Mutesa 11 was president, though there were problems of bad financial deals in the Buganda federal government between 1964 and 1966.

When Obote took over, we ended up with a bureaucratic autocracy lacking in accountability, transparency, and the rule of law. It was almost the same everywhere in Africa. For instance, the first country to get independence, Ghana, ended up with a corrupt Kwame Nkrumah at the end of his leadership. Nkrumah and his post independent leaders started out well, but they got lost at some point.As a result, corruption became one of the main reasons given by almost all coup plotters from the 1970s onwards. Amin listed it as one of the reasons in 1971 why he had to kick Obote out. In Sierra Leone, Captain Valentine Strasser also gave it as a reason for the coup. It was the same in Ghana and Mali in 1991.

Corruption itself comes from Latin word called ''RUMPERE'' which means that something is broken. What has happened in Uganda since 1986 shows that ‘something is broken’ in the country and needs fixing. When you listen to the arguments online made by someone in their 20s with a degree, you may think that they have just finished primary seven. A lady, like 'Bad Black', who has confessed to being a prostitute, is more followed and listened to on Facebook than a religious leader or scholar. Foul language (‘Okuwemula’ in Luganda) is the order of the day. When you don’t steal public funds, people think you’re dense.The Besigyes(products of NRM) realized that they could not fix it from within and opted out. Yoweri Museveni,too, has formed various institutions to fight corruption but nothing much has been gained.

Africa has ended up with two classes of leaders since the coup era: BENEVOLENT AUTOCRATS AND KLEPOCRATS. Both are not really absolute dictators or autocrats because they try to work or try to portray themselves as working within the existing state institutions. There are so many characteristics of these two types of leaders, but I will pick a few to make a point.

Museveni is specifically a kleptocrat: he is fearful of being overthrown and therefore favors policies that benefit him in the short run with costs spread in the future. He can manipulate any state institution for personal gain. For instance, he can spend a lot of money bribing people in an election, like he did all previous presidential elections, because he believes that with the oil money coming in, this void can be fixed in future. He has spent a lot of money on the likes of: Full Figure, Catherine Kusasira, Balaamu, and others, and then,he will likely drop them after elections--they might not fit in his long term plans.

Kleptocrats will also seek a taxation system that efficiently generates revenue, but they are likely to introduce distortions. At the moment, Uganda collects more taxes than at any time since independence but there is very little to show for it because we are led by wrong people. So, we cannot change a system that has gone wrong with a ‘wrong people’ still at the helm of things. According to Ismail Musa Ladu of the Daily Monitor, ‘‘ despite the increase in revenue from Shs10.6 trillion in 2014/15 to Shs27.4 trillion in 2018/19 of which 65 per cent were tax revenues, government spending has not only continued to outstrip revenue.’’

Kleptocrats tend to support projects that generate large corrupt payoffs. Thus, the leader will endorse projects with little economic justification, propose public projects that could be efficiently carried out in the private sector. If revelations of corruption are likely to destabilize the regime, the Kleptocrat will do everything to make sure that they go away on his own terms. For instance, just look at the people that were implicated in the Global funds, Temangalo, CHOGM,e.t.c, and how their court cases were handled-- It all doesn’t make sense, but as long as they are on the good side of the president, they are eventually free. Some are even continuing to serve as MPs; and others were even appointed in M7’s cabinet. Summarily, there is no serious political will to fight corruption in Uganda.