The anatomy of corruption in Uganda


Harold Acemah (Courtesy)


By Harold Acemah

Today’s opinion was prompted by a piece written by my fellow columnist, Mr Kaboggoza Kibudde, titled ‘Everyday corruption by everyday citizens’ published in Sunday Monitor of May 30.


I concur with many of the points he makes except where he argues that, “Second, the minority who become leaders (or police officers) come from everyday homes and communities. If we excuse corruption in our individual lives and homes, we create corrupt communities that produce corrupt leaders, workers and clients, both in the public and private sectors.”


In the case of Uganda, I believe it is corrupt, morally decadent and shameless leaders, especially those in the public sector, who are the primary root cause of endemic and systemic corruption on a massive scale which is a hallmark of the NRM regime. Remember, fish begins to rot from the head. Unlike all previous Ugandan governments and regimes, corruption is the enduring legacy of the NRM regime.


During the 1970s when I was posted at the Permanent Mission of Uganda to the United Nations, New York, one of my duties was to represent Uganda on the UN Economic and Social Council and the UNDP Governing Council.


Both UN organisations held summer sessions annually in Geneva, Switzerland, which meant that I spent the months of June and July attending meetings there. The difference between Geneva and New York is like the difference between day and night.


I don’t know what it is like now, but Geneva in the 1970s was a paradise, clean, decent, quiet and peaceful city, unlike New York. Lake Geneva was so clean that if one dropped a coin one could monitor its downward fall. One thing which impressed me about Geneva was the honesty and integrity of the people. Let me illustrate.


In 1976, I lost my wallet during a visit to Geneva. It had some cash in US dollars and Swiss francs and my credit cards. A friend advised me to report the loss to a place called “Lost and Found” located at the main Railway Station of Geneva.


I was requested to leave my telephone contact and mailing address with the Swiss authorities, which I did, but inwardly prepared to forget the matter. After two months in Geneva I did not get any message which confirmed my worst fears. I returned to my duty station in New York City at the end of July.


A couple of weeks after my return, in August 1976, I received a notice from the US Post Office for a registered mail. When I picked and opened the mail, lo and behold, it was the wallet I lost in Geneva and, guess what, it had almost everything in it except $10 used to pay postal charges and a receipt was enclosed with the parcel. It was like a miracle had come true.


I don’t know whether anything like that can happen in Uganda today or during the good old days of the 1960s, the golden age of post-colonial Uganda. It is sad to say, but under NRM mismanagement and misrule Uganda has literally degenerated into a den of thieves, conmen and fraudsters where anything goes!


It is disgraceful, shameful and a tragedy of monumental proportions for our country.

In this connection, I would like to thank NTV for a news item broadcast on May 30 called Panorama in which the mother of corruption, privatisation and divestiture, were investigated and exposed.


A feature article on the matter titled, ‘Deconstructing the sale of 146 Obote-Amin parastatals’ by Frederic Musisi, was published in the Daily Monitor on May 31 and makes very painful reading. It’s regrettable that too many Ugandans are either immune to outrage, violence and daylight robbery of our national assets or have given up hope about the future of Uganda.


The challenge patriotic Ugandans must face urgently and address squarely is grand larceny and mega corruption NTV and Daily Monitor have exposed, which is perpetrated openly, mercilessly and shamelessly, with impunity, by the ruling clique, most who are well known to wananchi.


Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.


This article was published by the Monitor.