Systemic Corruption in Uganda

Corruption is defined as:

“A form of dishonesty or criminal activity undertaken by a person or organization entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire illicit benefit, or, abuse of entrusted power for one’s private gain.”


Wikipedia clarifies three forms of corruption: petty, grand and systemic. It would appear, however, that most talk on corruption in Uganda revolves around petty corruption. You know, of individual officers caught in the act; and some like Kazinda and Jamwa, seeming scapegoats, that had to take the fall, likely, in order that attention is diverted away from grand corruption.

Dishonesty is the bedrock for grand corruption, the kind which initiates and perpetuates “significant subversion of the political, legal and economic systems” of our country. And yet, rarely, if at all, is our outrage significantly provoked when corruption occurs in the form of dishonesty. We have become desensitized by our leaders generally, but particularly so, our politically elected leaders, telling us lies and with significant audacity.

This past week, for example, the Ruling of the Constitutional Court on Dr. Kiiza Besigye’s case is a classic case of grand corruption, many have argued. It is saddening, indeed, to read that the Justices of the Constitutional Court, while acknowledging that the case filed by Dr. Besigye had merit, refused to entertain it, because of his exercise of his citizenship in the political arena.

In doing so, the justices, arguably, are complicit in perpetuating significant subversion of our country’s political and legal system; the very essence of grand corruption. Many have questioned the logic of the justices that if you don’t recognise the legitimacy of President Museveni de facto you don’t recognise the legitimacy of the justices who were appointed by him.

Once appointed, moreover, justices are expected to execute their office with independence and to do the needful, including, checking the excesses of their appointing authority, the executive. Knowing that the other arms of government are toothless when it comes to him, as a person, such as the courts seemingly are, emboldens President Museveni to further weaken governmental institutions, particularly so, cabinet and parliament.

Spire’s Cartoon late last year when parliament amended the Constitution to remove age-limits on who can be president. The two women in the picture were previously strong opposition activists who were vocal against the excess of president Museveni, but have now turned into be among his most loyal carders; and now ministers in his cabinet.

Many, in fact, have surmised that President Museveni Reshuffling his Cabinet last week and his choice of individuals to fill the positions in cabinet, is a classic example of him sowing the seeds for systemic corruption. The manner in which those appointed have celebrated and the reactions of the public indicates general awareness of the role of patronage in determining the appointments.

Three appointees used similar language on Twitter to profusely thank God and the appointing authority. Obviously, two are believed to have likely engaged in plagiarism; it in itself an act of corruption. The original tweet is believed to have been by “Frank K. Tumwebaze, MP: Psalms 124:1-8”:

“Congratulations all colleagues retained, re-deployed & newly appointed in cabinet reshuffle announced by H.E @KagutaMuseveni. I thank God & H.E the President for giving us the opportunity to serve our country. I look forward to learning new perspectives from all stakeholders.”

Daily Monitor

Yes, the appointments are perceived as a reward from the appointing authority; and there is a perceived expected reciprocity. This is an ironic development coming right after the much talked about Anti-Corruption Walk that President Museveni led early this month.

President Museveni is reported to having said that being of heavy weight (fatness) is a sign of corruption

Sadly, this is not surprising, for in Uganda the focus of our justice system and I dare say the bulk of our group think as a nation, is on proving corruption as a criminal activity. Our outrage, if any, is often only at its peak when criminal activity is invoked in the corruption debate. You know, like so and so has stolen money kind of talk.

Whereas, in reality, the more prevalent form of corruption in Uganda is that borne out of dishonesty and is fuelled by dishonesty. Fact checking of utterances and speeches of our leaders in Uganda, in fact, is most effective if a fact checker focuses on finding the truth in the statements rather than the falsehoods in the statements; the latter are usually the more.

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