The Monitor (Kampala)

5 February 2012

Uganda: Citizens Would Rather Put Down Messengers Than Bad News Makers

opinion

In one version of the "Cleopatra" film, there is a scene where the Senate of Rome debates Rome's deteriorating relationship with Egypt and resolves that war should be declared on Egypt. Meanwhile, Egypt had sent a special envoy to attempt and negotiate a peace agreement between the two belligerent states.

The Senate having passed the war resolution, the Roman emperor, Octavia rushed out of the Senate building waving a spear of war to inform the jubilant crowds outside about the imminent war with Egypt. The Egyptian envoy happened to be standing in the crowds that were milling around the Senate house. The emperor having recognised the envoy, worked the crowd into a murderous mob and asked them the whereabouts of Egypt while pinpointing the spear at him. He then took a deliberate aim and speared the envoy to death.

This act of murder is the antithesis of the culture of the Bakiga of Uganda which prohibits the killing of the bearer of bad news. Entumwa teitwa.

Unfortunately, here in Uganda we assassinate such bearers but invariably spare the causers of bad news. In the worst of scenarios, we actually condemn citizens who courageously discover and report wrongs but praise, admire and promote the doers of wrongs.

From the Sebutinde Commission of Inquiry into Police mismanagement and Corruption to the swindling of gorilla permits money by pocketing the national wealth into private pockets of diverse officials and operators, to the disappearance of billions of shillings reported by the World Bank and the Commission of Inquiry into the mismanagement of the UWA-Pamsu project and many others, the innocent finders and reporters of wrong-doing have been scathingly castigated, shunned and sometimes threatened while those reported as the wrong-doers, the culprits and the criminally minded have been spared, retained in their positions or occasionally promoted.

Ugandans know of police officers who were found by the Sebutinde Commission to have been responsible for crimes committed in the country and whose discipline and removal from the Police Force were strongly recommended. Apparently, some were nevertheless retained while others were promoted, presumably in recognition of their wrong-doing.

In the recent report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Mismanagement of the UWA-PAMSU Project, culprits were specifically named. The appropriate disciplining organs have chosen to maintain a conspicuous silence about them. In some cases, the culprit and the suspects have been promoted or retained in their various positions. A political leader who had persistently claimed that he was innocent of the charges against him because he had not been around when the alleged funds were dispatched was found to have been lying because at the time those funds were received and some of them lost, he was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of UWEC. He successfully and in writing blocked the Commission of Inquiry from entering the UWEC premises.

He recently addressed his Ministry where as I write is still in charge and said that the Commission's report had interfered with his ambitions to improve the Ministry and claimed that he had never received it anyway when the Commission has his letter, signed by him acknowledging its receipt.

In one notorious judicial complaint of serious dimensions a grade I magistrate who was caught red-handed indulging in corruption and extortion was recently promoted to the post of Chief Magistrate to adjudicate in a region that he had served before in a junior post. His glaring and injudicious acts and behaviour were brought to the attention of the office of the Attorney-General, the Chief Justice and the Judicial Service Commission, all of which appear to have done nothing transparent or worth their respective offices that could be described in any manner or shape as remedial.

A culprit who was equally condemned by His Excellency the President of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni himself, remains free and at large notwithstanding the knowledge and adverse comments on the fellow by the Head of State, the media and others.

What can we do?

Justice Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court Judge.

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