Your tribe, my tribe and how we all encourage corruption
Posted Sunday, February 17 2013 at 02:23
We have in Uganda a potent mix of those two things. And it is a very bad idea. Fealty to clan and tribe is a good thing. We all need some form of meaningful anchor as we go out to all corners of the world in pursuit of this and that. We have, however, stretched the way we live our ethnicities. Politicians manipulate ethnicity to get votes.
The rest of us, when we fail to nail a contract or get a job, we cite ethnic-inspired discrimination. That is true sometimes. It is a form of corruption, particularly when it happens within the context of a public office.
How we respond to ethnicity and corruption is beautifully revealing of how awfully hypocritical we are in this country. This rotten national mentality is on display all the time, especially when prominent sons and daughters of the soil are fingered.
We wail and flail about corruption. We loudly demand that the government do something big and drastic to rein in the “monster”, root out the “cancer”, of corruption. We demand harsh punishment for those caught stealing public money. We want long jail terms; we want them to refund the loot. Sometimes we just want a firing squad for the heavy-hitter thieves, just like the communists do it over there in China.
Then when the government does something, ever so reluctantly, we act funny. We complain that the government is being selective in whom it prosecutes; that the “real big fish” have not been touched.We declare that our man, our tribe, is being persecuted. In doing so we are deliberately or otherwise trashing the entire law enforcement and judicial system.
Why else would anyone sent to Luzira after trial in open court be said to have been done in? Yes, people get done in. But it cannot be every big person who is fingered for stealing taxpayer shillings. There can only be so many nefarious forces out there active all of the time. This is the same lunacy one hears from politicians. A male politician caught in bed with another man’s wife will cry, claiming his political opponents are out to finish him. Really!
And so it was that an honourable court sent former junior health minister Mike Mukula to jail for four years for embezzling Shs210 million, part of a gift from the Gavi Alliance. Predictably, notable figures from amongst his tribesmen and women – including bishops (you bet!), MPs and Emorimori’s officials – immediately raced to Problem Solver-in-Chief Yoweri Museveni’s court. They asked him to pardon their man.
If Mr Museveni pardons everyone found guilty of corruption, who will be left to serve time and be used as an example to the rest? It is rank hypocrisy for bishops, MPs, ministers and whoever to demand corrupt heads on a platter and then go running around preventing those found guilty from serving out their punishments as decided by court. In any case there is always the appeal process – all the way to the Supreme Court.
These unprincipled representations and supplications before Ssabagabe Museveni undermine State institutions, but happen because he encourages them. The man is the solver of all problems, big and small. Boda bodas, he is there. Dealers in mivumba, he is there. Squatters, he is there.
Market women, he is there. Attending to these myriad little problems must make Ssabalwanyi Museveni feel even more powerful, as if there was any doubt as to his overarching power in Uganda. Not since Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Cote d’Ivoire has an African leader styled himself thus. He was Papa. But see what happened to that country after he died.
Blind ethnic solidarity, and the duplicity that attends it, is obviously undermining the fight against corruption. It has already undermined the competence of government, principally at the Executive level. Every job is seen through the prism of balancing this sectarian interest against the other sectarian interest: Region, ethnicity, religion. The result, for example, is a slate of ministers of dubious competence at best.
The granting of unviable district status upon every little nook and cranny – districts that never bring services closer to the people – flows from this flawed logic. So does the emergence of cultural headships in places that in the past never had organised “traditional” forms of leadership whatsoever.
Cynical politics have seeped deep into our society. Even bishops, supposed embodiments of morel clarity, do not know better anymore. If they ever did anyway.
Mr Tabaire is a media consultant with the African Centre for Media Excellence. email@example.com