Last Updated on: 29th April 2023, 04:05 pm
Summary: Former MPs from Lango and an FDC leader have reacted stalwartly to corruption in the country, with each of them saying corruption will never be defeated.
Northern Uganda, April 29, 2023: Karimojongs want all the ministers and other officers who benefited from the iron sheets meant to support them punished and removed from the offices they hold.
Most important, they want cabinet ministers implicated in the theft removed from the cabinet. TND News Regional Reporters had week-long conversations with the people of Karamoja, Lango and Acholi, among them political doyens and here is what they said.
Awakae Pulkol and Kalisto Lowiny are reformed cattle rustlers from Kotido who returned their guns voluntarily to the army. Both say they are disappointed in the ministers who received the iron sheets, adding that the government should also treat those ministers like raiders because they raided the iron sheets meant for them.
They now want all those ministers removed and arrested because they undermined the efforts of returning peace to Karamoja.
Paul Lomoru, the LC3 chairperson of Nakapeliru sub-county in Kotido district, says all the ministers of Karamoja Affairs should be removed so that their positions can be replaced by people from Karamoja.
Earnest Ayen is the youth chairperson of Abim district who belongs to the National Unity Platform (NUP). She says the people of Karamoja should not expect justice from the government as long as the implicated ministers are still in the cabinet.
John Bosco Akore, the secretary for Kotido Elder’s Council and a political analyst, says he is not convinced with how the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is handling the files of the implicated ministers.
“DPP is selective on who they are reprimanding,” he says. According to him, the DPP should have first arrested the big shots like the Vice President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament among others.
He says that all those should first step down from their positions to pave the way for proper investigations
“The investigations will take shape since a number of ministers and top government officials have used Karamoja as the breeding ground in the past but nothing was done.”
Rt. Rev James Nasak, the Bishop Emeritus of North Karamoja Diocese (Church of Uganda), however, commended the government for taking actions against those implicated but appealed to the government to do further investigations so that all those involved are brought to book.
A former Member of Parliament for Oyam South Ishaa Otto Amiza says several ministers have been engaged in different corruption scandals in the past including the First Lady (minister) Janet Museveni, and Jim Muhwezi among others who have been assigned to powerful positions.
According to Otto, not even a reshuffle could make Museveni drop such ministers. “President Museveni will instead award them other positions.” This practice, Otto says is crippling the country’s growth and development.
The well-known activist added that suspects of corruption are easily given bail with no punishment accorded to them and in the long run denying the course of justice to prevail.
“There is no fight against corruption in Uganda when the pinned individuals are given bail upon spending a night or two in Luzira,” Otto added.
Otto has challenged President Museveni to step down and allow for independent investigations into corruption scandals in the country, citing that the 37 years in power so far have shown no progress in the fight against corruption in the country.
The former MP also noted that the performance rates of the 11th Parliament are increasingly diminishing, describing them as “the worst performing August House” compared to the past. Otto says the current Parliament has a few serious national issues to table before the flow yet the citizens are suffering.
Uganda has witnessed many corruption scandals before but the most recent practice cannot be compared to the corruption cases Uganda has registered with several cabinet ministers involved.
The administrator of the Forum for Democratic Change ( FDC) in Lango sub-region, Bonny Otyama Ogongson says that nothing should be expected from “the head of a rotten fish”, citing that the IGG’s report stated that Uganda loses about 10 trillion annually through corruption.
Ogongson now believes that the Karamoja iron sheets saga is a planned trap used by President Museveni through Minister Mary Kitutu to get rid of some ministers.
Aside from the hotly debated Karamoja iron sheets saga, Ogongson says the government has lost a lot of money through corrupt government officials in different government projects like Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) where implicated persons are never investigated fully.
“The fight against corruption is a question Ugandans need to respond to immediately.”
Meanwhile, former Lands Minister Daniel Omara Atubo says Parliament can only be measured as a performing entity when its functions are not compromised by the actions of President Museveni.
Omara noted that the 11th Parliament has miserably failed in the fight against corruption. “Parliament that is invaded, monitored, weak and not independent from Museveni can’t adequately fight the vice of corruption in the country,” says the former MP and Minister.
Since the National Resistance Movement (NRM) came to power in 1986, says an anonymous interviewee, Uganda has undertaken an ambitious set of economic and political reforms. “These reforms have led to the establishment of a solid legal, administrative and institutional framework to fight corruption.”
Despite initial success widely heralded by the international community, corruption remains widespread at all levels of society and the country faces major implementation challenges.
Recently, President Museveni directed all ministers who took iron sheets to return them to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and promised to deal with them ‘politically.’
Jane Frances Abodo, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) noted that her office is handling more than 40 individual files on the iron sheets saga and insisted that more people will be prosecuted in due course.
With the ever-increasing cases of corruption in the country that is now staggering Uganda’s development process, will Ugandans heal from this deadly cancer? This now remains a bigger task for Ugandans to fight.
Political, religious leaders and cultural leaders, including analysts among others have spoken out on theft that involved 22 cabinet ministers, MPs, and 13 Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs).
Pastor Peter Obinna is a political analyst in Gulu City and comments that corruption in Uganda is a dynamic thing, changing time and again. He says corruption will continue to shoot the general public to struggle to fight poverty.
“Big per cent of people in the monopoly of power claim that they fight for NRM government yet at the end they are not performing, no accountability, transparency presented to the public in promoting corruption.”
Obinna says the iron sheets shame has reached a level of “torsion” and that it is sabotaging the President. “They wanted to overthrow and turn down the government because the government only depends on votes’ satisfaction for service delivery.
“Distribution of iron sheets and goats to Karamoja was to bring them together in permanent livelihood not living in a nomadic life because they had been battling with Turkana for cattle.”
“This was political corruption because there were other iron sheets procured for different constituencies, why for Karamoja?”
The pastor further noted that Uganda is at a low level of the democratization process, adding that a lot of efforts have been made by the government. He says those in NRM have resistance minds and they pretend as NRM supporters.
Rwot Kasimiro Ongom is the Ker-kwaro of Patong clan who commented that corruption in Uganda cannot be finished by the President because the Uganda Constitution is the one failing the country.
Ongom says there is no need of removing those Cabinet ministers from their offices, but investigations can move on so that they pay back iron sheets. A serious penalty should be put on them according to the law of Uganda.
Rwot Kasimiro argued that the government’s delays to pay public servants’ salaries are contributing to corruption, adding that many workers can look for alternatives way to get money. “The government should change and revise the mode of payment, this will prevent corruption.”
Mwaka Samuel Barker, a young political analyst who doubles as Councilor LC5 of Patiko sub-county to Gulu district council said for poverty elevation in Karamoja, distributing iron sheets is not a solution and answer to solve the problems.
“What do iron sheets contribute to the economy? They should look at factors to food insecurity.”
“Reason, why corruption is most common in Uganda is that the government only looks at party-structured people, NRM cadres appointed to big offices; they want to know how much a person is devoted to the party without looking at the value of a person to perform the tasks.”
Mwaka added that challenges affecting government projects are the mode of the application attached to it for delivery. “So, they should maintain the previous strategies of the first projects like NUSAF 1 and not introduce contradicting strategies which bring more problems to the local people who never benefit.”
Arthur Owor is an environmental activist. He questioned why only junior ministers are being arrested leaving top ministers in their offices. “This means the President is just making a show to the public yet the law is equal to everyone who commits a crime in Uganda.”
“Why are the majority of ministers involved in the saga of iron sheets women yet President is fighting for the emancipation of women and gender dimension,” Arthur asked.
Bishop Lalam Lilly Kidega of Christ Alive Ministry commented that the level of poverty in Uganda has raised a leeway to corruption, and also the involvement of the Police in the investigation is promoting corruption.
“Money exchange hands among them, the culprits should be arrested and prosecuted according to the law.”
Bishop said the government has left religious leaders not to participate in any projects yet they are the most trusted people to handle projects to reach local communities. “Many people are sleeping outside and hungry in Karamoja sub-region.”
“The distribution of iron sheets to Karamoja sub-region is a sign of development as they would be in permanent buildings.”
Geoffrey Otim, the Division Mayor of Laroo-Pece, Gulu City asks why the Office of the Prime Minister allowed the diversion of iron sheets. “They must follow the procedure of leadership and not turn the name of the country into shame.”
Otim adds that for projects to reach the locals there is a need for early planning from the bottom to the top. “Meaning from the locals to the Central government as Parish Development Model project is brought near to the community.”
This story was done by Hope Owiny Ochero, Nancy Atim and Okot Lil Romeo.