At the start of the week, Ms Evelyn Anite, the State Minister of Finance for Investment and Privatisation, surprised many when she declared at a press conference that “enemies of the people”, who are members of the mafia that are intimidating and robbing Ugandans, are also plotting to kill her over the Uganda Telecom (UTL) audit.
Although Ms Anite, also the Koboko Municipality MP, did not disclose the identities of the mafia, she said they are known because they have been holding secret meetings in government offices and high-end social places in Kampala.
Leading up to the press conference, Ms Anite had been insisting that an audit be carried out into UTL. The suggestion of the audit seems to have caused panic among some senior government officials whose preference is that UTL issues go through court channels.
While some people believe that Anite’s outcry is genuine and in the public’s interest, there are also rumours circulating that it might be merely an attempt to protect personal interests; perhaps, a move to refute recent claims by a whistle-blower in a petition to the IGG and head of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit.
The whistle-blower accuses Ms Anite of allegedly booking trips to Mauritius to strike a business deal with investors seeking to take over UTL for more than $85m (Shs314b).
For the last five years, after the Kyankwanzi retreat for NRM Members of Parliament, it was believed that Ms Anite is closer than most politicians to the seat of political power. Therefore, she should be the last person to claim that her life could be in danger.
The impression that was created was that Anite is highly and heavily protected in the NRM government in recognition of her role in kneeling before President Museveni and begging him to be the sole presidential candidate for the ruling NRM in the 2016 general election.
Although government has not responded to Anite’s allegations or denied the existence the mafia within NRM, the minister’s utterance has left many people wondering about:
1) Who exactly the mafia are in government,
2) What empire/ business they control that are possibly leaving majority of Ugandans struggling in poverty,
3) If the business interests or sectors being controlled by the mafia are sanctioned by NRM government.
The allegations by Ms Anite strongly suggest that, maybe unknown to Ugandans, different sectors such as telecommunications, ICT, energy, oil, transport, roads, and service sectors might have been apportioned to the mafia many years ago.
Since Ms Anite can be said to be still new in the political arena, her troubles may simply be that she, knowingly or otherwise, interfered with the business in someone’s empire.
According to Moises Naim, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a foreign-policy think tank in the US: “In mafia states, government officials enrich themselves, their families and friends while exploiting the money, muscle, political influence, and global connections of criminal syndicates, cementing and expanding their own interests.
Top positions in some of the world’s most profitable illicit enterprises are no longer filled by professional criminals but they also include senior government officials.”
In Uganda, the lines between political actors and mafias are increasingly getting blurred as numerous empires steadily grow at the expense of the taxpayers.
Ms Victoria Nyeko is a media commentator.