Corruption is so powerful we now try to pray it away

Sunday October 13 2019


By Bernard Tabaire

When your national leaders do not address a problem they have consistently identified, but only lament, what do you do?
I don’t know.
But what I know is that it is bizarrely tiring to listen to the anti-corruption sermon, national prayer breakfast after another. It is as if it is a conspiracy for President Museveni and Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to talk the talk just for just.
There they were this week at it again. The occasion was the National Prayer Breakfast, some annual shindig hosted by the Speaker and organised by members of the Uganda Parliament Prayer Breakfast Fellowship.
Looking into Parliament from the outside, nothing would ever tell you there was such a formation in there. This was the 21st such gathering, apparently. That is one too many prayers.
This year the theme was: The Power of Character in Leadership. Uhm! As is usually the practice at these holier-than-thou gatherings, corruption came in for an easy story to tell to be seen to be relevant and claim moral high ground.
The Speaker, fresh from a high of hosting the 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, went first, not ever wanting to lose the shining momentum.
Daily Monitor was on hand to report it all. “Those people who sleep on mattresses of cash, most of it ill gotten, most of which they cannot even use, those who believe in primitive wealth accumulation, release that wealth for the schools, hospitals, infrastructure and innovations,” Ms Kadaga thundered, according to Daily Monitor.
Notice with me the sermon-like quality of this bit: release that wealth for the schools, hospitals, infrastructure and innovations.
You would think it were Pastor ZYX ordering demons out of some hapless chap’s soul. I command you… blah, blah.
“In everything that you do, set an example by doing what is good.” Okay. Good by whom? By God? By the law? By my conscience? How about if doing good does not bring bread and ghee?
Daily Monitor reported that Dokolo District Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal “set the tone” with an impassioned prayer about morals and integrity. Except that she chose to be intolerant, to put it mildly, by going after a soft target. Here is what the newspaper says she said:
“We are confessing that homosexuality is being practiced in this nation. Your own word says sodomy is an abomination. You said it in your Holy Book, but we are doing it with gladness. Lord, I say have mercy on us, we have defiled ourselves and we have defiled our nation,” she said.
Doing it with gladness? Would it be less of an abomination if we were doing it without gladness?
It appears President Museveni has moved on from those same-sex things. Corruption it is, was, and had to be. The Speaker and the President were united.
Mr Museveni said, according to Daily Monitor: “Do not be tempted to abuse the trust given by God through the people. Do not be corrupt, do not agree to take [a] bribe or ask for bribes. I have never taken [a] bribe or accepted to be bribed.”
Good, the man is speaking for himself. He now also needs to speak for officials in his government. Will he do so before State power leaves him? Let’s bet.
I would, however, have loved to hear some sort of report card about how many corrupt people have been fingered since the last mournful national prayer. Some accounting would have been welcome.
Think about this: Everyone who talks about corruption in public condemns it. The day prayer will have real meaning is the day some big kahuna will hold the microphone at the National Prayer Breakfast to endorse corruption in Uganda.
It would be about time.
Bernard Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala.