Sunday November 25 2012

Too late for Uganda; criminals took over public finance a long time ago

By Joachim Buwembo

One of the popular kadongo kamu songs of the nineties was ‘Kayanda’ by Willy Mukabya. It was a classic case of impunity but most listeners just ‘saw’ the passion/betrayal side of it.

In the song, Mukabya is a wealthy man who is too busy with his business to pay attention to details in his home. But his domestic labourer, an immigrant from Burundi called Kayanda, has been ‘on the ground’ for nine years labouring day and night in the household to satisfy the family needs.

One day, Mukabya comes home unexpectedly and catches Kayanda red handed fondling his wife. A furious Mukabya immediately orders Kayanda to pack up and leave his homestead. Kayanda runs to the master’s wife and reports that he is being chased away. “Tolina gy’olaga,” (you are going nowhere) the wife announces with finality. Emboldened, Kayanda also declares “Sirina gy’endaga.” (I am going nowhere.)

Very angry, Mukabya calls the local council to help him evict the parasitic poacher. When the LCs arrive, the wife and Kayanda assure them that the labourer is not going anywhere. Further probing reveals that for nine years, Kayanda has been in a deep relationship with the master’s wife and has actually biologically fathered half of the children in the family. To dismiss Kayanda means dismantling the family because he threatens to repatriate all his children to Burundi, especially Nakiyemba, their lovely first-born daughter.

Mr Mukabya is mad and declares “Essawa etuuse yakutta muntu,” (It is time to kill someone ) but the LCs firmly tell him he cannot be allowed to kill Kayanda. Still mad but helpless, Mukabya starts begging the LCs to allow him to kick Kayanda on the belly so he at least raptures the his spleen. Again the LCs deny him this ‘humble’ request.

That is when Mukabya breaks down and starts tearfully asking how his brothers and peers will receive the news that his wife and children are shared with a ‘mupakasi’ (labourer). If you think Mukabya’s case is funny, the fate of Uganda’s parliament and taxpayers is not any better, because government finances have been in the hands of dangerous criminals for a long time.

Not that it is news to anyone, but it is now official – since it is now meticulously recorded in parliament’s Public Accounts Committee records. Besides, the donors have taken note, so that makes it real, finally.
The Auditor General, Treasury Secretary, Accountant General and Internal Principal Auditor are our Mukabyas who catch the ‘Kayandas’ in the ministries. But their evidence comes too late because the ‘Kayandas’ have powerful collaborators in the Treasury who have for years been foiling internal audits by reprimanding and transferring auditors who try to prevent grand thefts.

The MPs on PAC are like the LCs who while staring the criminals from the ministries and the Treasury in the eye, are powerless to recover the taxpayers’ money from them because they must uphold the law, knowing a criminal is not enough to make him ‘vomit’ the money.

Actually in the Kayanda song, the ‘poacher’ gets confident enough to tell the LCs about his other exploits. As they probe him for details, they first assure him that he won’t go to prison. He then asks the LC secretary for women’s affairs if he ever said a word about Mrs Matovu, another wealthy neighbour’s wife he has been ‘servicing’.

Kayanda’s impunity is with us and just like Mukabya and the LCs, the discovery comes too late to really matter, unless we are prepared to dismantle the ministries involved.

We can rant and rave and call the thieves all the bad names in the dictionary, but they are just laughing at us and showing us the middle finger. “Munakola ki.. mtafanya nini?” (what will you do?), they are asking. They are deeply interwoven in the system that you cannot remove them without dismantling it. To suggest that would be called treason because you would be tackling Kayanda’s big political godfathers – the ‘Mrs Mukabyas’. So in the end your protests will not go very far.

The most we shall see will be a few token court cases. People will be charged weakly with some vague cases of causing financial loss, which shall be disproved because of lukewarm prosecution. And life will go on. Kayanda Oye!