20 February 2012

Uganda: Corruption - Local MPs Put Museveni On Notice

Last week, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni bowed to pressure from Parliament and sacked two more ministers from his government that has hit by a string of corruption scandals.

The sacking of the minister of Gender Ms Syda Bbumba and Prof Kiddu Makubuya, the minister in the office of the Prime Minister, brings to five the number of minister to quit cabinet since the 9th Parliament picked up courage to confront deeply entrenched graft in the NRM administration.

Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa, NRM chief whip John Nasasira and junior education minister Mwesigwa Rukutana stepped down after they were arraigned in court over theft of billions of shillings when Uganda hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2007. Also, presidency minister Kabakumba Masiko was forced for stealing equipment from a state-owned broadcaster when she served as minister of information.

In this latest episode, the NRM-dominated parliament put Museveni on notice to sack the two along with the central bank governor, Emanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile for sanctioning illegal payment of $62 million to businessman, Hassan Bassajjabalaba. The businessman is a member of the national executive committee of the ruling NRM party and its major financier.

This is not the first time Bassajjabalaba's name has been mentioned in relation to abuse of state funds, raising suspicion that the man who only emerged with the coming of the NRM to power in 1986, could be a mere conduit through which the ruling party top officials are siphoning public funds to enrich themselves.

Indeed, Bbumba and Makubuya's sacking brought into the open the level of mindset with which some NRM "liberator" have abused state power and misused public resources over the last 26 years.

In her statement in Parliament, where she is also an MP, Bbumba insinuated that as one of the founders of the National Resistance Movement/Army that "liberated" the country, she deserved to be treated with dignity even with her scandalous conducted when she served as minister of Finance.

"...I was among, with my six brothers who died in FRONASA to liberate this country, one of the few people who were part of the beginning of the liberation struggle; the liberation war which ushered in the rule of law and constitutionalism we are enjoying in this House today...," she said.

This is not the first time Ugandans who demand accountability from their leaders have been told to shut up because they did not fight to "liberate" the country.

An army general once told off a judge presiding over a commission of inquiry into the theft of money meant for the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients to shut up; asking the judge where he was when they (NRA fighters) braved bullets in bush to liberate the country.

The general, who served as minister of health, had presided over massive theft of funds from the UN Global Fund for Malaria, HIV and TB.

Apparently, the belief among the founders of the NRM that it is their right to do as they wish with public resources has been the root cause of massive corruption in the country.

Over the years, it has been nurtured by the indifference with which the president has handled the situation--often claiming there was no evidence to implicate the accused. In as long as the accused professed unquestionable loyalty to the regime, they would always bank of the president's support. In effect, the NRM party became a hide-out for whoever had a corruption case to answer.

But the emergence of a bi-partisan breed of parliamentarians puts Museveni on notice to either clean-up or be swept aside alongside his corrupt cadres.

Never before, in Museveni's 26-year in power has the president ever been openly confronted by his party followers to follow stipulated rules and procedures, like is the case today. And never before, has the president over acted under pressure from parliament that he has often found easy to manipulate to endorse his own positions.

Looks like days are numbered for all who have invoked their historical roles in the NRM to abuse the country's resources. Long-live the 9th parliament.

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