There are close parallels between the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) scam and one absorbing story involving the French military in the 19th century.
On January 13, 1898, an eminent writer, Emile Zola, wrote a compelling letter in the L'Aurore, a widely-read French newspaper. It was a daring treatise titled, "J'accuse" translated "I accuse". Zola squarely accused the French government of unlawfully imprisoning Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer accused of espionage and leaking secrets about France's artillery to the Germans.
This triggered an enormous national scandal with reverberations that were to be felt for many years later. Pro and anti-Dreyfus camps tagged and shoved, trying to ensure their position was the one widely accepted as true. This went on for some time although facts clearly indicated that Dreyfus was a victim of a coterie of army officers determined to cover bases for the real traitor. Eventually, Dreyfus, who had been framed, many say on account of being a Jew, was exonerated and reinstated - as a Major in the French army in 1906.
However, the little-sung hero in what is now referred to as "the Dreyfus affair" was Lieutnant Colonel Georges Picquart. Through diligent and unrelenting examination of the patterns of the espionage, he ascertained in August 1896 that Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy was the real traitor. By this time, Dreyfus had been imprisoned at the Devil's Island in French Guiana for over one year. When Picquart reported the matter to his superiors, he was rewarded and silenced with a transfer to a faraway outpost in the southern desert of Tunisia in November 1896.
The well-publicised scandal in the Office of the Prime Minister at the heart of which was Principal Accountant Geoffrey Kazinda and the Dreyfus affair draw interesting comparisons. There have been reports that so far-reaching was the dirt of this scam that MPs are alleged to have tasted the "forbidden fruit" plucked from the OPM.
Sections of the media may have benefited from the heist as well, with lopsided coverage of the matter cited by some as evidence. All the individuals and entities that 'benefited' from this scandal would be expected to behave in a manner similar to the officers who protected Esterhazy of the Dreyfus affair. Here is the pattern: you know the actual culprit, but you go after the whistleblower to silence him; you steer clear of the facts of the case in the 'court' of public discourse and create a "villain" whose pain you hope will appease the public.
Considering how the OPM scandal has played out, one cannot help sympathise with Pius Bigirimana, a man of noble ambitions and considerable public service, and who by all standards and measures remains innocent, there being no substantive accusations of foul play made against him. It is disturbing that like Picquart, he today finds himself vilified for exposing what sections of the Public Service may have wanted tucked away under the carpet. In spite of the overwhelming evidence, some politicians are also working to make him a "Dreyfus."
Bigirimana's efforts to "internally" deal with the OPM fraud before it went public are well-documented. His letters to the Auditor General and Accountant General are public knowledge and bear-out his efforts to administratively resolve this matter. Why then are sections of the "political elite" so eager to go after him? Is there a self-interest they are protecting? Could it be true, after all, that they benefited from the OPM fraud?
One lesson is in black and white in this drama: one person cannot purport to understand and definitely deal with a fraud if it is multi-faceted, syndicated via collusion of officers across different sections of government, some possibly bent on setting-up a "victim" and escape unnoticed. Before hurrying to pull any triggers, we need to pause and ask: is Bigirimana a modern-day Ugandan Dreyfus? Why are many of these OPM 'expert' commentators avoiding evidence that has been brought to light objectively?
How come the mastermind of the OPM heist is not being closely examined and carefully scrutinised? Could there be a network of technocrats ? institutional and departmental ? operating across ministries to rob the Government of Uganda with the OPM exposure a good reason for which a "Dreyfus" must be created and crucified?
What if allegations that some MPs "ate" some of the dirty money accruing from the OPM scandal are true? How then would one expect them to behave? Would they help the country get to the bottom of this paradox?
These are some hard, unanswered questions to ponder as conclusive solutions to what some have dubbed the "Kazinda-gate" scandal are sought.
The author is a communications professional.