Last year, some ministers and senior public officials were declared innocent by a resolution of Parliament. They all jubilated and drank bottles of champagne. There is bad news for all of them. Charges of thefts, embezzlement and mismanagement of public funds cannot be judged and finalised by resolutions of Parliament however omnipotent unless it is by an Amnesty Act of Parliament.
The President has no judicial or executive powers whatsoever to exonerate suspects until they have been tried and convicted by a competent tribunal and then the President exercises the prerogative of mercy and grants the convict a pardon or imposes a lesser punishment.
For some years now, commissions of inquiry and internal probes into public frauds, embezzlement, thefts and mismanagement have revealed wrong doing and named ministers and public officials responsible. What was stolen or lost is well documented.
The Uganda press has courageously exposed these criminal activities and exposed their perpetrators. The President, himself, has named some of the thieves, forgers and incompetent public officials. Yet, none has resigned or been forced out of office.
Consequently, Ugandans have been asking their government the burning question; who is in charge of public affairs in Uganda to day? No Ugandan the offenders and their beneficiaries, believes that government is serious about combating corruption and these thieves. Uganda has become a fertile ground for public thieves.
If there are any, people may refresh their memories by the number of countries that have withdrawn or threatened to withdraw their financial support to Uganda.
Ugandans were angered by the arrogant statement of one senior minister who promised donors that the Ugandan government will recover the stolen money by its officials and return it to the donors, forgetting entirely that the only reason the money was given to Uganda is to assist the people. The minister would not be doing a favour to us by returning the money to where it came from in the first place. This is sheer impunity.
Many suspects brought to court and acquitted should not always assume that acquittal signifies their innocence. In the latest case, where some ministers were acquitted, the court deeply regretted the inefficiency and incompetency of the prosecuting agency that bungled the case. Those acquitted must surely know that the judge was signaling to the country that had the prosecution not mismanaged the case, the result would have been entirely different. In this regard, the accused should thank their lucky stars and keep quiet.
When the Prime Minister assumed office, he breathed fire that he would seriously tackle corrupt officials in the country. The massive thefts in his own office should have opened his eyes to only one open political or known as exit. Readers may recall that the same Prime Minister sat back and did nothing about the damning report on the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Heritage where massive losses of dollars and shillings were registered and culprits named and revealed in the press. Indeed, the people who stole billions on the evidence of their own colleagues or the Ministry of Finance remain in office today. Leaders must believe that most Ugandans are either fools or cowards.
The President has been part of the crusade demanding zero tolerance to corruption and has personally named culprits who have been and continue to be responsible for the scourges of corruption and abuse of office. Amongst the named, there are ministers, public officials and business people. Ugandans demand action and not rhetoric.
Ugandans are running out of patience. They now demand that the President takes action and rid this nation of the human locusts that are slowly devouring the wealth of the country at the expense of hardworking and poor peasants and well-intentioned foreign donors. How long, Mr President, must this country wait for you and your government to act. No Ugandan!
Justice Kanyeihamba is a retired
Supreme Court Judge. firstname.lastname@example.org