By Charles Kamya-Sentamu
In 1988 the revered former Singaporean Prime of Singapore Lee Kwan Yew disclosed that he had met and talked to President Museveni. Afterwards, Lee said, “I realized that Uganda was a country that had collapsed, and it will not be put together again for another hundred years!”
By all definitions, Uganda has indeed collapsed – and in more ways that Lee would have imagined! For one thing, nothing short of God would arrest the corruption and graft that have rotted Uganda to the core, many agree.
From the “Panama Papers” leaks in 2016 that revealed the Foreign Affairs Minister’s offshores accounts; to courtroom revelations in New York that in 2018 President Museveni and Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa each pocketed half a million dollars from the fixer of a Chinese company that wanted oil concessions in Uganda; to a Ugandan diplomat in Canada getting expelled for corruption in 2019, the regime’s corruption has gone international in some spectacular ways.
Canadian officials expelled Allan Tazenya, First Secretary to the Uganda High Commission in Ottawa, for corruption. According to an article posted by ChimpReports, a Kampala website, on 16 April this year, Tazenya swindled 17,000 Canadian Dollars from his own workplace: the Ugandan High Commission. He was accused of facilitating inflated payments to a communication company and receiving kickbacks for his services.
According to those that know the workings of the Museveni regime, that is the standard operating procedure for almost all its diplomats. It is a man-eats-where-he-works ethos that has permeated all Ugandan institutions. Transparency International has consistently ranked Uganda as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
A scandal involving Venezuelan gold – a country that’s under US sanctions – has showed how greedy regime officials deliberately risked US/Uganda relations, for personal gain. A gold refinery in Uganda imported Venezuelan gold, to be re-exported as Ugandan gold in a ruse to circumvent US sanctions.
According to an Associated Press article of 25 March 2019, African Gold Refinery – a shell company that was a front for the corrupt deal – was said to have amassed 3.6 tons of the illicit gold. Corrupt Ugandan officials with ties to the company “went all the way to the top” to facilitate the fraud. The scandal almost brought the wrath of the Americans upon the Ugandan government.
The days – 33 years ago when Museveni took power in Kampala with fiery speeches promising amongst other things to stamp out corruption and mismanagement of public resources – are now remembered as a bad joke by those present at the time.
Spectacular graft, kickbacks and outright looting of national assets have come to define the rule of Museveni, his brother Salem Saleh and their family cabal indelibly. Nepotism takes pride of place in all the poor governance practices of this regime.
Museveni’s wife is the Minister of Education and Sports. His 43-year old son is a general in the military. His sister is chairperson of the education commission. Museveni himself candidly told Ugandans his main goal in life is to make sure his family “is well-taken care of”. Other Ugandans are of far less concern to him.
A disgusted Kiiza Besigye told Museveni last year, “pronouncements over the last almost 33 years of your Junta have only fueled corruption!
In the aftermath of the scandal with the Chinese fixer Patrick Ho Chi-Ping, Daily Monitor reported on Museveni’s embarrassment when he was asked about the New York court case. Museveni instead launched into one of his monologues, cynically claiming he was “unveiling new tactics” to fight corruption.
Museveni said that even as it was emerging he was “Exhibit 1510” in the Ho Chi-Ping bribery scandal. Him, a whole head of state was revealed to be cheap enough to take a bribe of US$ 500,000 “to sell out his country!” Ugandans fumed, and fumed.
“A time has to come when Ugandans cannot put up with all this robbery and selling-off of their country,” said an angry university student.