The death of city lawyer Bob Kasango has been in the headlines for a week now. What probably made it newsworthy is that his life and career came to a screeching and ignominious end, followed by developments that would make him cringe in shame were he able to witness them himself.
He died in prison where he had been serving a 16-year jail term for stealing billions of pensioners’ money.
As I was writing this article, he had not been laid to rest because his relatives were fighting and bickering over his body, with one side saying they wanted his remains buried in Fort Portal while another said it should be buried in Tororo. A video that went viral shows mourners snatching and fleeing with his casket on a waiting truck.
Bereavement is an emotional crisis for nearly everyone, and I know perfectly well that the lawyer’s family and friends are still grieving. They need condolences and consolation.
However, as professionals who help the public understand truth from fiction, facts from lies, useful information from disinformation, we need to talk about uncomfortable truths that Kasango’s allies, associates and friends would prefer to sweep under the carpet.
There are many articles on social media saying that Kasango, 46, was a brilliant lawyer, but when you google his name, the first thing that jumps out at you is not evidence of his brilliance as a lawyer, evidence of winning class action lawsuits, but evidence of criminality.
I did not know him personally, and I want to concentrate on his criminality because that is what put him at the centre of public attention and led to his imprisonment and, by extension, his death. Kasango would not die in prison if he was a decent, law-abiding lawyer whose life was not governed by greed.
To understand that Kasango was a dreadful crook, you need to read the ruling that Justice Margaret Tibulya, the judge who presided over his trial, delivered in December 2018. I am not a lawyer, and rulings can sometimes be based on scant evidence, but in the ruling she talks of “massive fraud and many forgeries in this case”.
For example, Kasango claimed and was paid money on the basis of false court documents that he forged.
He claimed and received the money as legal fees and costs, but he was not entitled to any legal fees and costs reflected in the forged documents.
He also claimed payments through a de-registered law firm, Hall and Partners, according to the ruling.
Kasango, named in the ruling as A4, or accused number 4, was convicted along with three other defendants — Jimmy Lwamafa (former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Public Service), Christopher Obey and Kiwanuka Kunsa. All four conspired to steal Shs15.4 billion belonging to pensioners.
The lesson Ugandans need to learn from Kasango’s fatal comedown is that it pays to earn an honest livelihood, even if you only scrape by.
True, we have prisons without basic medical care, but if you do not want to die in those prisons, do not go there as a convict.
Living in poverty is shameful, but it is not a crime. No one gets jailed for living in poverty. You have the right to live in luxury, swan around Kampala in swanky cars, but earn clean money. We jail, shun and despise smartphone thieves; we should not glorify thieves who steal pensioners’ billions of money. They are literally stealing lives of pensioners.
Mr Namiti is a journalist and former
Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk