The Observer (Kampala)

30 December 2012

Uganda: Museveni to Fight Corruption? Are You Mad?

opinion

The debate about whether or not President Museveni can fight corruption is intriguing. But as a responsible citizen, let me also share a few ideas.

When Museveni formed FRONASA, the first people he recruited were his confidants whom he believed could not betray him. Naturally, he recruited his schoolmates, close friends, relatives and tribesmen, among others. Strategically, the principle was not bad for a person who planned to overthrow a government by force of arms. However, this principle had far-reaching implications.

When the government of Tanzania helped Ugandans in exile to fight Idi Amin in 1979, Museveni led FRONASA, one of the four groups that also had Kikoosi Maalum, UNLF and UNLA. It is reported that the Moshi agreement had barred any recruitment along the way, before capturing power. But ambitiously, the man from Rwakitura took the western axis route were he recruited massively to enlarge his FRONASA force. Obviously, he could not avoid recruiting mostly similar people like he had initially done.

During the 1980s bush war, particularly after hitting Kabamba barracks in 1981, the son of Kaguta once again recruited in the western region. Now, when he ultimately took political power, the obvious was true that those who had hunted the animal took the bigger share of the carcass, leaving the leftovers to Ugandans whom they believe did nothing.

Just to refresh our memories, they started by crippling government parastatals and eventually disposed of them. Although it was a World Bank and IMF policy, it is very hard to trace the real buyers and the money collected from those properties. Many individuals in government today, including the Army and Police, are still haunted by this historical fact, which makes it dicey for Museveni to fight corruption.

In some cases, the President may find himself between a hard place and a rock whenever he touches some people, like it was the case when he wanted to court-marshal Col Kizza Besigye in 1999 for issuing a document critical of NRM. This, of course, waters down the argument of weak laws because most corruption cases have been thrown out of court on mere technicalities deliberately left intact by the investigating officers to have the culprits acquitted.

The other factor is the individual merit system which was ushered in by the NRM government. Most of the leaders either sell their properties or get loans from banks to compete for offices. Once they assume office, their first target is to recover the properties they lost using all means at their disposal. Even the President has been sucked into this scenario.

Whenever there are general elections, he promises jobs to whoever stands down in favour of a favoured NRM candidate. Similarly, he rewards people depending on how much they deliver in terms of votes towards his victory. In countries where systems work, positions are awarded basing on quality and capability. Even sources of money used during campaigns are declared in advance. But here, the President is held hostage out of fear of losing the support of individuals.

This inevitably breeds corruption. Overstaying in power is another problem that makes him impotent in the fight against corruption. Our president used to walk around in public without fear of harm. Now he even fears his own shadow. Individuals have taken advantage of his age and loss of popularity to amass wealth in the knowledge that by the time he exits, they will be economically stable.

Given that background, Museveni remains with only three options. He either fights his colleagues and they fight back, or leave them to loot and risk a national revolt. The other option is forming a government of national redemption to pave his way out in a peaceful manner. But all these options make him commit political suicide because they end up taking him out of his dear presidency.

I, therefore, compare whoever asks Museveni to fight corruption to a person who thinks that a hen which has run out of eggs can lay its intestines.

The author is spokesman of the People's Progressive Party (PPP).

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