What happened to Uganda’s honesty and national spirit?

24 Jun

By Stephen Twinoburyo

Having lived in South Africa right from the time of its first bid to host the World Cup up to the time it has hosted the 2010 showpiece, I marvel at the great work that has been done in order to host this tournament. In building and upgrading infrastructure, the South African government took long term goals into consideration in that the developments made will help the country for very many years to come.

All planned projects were completed and there is value for money to be seen. Even perennial critics will find it difficult to pick fault. Though there was an added emphasis, this was a continuation of the way things are normally done. Money allocated for projects is usually used to complete those projects and there is proper accountability for that. There could be an inflation of the cost but there is hardly a delivery of less value than budgeted for but where this happens and is discovered, consequences follow.

While having a discussion with a friend, the talk shifted to the general behaviour in Uganda. Corruption has become so engrained that the majority of Ugandans hardly think about the general good of the society they live in but rather individual acquisition, even if that means taking what belongs to the rest of the population. No national or social project in Uganda can be completed at its proper cost and value. The people involved ensure that they take as much out of it as to barely leave something to show that some work has been done. Unbelievable as it may sound, some people in highly respectable positions use all the money allocated for a project and the project never takes off at all.

The leaders are quick to blame colonialists as the cause of the country’s problems yet one wonders who of the two is the cause of greater misery to the people. One wonders who of the two has led to greater suffering and done less for the people. The situation as it is in Ugandan has largely risen out of the country’s leadership. 

When President Museveni came to power 25 years ago, he raised so much hope by promising to fight corruption and build ethics among the people. For a while, many people believed him and donors poured money into the country, especially after his impressive fight against HIV/AIDS. However this promise quickly grew into the most extensive corruption machinery Uganda had ever seen. When top Museveni aides and cronies started massively taking public money with impunity and without any consequences, the public trust vanished. It has become a norm for anybody to “milk” the public purse to dryness, with only paperwork or a scant cover-up to show that something has been done. Sadly this now even happens when individuals are dealing with each other.

Foreign investors in Uganda say they find the cost of running business in the country so high because of the massive bribes they have to pay at every turn. They can never get even a simple document signed without bribing somebody. Some potential investors have reconsidered their investments due to the prohibitive costs of corruption. One investor recently reconsidered a power project to Uganda because of the costly bribes required but engagements went smoothly in DRC and other SADC countries where the project will be launched. Anybody who has visited Uganda knows about the incessant power failures.

Is it not a shame that millions of dollars allocated by the Global Fund to the fight against TB and HIV/AIDS disappeared into the bank accounts of top government officials? As such the fight against the diseases was frustrated and thousands must have lost their lives while a few people that happened to be in the path of that money have become massively rich. As usual, after exposures of such, some kind of investigation follows and a few inconsequential people are thrown in prison to placate foreign observers and media until the case is forgotten. For the Global Fund, the money was never recovered, the implicated people are free, the government promised tighter controls and more money was released.

In another case, it is unbelievable that money allocated to prepare Kampala city for the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) summit, among other malpractices, was diverted by government ministers to build roads to their homes and claim they were upgrading the city. Needless to say, all the public roads that were upgraded got washed away within 6 months of the summit’s end. That summit was another enriching scheme for top officials and people connected to the president. Ugandans as usual, sank deeper into poverty and misery. There is nothing to show for CHOGM.

DRC is another example. State resources were used to fight an unnecessary war and wreck communities but what it produced were massively rich Ugandan politicians and top military personnel. Meanwhile many foot soldires that stood to gain nothing perished in that war. I am told that the difference with Rwanda is that Rwanda used what it acquired in DRC to build its infrastructure. Meanwhile the DRC may never recover in this century and the international community will write this off as one of those unfortunate moments.

This conduct has now pervaded all sectors of society in the country but there is nowhere it pays better than in politics because of the ability to make decisions and be within earshot of the president. It goes without saying that to be massively wealthy one needs to be close to the president as that will open channels of unmerited opportunities as well as instil fear in anybody, be it in police, public or private office, that may want to pose a challenge. Ironically, many people refer to somebody who exhibits non-corrupt tendencies as “a fool” and say he/she will die poor.

Somebody told me that people, even in respectable professions like the medical field, exploit or do unimaginable things to their clients so as to raise huge monies from them.

One wonders what will be done to change the mentality in Uganda. Any government that comes after the current one, as long as it’s not from the current leadership, faces a daunting task. Rebuilding trust, honesty and respectable institutions will not be an easy task. It will require great leadership and selflessness to turn around the current state of Uganda. Currently, hardly anybody cares about the country, much less the leaders.

It is regrettable that sometimes one meets Ugandans outside the country that say they have given up on what is happening in the country and will never return. There are those who never even visit. Then there are those one speaks to in the country that are so frustrated that they have given up on ever seeing goodness in the country and would get away if they got the opportunity.

Undoubtedly, the majority of Ugandans want to live orderly and decent lives. As long as such a desire exists, there is hope. There is hope that Ugandans one day will turn their country around. However, to achieve this will require strong will, great determination and sacrifice.


Posted by on June 24, 2010 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


7 responses to “What happened to Uganda’s honesty and national spirit?

  1. VEN BB

    June 24, 2010 at 06:27

    True Twino, When you live in a country like South Africa, and compare this country with our poor Uganda, you just grow very sad.

    The Ugandan Hon. Minister of Transport, has been in that position for a donkey years, What has he done for the nation? Any good plans to sustain our roads? The answer is no. I will not point our others, but I think the Ugandans that live in Uganda are blind.

    • Mark

      June 28, 2010 at 11:23

      There is corruption every where in the world even in Kagame’s air space where we had percieved to be free it has come to light that there are corruption cases in his air space. That is not an issue though. The most annoying issue should be sanctions against the corrupt officials.Corruption should not be understood as taking bribery or any financial demands but should broadly be seen and concepturised to include deliberate delays in implementation of activities,employing relatives who are not qualified and not caring or not bothered about human rights protection.Let me use the recent sad case of Khan Kakama Karekaho(RIP):- a very innocent young child kidnapped and killed after taking money from his parents.This case has attracted attention why?There has been reports of how almost 200 children being trafficked from Uganda.Other children have been victims of sucrifice whose private parts would be reported cut. How about Kajubi’s case can you imagine kajubi and Katelega are free men?
      This case has attracted authority because it has hit at the centre’s laxity and impunity granted to many sinners in this country. It has indicated that even the children of the all classes can now be killed for various motives offcourse ill ones. We no longer fear the law because it is not at work. Why was Magara’s case some how down played after killing two people during day time?See how the Police has shown that it can work effectively by following up the thugs up to Ishaka.By the way i believe we have a comptent police if they were well renumerated and facilitated and to let it work with out fear or under directives from above.Belive you me the death of Khan (RIP) is going to save many children because right from the maids we employ and us parents have leant a very big lesson.Why do we have billions of Sim cards on the streets.To fight corruption needs a broad septrum of thinking and finally to wipe it out needs a new generation. That is when a culture of sense of shame can be evolved in our society the way it has been inculated in Rwanda.

  2. tumwijuke

    June 24, 2010 at 07:03



    Just a few examples that even South Africa and the World Cup are not free of corruption.

    I agree that corruption in Uganda is more blatant and there certainly should be a real outcry and revolution to change things. However no one, least of all SA, is immune from this scourge.

  3. Godfrey Kahangi

    June 24, 2010 at 09:57

    Stephen, thanks for the posting.

    Maybe we can distinguish the Ugandan corruption model from the others in the world, even SA. The Ugandan model of corruption is not just based on impunity but on ignorance, maybe modeled after the Idi Amin model. You see, in SA, despite the corruption, work gets done and the public benefits, albeit at an inflated cost. In Uganda, money is squandered and nothing gets done. That is the absolute tragedy of corruption in Uganda.

    I dare say that corruption exists in every society, even the enlightened ones, as evidenced by the under the table deals in real estate, banking, etc but they get work done evidenced by the loans disbursed, roads and public projects initiated and implemented. No one gets to know the extent of the slash funds that go towards acquiring such projects. American companies have been known to hvae extensive slash funds to get projects especially in Africa and Asia.

    If Uganda had an enlightened and educated bureaucracy, who know mathematics and understand the need to show projects on the ground, the levels of corruption would be elevated to the dignity of the corruption in SA and USA, so that projects get done and the public benefits, all happening in an environment where no one can say that money was eaten. Being in Uganda frustrates since you hear of billions in aid and nothing to show for them.

    Solution: We need a two pronged sollution: we need an educated political and technocracy, so that 1 plus 1 equals two. This will remove the Idi Amin impunity of ignorance. We also need to reinvigorate nationalism, so that there is perceived shame in having people eat public money. I ask that the Singapore model of development is adopted in Uganda.

    Till then, unfortunately, the country is on a downturn, even with changes in the guard, as Museveni initiated in 1985.

  4. Edmond Owor

    June 24, 2010 at 10:31

    To me, the master piece was the rejection of the FREE OFFER for the national ID project by Japan and turning around to allocate 225billion even when Kenya and Tanzania are to spend less than a quarter of this amount on the same with their huge populations. We are told there are many grants that have been thrown out because the granters have refused to offer “cuts”!! HHhhhmmmm!

  5. Tolu

    June 24, 2010 at 17:37

    You are right. Corruption is in every country. But the difference between corruption in Uganda and other countries is that in Uganda, a few who are corrupt do it with impunity – protected by the system that be. While in other countries, corruption is done secretly, because if got, the laws of the country descend on the person mercilessly. The government cannot save the individual. Unless Uganda has an independent ‘serious economic crime fighting body’, the corruption will never be defeated. A dedicated leader, an independently organised system, independent judiciary and freedom of the press to act as whistle blowers will curb corruption. South Africa before 1994 was exactly what Uganda is today. You only need a system to bring sanity to the country.

  6. Twino Speaks

    June 24, 2010 at 20:55

    You guys make correct observations. Feelings of shame have completely been discarded in Uganda. In my opinion, this government has played a big role in this, because no previous government officials had ever engaged in such wantom corruption. I think when the people felt let down by their government, they followed suit.

    Leadership is very crucial in shaping society’s behaviour. For instance when this government took up the matter of AIDS seriously during thrie first years, they created a big impact on the Ugandan society. Uganda then did well at the beginning but when AIDS money started pouring into the country in droves, AIDS became a cash cow and together with the other money at the hands of these previously poor people that were now in control of massive resources, corruption flourished. I can tell you when peasants become corrupt, they take it to obscene levels.

    When uganda get leadership that promotes decency, people will start behaving decently.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: