I’m hated for fighting the corrupt – RDC Sakwa

Sunday May 31 2020

embattled Jinja Resident District Co

Embattled Jinja Resident District Commissioner, Mr Eric Sakwa 

By Jacobs Odongo Seaman

What is the biggest problem in Jinja?
Corruption. It’s deeply entrenched in civil service here. You find big shots getting money from people, selling jobs. A single job [opportunity] ends up being sold to 10 people. Recruitment process has lost meaning here.
Some of these big guys in offices say work has to be given to the son or daughter of the land. Many of these people sometimes don’t even have the right qualifications.
Another form of corruption is civil servants who earn without working. They may even take like a full week away from the job; they come, sign, and leave.
So, during my on-the-spot checks, I question these things and you hear cover-up like, she is around, he has gone to buy air time, they went for a burial… it is a big loss for the taxpayer.
Who do you work with to run around chasing civil servants?
I’ve district education officers, inspector of schools and others but they behave like they are overwhelmed. At some schools, they will tell you that the inspector visited five to six months ago, so when you try to remind them to do their work, they begin talking a lot, that the RDC is fighting us, he is bad, and yet these people are well facilitated with vehicle and fuel. Civil servants hate me because I’m very strict when it comes to work.
You’re always in the thick of land issues…
There is a lot of land grabbing in Jinja. Actually, it takes second spot after Wakiso District. Those big houses you see over there (points to a hill east of Walukuba), people just grabbed them. Most lands belonging to local government, schools, NWSC, hospital land, sub-county land… they are all taken. And we have leaders who mastermind all this. When I fight that, they begin hating me yet it’s my duty to protect government property.
Don’t you think your battle is in vain?
I never give up because I’m not working for myself. We have success to show for. We have recovered some of the properties and blocked the sale of public land. Like in Masese, land belonging to NWSC was salvaged at the last minute.
We also salvaged Spire Road Primary School land. This school had about 20 acres, but by the time I intervened, it had been divided into small plots. We fought, I involved the minister for Lands, the minister for Education, and minister of State for Education, and we recovered that school land. We recovered Tirupati land at the new River Nile Bridge.
Don’t government agencies care about their property?
They care, just that they had failed. They came to me, we pushed and recovered the land. These land grabbers are smart, they have gangs to fight for them. These are boys between 15-25 years who are given waragi and njaga; they are always intoxicated.
You know the gangs?
They include Team No Sleep, Black Scorpion Squad, Wanted List, Murder Squad, Gun Talk Killer Squad, Bajabala Group. Then the Virus Squad that terrorises students in towns.
Isn’t this something police can clean up?
Some of the sponsors of these groups compromise the policemen, they work with the police.
So the gangs had overrun Jinja Town, most of the streets were insecure. By 7pm you wouldn’t pass on some streets, not even near the central police station. They killed a girl in her 20s just like 50 metres away from the police station, in the middle of the town. They were so daring they attempted to rob a bank just 20 metres from CPS.
So how did you sort this?
I had a discussion with the IGP and some transfers were made, like the officer in charge of operation was transferred, DPC was transferred, OC at the central station and CID were transferred.
The gang pays protection fee to police. Their operation base was in Kazimingi in Napier Market. No one goes there, they train from there, they even make parades, roll calling, and plan everything from there. They would do deployments in the evenings.
So everything is left to the RDC who does not have the police to go and sort these boys, and here everybody runs to me complaining that you are the head of security in the district. So I had to get vigilant boys. They went around with sticks and caned the thugs. We brought sanity.
Do you have the support of Presidency minister Esther Mbayo?
The minister is a good person. We have been working together. She was even sending me assignments to execute. I always update her of what is happening in Jinja.
Hajj Yenus Kakande, the secretary in the Office of the President, interdicted you but you refused to leave office
My lawyers are handling this, but we believe Kakande didn’t follow the right channel. The minister had to give directives to Kakande and I believe the minister does not have much hand in the letter because when I talked to her about the letter which was on WhatsApp, she said she was going to talk to Kakande.
Whenever there is a letter for any RDC, it has to be channelled through a registrar who even calls you to pick your letter. But the registrar was not aware. I received it from a stranger who came to district headquarters but did not even enter the offices. He stood under a tree and handed the letter to a stranger to deliver to RDC’s office. When my staff asked where the person was, they were told outside but there was no one.
How can a person from the Office of the President drive all the way to Jinja and casually delivers a letter like that?
Now there’s the letter from the President. Of course, I can’t dispute a letter from the President… I will wait for it. I see it says I have to go on leave for two months, that’s not the same as an interdiction.
You contested in Mbale in 2011, do you see yourself in elective politics again?
I’m still a political animal only that the President has given me a mandate to serve the people. In case of any decision, I will have to consult him. I may have ambitions and yet the President still needs me to serve.
In February, you clashed with Dr Kizza Besigye and blocked him from Jinja
Besigye was becoming a security issue, because it’s on record that whenever he comes to Jinja, people riot. FDC agents mobilise people and now they join with People Power to discredit Mr Museveni.
But discrediting Museveni is within his rights
Besigye talks a lot. He says President Museveni is not meant to be in office, that he rigged elections, such things incite people. They go on streets saying the President is in office illegally.
Yes, Besigye has rights, freedom but he is using it to incite the people, going on radio to tell them to do the Sudan way. That was not proper.
Why don’t you negotiate with him to carry out his engagements peacefully?
With Besigye, it’s not negotiable. He says it’s my right, he does not believe in negotiations, he just keeps fronting his rights. But rights are not absolute; your rights can’t override the rights of others.
Do you believe there is democracy?
Yes, that is why there is the rule of law, and the President is the number one protector of the rule of law. That is why in my issues, he would have ordered, ‘leave Sakwa’ but he has left the law to take its course. In Uganda people think freedom is only about having regular elections, but look at access to food, health services, schools and others. All those are part of democracy.
Did you have similar belief in 2008 when you were critical of NRM?
I work for the people, not for the party. We were making positive criticism. Yes, I was making noise in 2008, so the President said ‘here, let’s see what you can do.’ So here I’m, implementing what I was complaining that he wasn’t doing and I believe I’m doing a great service for the people.