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Politics

The cost of corruption during 33 years of misrule

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President Yoweri Museveni.

By Moses Ssejjoba

Systemic corruption in Uganda under President Yoweri Museveni has left the citizenry grappling with a staggering public debt, amounting to Ushs 43.5 trillion, while millions continue to sink into abject poverty.

Addressing parliament last week, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Betty Aol Ochan put Museveni squarely at the heart of Uganda’s surging public debt. A report by Auditor General John Muwanga indicated that public debt has superseded the national budget, which currently stands at Ushs 40 trillion.

According to the report, Uganda’s public debt as of June last year rose by 22 percent, from Ushs 33.99 trillion as at June 30, 2017, to Ushs 41.51, the Auditor General said in the report. The debt, he said, has since surged to over 43 trillion.

Related: Corruption: Germany joins UK, Japan in suspending refugee funding in Uganda

This, according to economists, spells disaster for an already ailing economy and Ochan and several other legislators have no kind words for the Museveni regime.

“Public debt has only surged and there is nothing to show for it. The money is being swindled by people appointed by Museveni and they are kept in jobs as if nothing happened,” said Ochan.

Museveni is not just an accomplice for the disaster our economy finds itself in; he is the main culprit and beneficiary of the systematic looting of the national coffers.

Besides the money he and his acolytes, including family members have swindled he has also raided the national coffers to pay any price whenever he felt his life-presidency project is threatened. He recently blew tens of billions crisscrossing up and down the country in an exercise disguised as “wealth creation tours”.

But during that time he was actually campaigning for the 2021 elections, openly and in blatant breach of the National Electoral Code.

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Hundreds of billions have also been spent in overt bribery to members of parliament to enact legislation that will see him carry the presidency to his deathbed. This is all at the cost of the Ugandan taxpayer.

The most recent one is the so-called “Togikwatako” campaign where MPs were given money to vote to remove the last safety valve to the constitution to ensure he dies in office.

Togikwatako was a rigorous campaign mounted by progressive MPs – including his own NRM MPs – opposed to the amendment of the constitution to remove the 75-year cap to ensure the ruler runs for president in the forthcoming elections from which he would be barred. He has turned 75 this year – though most peg his true age as closer to eighty.

Read: Museveni and the untold story of Uganda’s slave trade

The public debt will only increase over the years as he gets ever more jittery and paranoid. The fear, according to observers, is that he could become even more erratic.

This week, Adyaka Nalibe, the opposition in the forthcoming by-election for Kaabong woman MP in Karamoja region, abruptly pulled out of the race, just two weeks to the vote. Adyaka, who was tipped by many to win, suddenly pulled out leaving Museveni’s NRM candidate to run unopposed. It was deeply disappointing to the Karamajong.

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It has since turned out that Adyaka received a staggering (Ushs 1.5 billion) bribe by the state’s bagmen on the instructions of the head of state, all to clear the field for his deeply unpopular candidate. That is the kind of corrupt, amoral politics that has kept Museveni in power since 1986.

Many point out how sad it is that Uganda continues to grapple with chronic stratospheric levels of unemployment that’s a consequence of rule whose only claim to fame is grand corruption.

This is the same message that Charles Peter Mayega the Buganda Kingdom Prime Minister carried this week when he addressed the kingdom’s parliament. Mayega said that Ugandan youth continue to die in slavery in Middle East countries because of the breakdown of the economy.

The problem for Ugandans is that there seems no way out, short of full-scale uprising!