By Nangayi Guyson.
Kampala, Uganda – October this year 2013, Human Rights Watch organization which is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights released a report detailing all the failures by the Ugandan government to fight corruption and prosecute all high level corruption cases despite repeated Campaigns and pledges by the government to eradicate it.
The report exposed all the corruption scandals which high ranking officials were involved in and left untouchable. It sight Scandals like that of US$12.7 million- £10m in donor funds that was embezzled from Uganda’s Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and channeled into private accounts but nothing much has been done to bring the culprits to Justice and yet the stolen donor funds were meant for rebuilding northern Uganda which has been ravaged by LRA’s 20-year war, and Karamoja which is also Uganda’s poorest region. Such corruption scandals have affected many Ugandan Citizens leaving them with nothing but poverty biting hard whereas the big government officials continue to steal more and live happily.
There was also Global Fund Scandal where millions of dollars’ worth of funds was diverted from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations in 2006 and from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2010. Despite investigations, none of the high-ranking government officials who managed the implicated offices have faced criminal sanctions.
As a write, I have been following the level of corruption in Uganda and how it increases everyday but nothing much is being done because the people prosecuting the culprits are also involved in these scandals. The corruption offenders find it easy to bribe the courts of law and cases find light punishments where they are even given bail and return home peacefully and continue on with their work of corrupting and embezzling.
Since corruption has now become incurable disease within us, it is still very difficult for it to be eradicated easily because is in all levels in our government and my suggestion to how the government can eradicate this epidemic disease corruption is to introduce heavy punishments. Uganda’s Anti Corruption Laws should carry heavy punishments like Life sentence, death sentence and property confiscations, after one is found guilty. The reason why I suggest these heavy punishments is because corrupt officials are more than murderers; a murderer kills one person and is given such heavy punishments but corrupt officials kills thousands of people but they are left untouchable, taking an example of Scandals where millions of dollars’ worth of funds meant for Vaccines and Immunizations in 2006 and from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2010, where pocketed by the big guys left thousands of Ugandans dying up to now.
The OPM corruption scandal of US$12.7 million meant for rehabilitation of Northern Uganda and Karamonja most disrupted, poor and underdeveloped region in Uganda has left many in these regions struggling .When this Scandal happened, I personally managed to travel to these regions where I tried investigate how people are affected and I took photos from Karamonja showing how hunger has affected people in these region. Thousands of families in remote villages in these regions find eating a very big problem and many depend on one meal a day which is most times not even enough.
In Karamonja region, I happened to meet a family of nine people and a dog sharing one plate of food covering breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper due to lack of food but all was caused because of corruption. Donor funds were to help these people get seeds and crops for planting so that in return they can get food but since the money was embezzled, they still live hungry and die up to now.
Since the Uganda’s president Museveni and his National Resistance Movement (NRM) came to power in 1986, Uganda has tried to undertake economic and political reforms which have led to the establishment of a solid legal, administrative and institutional framework to fight corruption. But unfortunately the formation of these legal institutions has been fruitless and corruption remains widespread at all level of society and the country faces major implementation challenges. Recent political developments tend to demonstrate a lack of political backing for anti-corruption efforts. Combined with understaffed and underfinanced anti-corruption bodies, the state faces considerable challenges in its ability to effectively enforce the legislative framework against corruption.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has on several occasions called Ugandans thieves and decried that high level of corruption in the country deterred development. Corruption continues to be a major challenge. The public service has been worst hit with the vice, which has affected service delivery.
Recent study by The East African Bribery Index 2013, and other independent anti-corruption organizations revealed that Uganda is the most corrupt country in the East African Community (EAC) region with a total aggregate of 26.8 per cent and the intuitions that have always supported Uganda to earn its position of being the most corrupt country comprises of Uganda police and the judiciary. Many Ugandans Citizens have reportedly lost hope in the police because of bribes it takes.
A professor from Makerere University in Uganda who asked his name to be withheld said “President Museveni can no longer fight corruption because he is corrupt himself and all the people around him. Don’t you hear everyday his servants in state house steal billions of money packed in stores? How can someone who is corrupt pretend to be fighting corruption?”He asked
However, one would ask why Uganda has failed to hold the highest members of its government Accountable for theft of public funds, despite its stated commitment to eradicating Corruption and much good work from investigators and prosecutors, that has not happened because the anti-corruption institutions are bribed and intimidated by the offenders and there is lack of a clear system to protect witnesses.
Due to high level of Corruption in Uganda, there has been shortage in service delivery in the social, justice and law and other sectors that have been struggling in the financial Year 2013. School teachers, Universities lecturers and medical workers have recently protested government to increase their pay but the government says it was affected by Foreign Aid cuts due to corruption