President Museveni Monday afternoon back-peddled on his characteristic attacks against donors, choosing in a dramatic U-turn to plead with them to continue financing his government currently in a reputation crisis over graft.
The NRM leader made the humbling request at a “frank and lively” two and a half hour meeting he held with ambassadors from 20 development partner countries under their loose coalition, Partners for Democracy and Governance (PDG) at State House Entebbe Monday afternoon, his press office said.
President Museveni’s full statement;
Greetings to all of you, Excellences
You cannot talk, seriously or credibly about the fight against criminality and corruption in Uganda in the last 50 years and the period before without talking about the vanguard role of the NRM in that fight.
Until 26 years ago, stealing Government funds was the least of Uganda’s problems. The main problems were: extra-judicial killings (that resulted into the death of 800,000 Ugandans between 1966 and 1986); looting of property of the population by the soldiers; raping of women; brutalizing of the population through beatings by the soldiers; uprooting of whole communities by the soldiers, like Idi Amin did with the Indian community, or like the colonial system did with the Banyoro, Baruuli, Banyala and others; the poaching of animals by Government soldiers in the National Parks; the grabbing of private and communal lands by those in power; and, of course, the stealing of Government funds. The NRM, which started as a student Movement in the 1960s, was the vanguard and pioneer of the fight against all this criminality and corruption since, at least, 1965 todate.
We started by defending the land of the peasants between 1966 and 1970 ― at least, in some parts of the country. Who were the agents of criminality, corruption and extortion? It was the State ― both the Colonial and the post-Colonial State. During the colonial times, for instance, the system of mailo was created where 8,000 square miles was taken away from the indigenous owners and was given to 1,000 collaborator chiefs, each one getting 8 sq. miles. When this grand theft almost caused an uprising in 1924, the Governor, Mitchell, appointed a Commission of Enquiry, which resulted in some reforms of 1928. However, the problem was not fully eliminated. We are still grappling with it. We shall definitely solve it.
Apart from the grabbing of land, extra-judicial killings were massively used, especially between 1966 and 1986, as already pointed out. There are 37 mass graves in the Luwero Triangle, preserved to capture this criminality. Your Excellencies could go there and visit some of them. Therefore, the main task of the revolutionaries was to destroy the rump of the colonial State ― the colonial Army, headed by the likes of Idi Amin and to build a people’s Army. It is this intervention that made Uganda to resurrect and chart a new course. Many people have been praising the conduct of the UPDF in Somalia. That is a consequence of that Revolution ― destroying the colonial Army and replacing it with a people’s Army as part of reforming the colonial State. Incidentally, this was not unique to Uganda. Throughout the whole of Africa, this was the problem. The terrible civil war in Nigeria, Mobutu in Congo, Siad Barre in Somalia, Bokassa in Central Africa, Eyadema in Togo, the recent problems of Ivory Coast, the genocides in Rwanda and Burundi can all, in one way or another, be traced to the colonial State and its Armies. Some go a bit further to link up with the African feudal systems of the pre-colonial times as exploited by colonialism.
Therefore, our revolution was both anti-colonial and anti-feudal. The most dangerous element of the Colonial State was the Colonial Army and its post-colonial mutants ― Uganda Army (UA), Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), etc. This Army was sectarian, illiterate, unpatriotic, etc. Our Revolution, on the other hand, was based on four principles:
- Socio-economic transformation; and
By destroying the colonial Army and replacing it with the Revolutionary Army, we, immediately, cured the following criminalities:
- Extra-judicial killings;
- Raping of women;
- Looting of people’s property;
- Brutalizing of people and rudeness to them;
- Poaching of animals from the National Parks; and
- Grabbing people’s land; etc.
That is how Uganda resurrected and started the recovery process, which has been witnessed in recent years (the last 26 years).
The colonial Army, however, was not the only element in the colonial State. There were other elements:
- The civil service;
- The Police;
- The Judiciary;
- The Professional services (medical, veterinary,teaching), etc.
It was actually a bit easier to reform the Army. What that needed was a correct ideological-philosophical outlook. As already said, our outlook is: patriotism, pan-Africanism, socio-economic transformation (modernization) and democracy. To these, or even as a consequence of patriotism, if you add heroism and courage, given the comparatively Uganda’s good educational standards even during the colonial times, it was easy to build a good pro-people Army.
All this was also assisted by the solid martial culture of the people of Uganda the decadent feudal system that tended to smoother the qualities of our people notwithstanding. Why? A recruit course takes six months to nine months, an officer - cadet’s course takes twelve months and a Non Commissioned Officer’s (NCO) course takes four months. This is based on assumption that you have people of the right educational level, age-bracket and health. The ideological aspects can be imparted by the leadership through teaching and by example. This can quickly get you people to lead platoons and with accelerated training, you will get people to lead companies, etc. Anybody with a University degree in general studies or A-level education can be turned into a good soldier, NCO or officer. Specialists for Air-force, engineering and other specialties need science education. Fortunately, these are needed in smaller numbers.
However, with Administration (Accounting officers), professional services (doctors, lawyers, veterinary), Judiciary, etc., you need longer periods of preparation. Some of these courses need science education or mathematics, which are subjects that are not as popular as the humanities. Many of them (the people involved), besides, had a careerist attitude, different from us the revolutionaries whose approach was a revolutionary one ― working, selflessly, without caring about remuneration, never claiming overtime allowances, staying in grass thatched huts instead of clamouring for good housing (just as we did in the bush), etc.
Then, there was also the politics. We could not have massively disbanded the civil service as we did with the Army without alienating the public. At that time, the civil service was not as unpopular as the army. The army’s criminality was much clearer to the masses and our destroying it has given us political capital whose account is not yet overdrawn ― 26 years after. In any case, we did not have others to replace them at that time. We, therefore, decided to tackle the problem piece-meal, quite early on.
In addition to the army, we decided to reform Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) ― the former East African Customs Department plus other tax departments. These departments were very corrupt. In 1986, these corrupt tax bodies, were only collecting 4.23% of GDP as tax for the Government. The rest, they were collecting for themselves. We abolished these departments, created URA, which was manned by the people we got through integrity hunting before professional training. What did this mean? Take Allen Kagina, for instance, the present Commissioner-General (CG) of URA. She was a lecturer in Psychology at Makerere University. In fact, Allen Kagina protested that she did not know anything about tax collection. I told her that somebody would teach her because tax collection was not space science. What was lacking in those tax bodies was integrity and uprightness. By recruiting a new cadreship into the tax bodies, collection rose from 4% of GDP to the present 12.65% of GPD. It has stagnated at that level because of the subsistence nature of the economy but, possibly, also, the lack of a correct personal identification system which will be cured by the electronic identity card.
Then, we turned to the Police, which has been slowly overhauled. This is how the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is now able to play an active role in the present anti-fraud campaign. I had to bring in two Generals from the Revolutionary Army ― Katumba Wamala and Kale Kaihura ─ to shake up this centre of criminality that was ironically supposed to fight criminality.
Recently, we deployed Jennifer Musisi in the rotten Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). She is busy sweeping Aegean stables of Kampala ─ corruption, land grabbing, lack of planning, garbage, pot-holes, mud, dust, flooding, flies, etc. In the short time she has been in that office, you can see what impact she has created in spite of the opposition by the corrupt political class and bureaucrats.
Recently, there have been quite a few politically motivated red-herrings, trying to give the impression that the problem of corruption in Uganda is because of lack of “political will” to fight that corruption. Who? Me, Yoweri Museveni, lacking “political will” to fight corruption and criminality when I am stronger now than I was in 1971, when, together with my colleagues, we took the regime of Idi Amin head on, or when in 1981, with 27 guns, we attacked Kabamba? Those who peddle those falsehoods should be treated with the contempt they deserve.
As soon as we had the opportunity, we put all the necessary laws in place ― leadership code, the anti-corruption laws, etc. We also put new institutions in place such as the Inspector General of Government (IGG), etc., in addition to the old ones such as CID, Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), etc. The problem has been the manning of these institutions. As all wars go, the enemy tries to infiltrate our ranks depending on the leadership that may be in place in a given institution. The IGG office, for instance, seems to have been infiltrated by questionable characters. The new IGG seems to be of the right temperament and integrity. She will mop up the infiltrators. Those who have been pushing the red-herring of lack of “political will” have been ignoring Article 174 of the Constitution, the Public Service Act of 2008 and section 188 of Local Government Act, all of which give power over money, contracts and personnel to the civil servants, not to politicians. In fact, there is no area of Government where the politicians can misuse money, make wrong procurement contracts, etc., without the permission of the civil servants (the Accounting officer). Where it happens, it is easy to detect. Therefore, as I have pointed out before, the warriors in the anti-corruption war are: the Permanent Secretary (PS) in the ministry, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) in a district, the Town Clerk in a City or Municipality and the Gombolola chief in a sub-county. All the others are mere accessories to the crime. They are the ones to supervise the procurement officers, the accountants, etc., below them.
Recently, we had a break through in this war. The whistle blowers in the ministry of Public Service exposed the huge theft of the pension funds. The CID moved in and they are doing a commendable job. Then, the Permanent Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister became a whistle-blower in the case of the accountant Kazinda. This is what involved money from Development Partners. We are going to methodically unearth all those involved. I suspended the Permanent Secretary of the ministry of Public Service and I will suspend anybody else once I am satisfied that they are involved.
The suspected thieves are very cunning. One of their techniques seems to be blackmail whereby they intimidate whistle-blowers with framing them up or trying to get political patronage. I can assure you none of those will work. I am the elected leader of Uganda for four consecutive terms apart from being the historical leader of the Ugandan Revolution. Anybody who associates himself or herself with these suspected thieves and tries to shield them will come to ruin as did all the enemies of our people. Our points-men in this war are the auditors, officers from CID officers and other security services. I, sometimes, directly supervise them. We shall not be diverted by any smoke-screen. Each issue will be dealt with according to the facts.
As for the Development Partners, kindly inform your home constituencies that you are dealing with capable people who fought the dictatorship of Idi Amin; fought the dictatorship of UPC; defended Uganda from Sudanese - sponsored terrorism; destroyed the colonial Army that was killing Ugandans; stopped the multiple crimes of that Army against the people of Uganda; enabled the Ugandan economy to recover; contributed to regional peace, etc. The recent revelations have been made by people sympathetic to the Revolution. They are the whistle-blowers. We have the capacity to defeat these thieves as we defeated all the other enemies of Uganda.
These accountants have for long been rumoured to be the core of corruption in the Public Service. Fortunately, given the large number of educated people Uganda now has, it will not be a big problem to get rid of this crop of parasites. Their activities even impact negatively on the operations of the foreign exchange. By getting this free money of the Government, they are able to buy large amount of dollars for externalization, thereby, causing the artificial depreciation of the Uganda shilling.
The fight against these thieves is going on well. Give me your support and, please, remember the Banyankore proverb: “Watooza n’ababwibire”. The rich African dialects are very precise and not easy to interpret. It refers to people stealing one’s millet in the night from a granary. The following morning, having discovered the theft, you make the alarm. Among those who come to help track the stolen millet are the very thieves that stole the millet at night. They will do everything possible to divert you from the track that the thieves took so that you do not find the millet and the thieves. All that is said in two words as shown above.
I thank you.
H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
President of the Republic of Uganda