As the reality of the sanctions slapped on Gen Kale Kayihura and his family by the US Government sinks in, it is important to visit likely scenarios that may generally play out in the short and long-term. (Here we are not talking specifically about Kayihura)
When a ‘powerful person’ like Kayihura, his family and assets are threatened by powers bigger than the government at home where a group of elders from their village may prevail on the powers that be to forgive their daughter, etc, it serves to alert other people of similar status, especially those connected to the political establishment.
Travel bans and seizure of assets in the developed world are a wakeup call for the reliance on ‘home-grown’ solutions to savings and investment. In the developing world, that means investing out of the financial system. The next stop is a rush to buy land and other forms of real estate.
News is then dominated by land grabs and evictions. The price of land and houses then goes sky high as there is too much money being thrown in that direction.
This is the reason why prices for land and houses in developing countries where corruption is rife is exorbitant compared to other countries where there is a tight control on movement of money in the economy.
Similarly, the prices of building materials sky rockets as there is a boom in construction-related activities. We end up with excess capacity in home and office space because ‘everyone’ with huge amounts of money is putting up apartments and arcades.
Two things then emerge: Availability and abundance of space puts pressure on rent, which goes down with time. But you still have a lot of empty buildings and shops.
The reason is because most of those with this type of money are not really creating employment like it would happen if they went into manufacturing and other forms of mass production. This is partly because these things need one to be active in the international financial system importing raw materials and spares plus exporting, yet they are constrained by sanctions. The trickle-down effect of the construction industry is not that instantaneous and swift.
So the people who rent shops in many of the abundant arcades to sell shoes and clothes will eventually fail to find enough customers to buy their wares to enable them pay rent.
The end result is closing shop. That is why in many of the arcades in places like Kampala, only the ground floor is fully occupied. This leads to those who are threatened by global forces in similar circumstances to develop a rapacious appetite for public funds since their ‘only’ safe and viable domestic investment opportunity is rendered almost unprofitable.
They have to accumulate so much and invest a lot to get a decent return.
The other thing to watch is borrowed from neighbouring Kenya. When the current President and Deputy President Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were indicted for their alleged role in the violence after the 2007 Kenyan elections by the ICC, a few interesting things happened.
First Uhuru and Ruto had to ‘capture’ power by all means. Having power and State control comes with some privileges and immunity which may help postpone the day of judgement.
So the election process then becomes a farce as only one result is expected and desired. That which keeps the incumbent in power. Those around him will fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo, which serves as their insurance and protection.
Second, in the Kenyan situation, post-2007, many of the people who were suspected to be potential witnesses, either changed their minds, ‘disappeared’ or died mysteriously.
Thus, with no one to credibly and effectively incriminate Uhuru and Ruto, plus the others, the case collapsed like a pack of cards.
The other lesson that is of importance to this sort of scenario is drawn from the Sicilian Mafia.
If or when one of them is caught between a rock and a hard place, especially if that person was viewed as an agent and a representative of the group holding so many secrets that link many other people to his alleged crimes; a risk assessment is urgently made.
The question asked here is that will the person now wiggling under pressure in the net, and can’t travel even for medical treatment, break Omerta the code of silence? Might the person get so desperate and in a bid to secure their freedom start talking if at all there is anything to ‘say?’
If there is a chance that he might spill the beans and put many other people in the cabal at risk, then a decision is made to kill the baby and save the pregnant mother who has other children to look after.
I heard Kayihura saying in an interview that there are people who want to kill him and make him a sacrificial lamb.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues.