The Observer (Kampala)

11 November 2012

Uganda: Pius Katunzi - Uganda Haunted By Savile-Like Ghost

Britain, more particularly, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is reeling from a scandal of having been the host and employer of a man so evil.

Jimmy Savile was a popular and influential presenter of 'Top of the Pops' and 'Jim'll Fix It' on BBC TV. A few days after his death, a rival TV channel, ITV, presented a jaw-dropping denunciation of Savile, depicting him as a rapist, who groped colleagues and girls even in BBC dressing rooms. This ITV story only acted as a spark for a stick of dynamite that had lain idle.

Since then, an avalanche of allegations of rape and paedophilia against Savile have been reported to Police. The family was so embarrassed by the flood of accusations that they yanked out his tombstone from the graveyard. If the tombstone had been maintained there, as if nothing was happening, it would have fouled the dignity of those who were deservingly buried there. It must have been the shortest-lived tombstone in history.

The story of Savile and what befell his ghost is very instructive for Uganda's case. Uganda has been hijacked by a group of people who can be aptly labeled as Mafiosi. First, Savile was very popular and presided over fund-raisers for several charity organizations. In the public eye, he was a good man who cared for the disadvantaged and those in pain such as cancer patients. But beneath that image, there lay the life of a man who feasted on underage girls and disrespected women.

And because he was so powerful, nobody dared to expose Savile's sins, and unfortunately, women and children alike had to pay a heavy price for hanging out with this celebrity. He had to die first before anyone could wag an accusing finger. Ugandans are no different from these girls who were groped, raped and defiled. And this is not difficult to explain. We have accepted and dissolved into a culture of being star-struck.

Our stars are supreme and everything. And they take on a mystifying demeanour because we are too awe-struck and restrained to question them. So when we get a star liberator, we see this as a godsend. There is a sleeping pill called 'freedom in ignorance' that was voluntarily administered to Ugandans. We have a category of peasants who pride in sleeping even when jiggers disfigure their feet and they can hardly access basic services.

For them a good leader is one who, during the time of election campaigns, buys them a piece of soap and also promises them insulated sleep. And these are majority who vote while shouting "no change!", never mind that the jiggers and poverty are second nature to their lives. And then we have the Mafiosi elite. These will ensure that whoever is at the helm is kept safe. They will work hard to crush dissent and the opposition.

They will advise on the best international spin-doctors to whitewash the tainted image of the leaders. And what do they get in return? All the juicy deals and the most 'valuable' and much-needed blind eye for their sins. This group has no scintilla of remorse. The roughness with which they plunder the country's resources for their own benefit is unimaginable. They have the money to hire the best lawyers to bail them out of any mess. Shame is a rarity.

They are untouchable but also very 'religious.' They make hefty contributions to churches. They even have churches of their own. There has even been a suggestion that they are guided by the spirit of Jesus Christ in whatever they do! You will be surprised, they even dare threaten to sue for defamation whenever newspapers attempt to expose the rot.

The plunder that has been revealed in the Prime Minister's Office, ministry of Public Service and ministry of Health, is but just a drop in the ocean. Like the Americans say, 'we ain't seen nothing yet.' The interesting bit is that this corruption, which in some ridiculous cases has been labeled as a creation of the media and a figment of opposition's imagination, revolves around the same people.

Like in the Savile case, we may never know the real damage until the death of the plunderers. For the time being, we are still star-struck. The only difference will be that even with all that plunder our humility will demand that we give them a hero's send off. We shan't yank out the tombstone.

The author is the Business Development Director, The Observer Media Ltd.

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