By: Boaz Byayesu
Upon opening my favorite online news website, ChimpReports on Monday January 2, 2017, I was greeted by Mr. Muhame’s spine breaking article: URA Lawyers, big shots reward themselves with Shs 6bn after winning oil case.
With a mixture of prowess and skill at the work he is good at, Giles relishes the courage that inspires me. I look at Journalism as the most cherished duty but a very risky undertaking and a less paying task especially in Africa.
Nonetheless, I sometimes find myself indebted and compelled to perform a similar if not the same task when my soul irresistibly demands it. This is because i am convinced that the best tool used to liberate the mind is information as the slowest but surest means to freeing a nation is education hence the barrel of a pen.
In this vein therefore, sitting on my modest desk scratching my head in a futile effort to relieve it of the burdens it ought not to entertain, i find myself drafting yet another piece of thought aimed at seeking for a solution to the common concerns of my motherland.
And this is now a humble call for a non-partisan teamwork to confront not only the symptoms (culprits), but the disease (corruption) itself.
Corruption is a common enemy of our country as it is the most deadly infectious social epidemic.
The heart-breaking news about this one of the non-stop, but escalating cases of corruption has rattled the entire nation irrespective of any political or social class and/or political affiliation.
Why a shock? “When the madness of an entire nation disturbs a solitary mind, it is not enough to say that the man is mad”, said Francis Imbuga, a renowned Kenyan playwright and literature scholar.
This time around, it is 6bn cash bonanza Christened “Presidential handshake”. Oh Lord! Free money is sweet indeed and with time, it has gradually gotten sweeter and more seducing so much so that it has even acquired pretty nick-names such as “Presidential handshake”.
Fellow countrymen and women of Uganda, in my view, the war on corruption which is a very complicated and deadly enemy requires a combined force, a shared effort, and a united front hence a teamwork with the necessary tools to confront heads-on and combat this devil.
The Banyankole have a saying that “Akaizire kemerwa” meaning that mankind naturally finds a way of coping with any social catastrophe.
This prophetic saying has a similar meaning, and that is the invasion or infection of the unstoppable deadly social Tsunami, corruption in Uganda today.
This infection (corruption) is rampant in our country now because it has gradually weakened the immune system of our society due to lack of preventive measures and scarcity of medicine. What do I mean here? There is neither political will nor combined effort to fight corruption.
Criticizing President Museveni and exposing corrupt officials is a fine duty and responsibility of concerned Citizens because he is the accounting officer-in chief as the head of state hence responsible when things wrong in the country under his watch, his leadership.
However, Mzee Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is also a human being subject to temptation and failure especially if he is overseeing every public duty. It seems to me that the man is also a captive of some powerful corrupt individuals in his government both in public service and political offices.
Ladies and gentlemen, power is so tempting and its challenges can be so overwhelming.
Some famous American anchor named Tavis Smiley of PBS TV talk show recently said that power is the most tempting evil so much so that even some of the most patriotic and heroic American leaders were sometimes bent on hardline and partisan stance even on some obvious cases of humanity and the pettiest issues of society.
Tavis further said that if it were not because of the patriotism of the Americans who used to stick together and defend the Constitution and the sister documents like the Declaration of independence and the Bill of Rights that contain the framers’ founding values, America wouldn’t have had generations of such great leaders.
He says that today, Americans have walked away from these founding ideals. In the same sense therefore, can we team up as Ugandans regardless of social class and political affiliation and support our seemingly besieged President and rid Uganda of this deadly social Tsunami?
I equate this wise approach to the popular puzzle of ridding the eggs of a snake surrounding them without breaking the eggs.
We, Ugandans should rest our differences and blame game for a moment, put politics aside, calm ourselves down, form friendly alliances, merge our various forces and efforts and collectively confront the enemy decisively but wisely.
Let Ugandans put the issue of elections and succession aside for a moment, or at least leave it for the career politicians since it’s their source of bread, and we focus on the problem of corruption for now.
We all know that come rain or sunshine, President Museveni is going to be in office for, at least, the next four years. So, why the headache now?
Implicating and attacking the President has not, is not, and will not produce the desired solution. Instead, with our collective effort, let all of us challenge him by offering to join hands with him and encourage him to use the Constitutional powers vested with him together with his political will, authority and means so as to capably attack and defeat this enemy.
This is by forming non-partisan alliances in parliament, public service and civil society regardless of the political schools of thought or belonging. If we stick with our usual methods and tactics of politicizing this issue and making it an NRM problem, it will be viewed as the politicking business of the opposition as usual hence ignored, and the problem is going nowhere.
The dust, the accusations, and the anger will all instantly disappear like a morning mist and the scourge will surge.
Realistically, the culprits in this particular case are not the only infected ones by this deadly disease, but they are unfortunately the ones whose symptoms have probably shown early.
I don’t think that there are many people who are totally safe and immune of this deadly social epidemic in Uganda. Some of us are talking because we just haven’t caught this flu since we are luckily or unluckily out of the direction to which the wind is blowing. And that is the opportunity of access to public resources without accountability and strict laws.
Apart from the executive arm of government, who else is responsible for the accountability and oversight of public resources and delivery of public service?
Isn’t it the parliament to check the performance of the executive and balance the appropriation of national resources equitably and constitutionally? So, what happens if our parliament is also infected with this disease?
How can parliament supervise the organs and agencies of state, enact laws that ought to uplift the common man and transform the country while house members are engaged in schemes of self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement?
I have not mentioned another disease of partisan politics that stalls business in the house.
Former US President, Ronald Reagan in one of his popular critiques against big government in 1975 on his Presidential campaign trail, once stated that the USA government has a sizable layer of fat, no matter how worthwhile the programs are.
“If one could render all the fat in government, we would have enough soap to wash the world,” he stated.
The same or even worse practice applies to the culture of corruption and waste in our treasured arms of government. Now, who is safe?
In addition to the annoying size of cabinet and parliament with their insatiable financial urge besides their extremely big salaries and allowances which are greater than the budgetary appropriations of the country itself, who is really going to save Uganda?
I sometimes think that if Uganda’s resources could be properly managed and accounted for, every Ugandan would be super rich and our country would join the much anticipated and desired middle-income status world in no time.
To be so realistic, i think that President Museveni has done an extremely good job for our country and he deserves a credit hence critical appreciation and positive criticism.
He solely fought so many bad things in our society like tribalism, and he had ridden Uganda of it, but now it is back in full swing.
He has also appointed some of the very serious incorruptible Ugandans to head some sensitive institutions and departments of government with an intention of serving his country with dedication by applying the ethics, character, integrity and discipline of his finest appointees to national service.
Examples of these incorruptible citizens of good character with high reputation are: Mzee Kahoza, the pioneer Auditor General in NRM, Prof. Samwiri Karugire, the conservative historian i admired so much, the former Director General Customs and Excise who once burnt bulky quantities of Cigarettes from Kenya for evading taxes, Prof. Apollo Nsibambi, the reputable, witty political scientist who served as Education minister and Prime minister respectively, Maj. Gen Mugisha Muntu, the former Army Commander, a no-nonsense disciplinarian and a distinguished incorruptible military leader, Hon. Betty Bigombe, the iron lady of Gulu and the respectable lady of Uganda, Justice Julie Ssebutinde, the highly reputable judge and civil servant who also commands international respect, and now Madam Allen Kagina who has won the hearts of all Ugandans across the country.
Therefore, i think that president Museveni doesn’t deliberately condone corruption, but rather he has found it very difficult if not impossible, and too late to confront the master players of the game because they are now too many, too rich and too powerful unlike his counterpart and historical comrade Paul Kagame who launched a zero tolerance campaign against the vice right from the onset.
He (Museveni) even confided this fact in his old comrade Paul Kagame that corruption is his biggest challenge. The Banyankole have a saying that “Orutahwaire ruhemura emanzi” loosely translated as: An undefeatable brave warrior will be finally embarrassed at a ceaseless war.
How many wars is this great warrior going to fight successfully? He truly needs a hand.
Therefore, war on corruption calls for teamwork, for a united front against the deadliest enemy of our country.
United, we will stand and thrive. Together, we will rise and shine. May our God of justice and fairness bring us together this time for a common cause.
May God bless Uganda.
The writer lives in Virginia, USA.