Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Uganda's half-hearted war on corruption

By Mubatsi Asinja Habati

The arrest of ex-vice president Gilbert Bukenya and court summons to Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa,  his colleague John Nasasira formerly minister of Works and Transport now government chief whip and State Minister for Labour Mwesigwa Rukutana would give the impression that government is now determined to fight corruption. Far from reality it's just putting up a show. The reasoning seems to be arrest Bukenya, get heads rolling, generate media headlines, free them on bail after spending days in the coolers, people yap, they calm down and life continues normally. The summoning of Kutesa and Nasasira could have to do with public noise over why arrest Bukenya alone. It's public knowledge that there's no love lost between Bukenya and prime minister Amama Mbabazi.  Bukenya has at least been viewed as an enemy of Mbabazi. In 2007 Bukenya accused Mbabazi of working for his down fall and labelled him a member of the mafia gang working within government.

The Inspector General of Government (IGG) Raphael Baku, who is the prosecutor and government's ombudsman, was Mbababzi's personal assistant and a ruling party cadre whose recent act of clearing Mbabazi of liability in the commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting organisation scandal has many doubting his impartiality to fight the corrupt. So in the eyes of many the  arrest of Bukenya aims at hoodwinking the public to make government look to be actively fighting corruption and appease the donors who fund 38% of Uganda's national budget. So even if the fight was genuine, political undertones mar the otherwise noble cause.

Even then, some are describing the IGG slapping corruption charges as mere semantics. Several anticorruption crusaders I spoke say while it's sounds good that a former vice president is in the dock over abuse of office leaving out suspects he is jointly accused with is worrisome. In the end Bukenya is viewed as a victim who invokes empathy instead of someone who has to answer for his actions.  Therefore it is not unusual that many Ugandans empathize with Bukenya now yet it would be different had he remained Vice President and was prosecuted in that capacity. Of all ministers implicated in the CHOGM scandal he is the only dropped from cabinet and first to be arraigned in courts of law over corruption. 

Much as three ministers have been summoned to appear to anticorruption court on October 13 it has come after long public outcry of why pick on Bukenya alone out of the many. Needless to say, Kutesa may definitely survive, as did Mbabazi...but poor Mwesigye may not. He could be the sacrificial lamb. Uganda's parliament has once censured Kutesa from his ministerial position only to be returned by President Museveni. Uganda's current politics is now symbolic of plot of the novel 'DARKNESS AT NOON' political cycle, and the cadre Judges are into the 'BLEAK HOUSE' methods -the case may go on and on so for generations. An analyst said "It's better to wait and see how things play out because the pendulum swing may shift whimsically!" and I couldn't agree more.

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