You wouldn’t happen to know an elderly lawyer going by the name Fredrick Zaabwe, would you? I didn’t think so! He appears the quiet kind.
But you have definitely heard of Captain Mike Mukula, right? Yeah! Anyone looking for the definition of suave, elegant, debonair, well-groomed (which actually mean just about the same thing, by the way) just has to check out the good flight captain! Doesn’t look a day over forty!
Some years ago, Capt. Mukula was convicted by the Anti-Corruption Court and jailed. What actually made the news though, was the aftermath. First, a delegation of elders from Teso went to State House and complained to the President about the unfair treatment of their boy. The President listened patiently; then he directed that a hundred million shillings - or thereabouts - be given to Capt. Mukula’s lawyers as legal fees to handle the appeal.
It is the quickest appeal process this country has ever seen! After just a few days in jail, the flight captain walked out a free man, flashing his trademark smile; for the appellate court had summarily quashed his conviction and sentence. Thank God for appellate courts!!!!
And that’s how Zaabwe comes in. His wasn’t even a criminal case as such; but it was a civil matter in which both the High Court and Court of Appeal supported manifestly criminal conduct. Google it, if you feel like crying! It was the Supreme Court that rescued Zaabwe - which is why it is unwise to draw conclusions about the outcome of a trial in the court of first instance, for judicial officers sometimes make some really bad mistakes.
The problem with Capt. Mukula’s case is that it is hard to know what truly transpired; for the actions of the President – tampering with the appeal process, to the point you wonder whether lawyers were even necessary at that appeal - raised big questions about the independence of both the Judiciary and the various prosecutorial authorities. In fact, one can be perfectly excused for suggesting that corruption is not really an issue with the Museveni Administration; if one has obtained “leave” – which in legal speak means permission - of the powers that be.
That “leave”, it appears, can also be obtained restrospectively; so that the powers that be, let you be, or if you are in trouble, they bail you out – at the taxpayers’ expense. You only get into real trouble when you proceed “without leave”; which therefore suggests the attempts by the Father of the nation to fight corruption are sheer comedy.
And that is where Daddy’s Little Girl, the really, really lovely Lt. Col. Edith Nakalema, head of the much-fancied State House Anti-Corruption Unit comes in. She is an excellent public relations enterprise in her own right!
Sometimes the cameras catch her smiling; purring like an adorable, contented Japanese Bobtail cat, after lapping up a particularly warm and delicious bowl of cream. She’s either at church, or talking about her God, or something like that.
Other times, she is angry, like the other day, vowing to crack down on this and that! In those moods she’ll be pouting and prancing about like the cute, much-beloved white pony at the carnival, whose pretty pink ribbons have been soiled – an unforgivable sin - by a careless steward.
Yet those ‘pony’ moments are the precursor to the emergence of her extreme feline instinct; pouncing like an angry lioness upon her unwary prey and carting their sorry bottoms off to jail.
For the uninformed, she is evidence that the Museveni Administration is determined to wipe out corruption. For the more enlightened, who are able to connect the one million dots that are shouting, eager and dying to be connected, Daddy’s Little Girl and her outfit are nothing more than a PR gimmick and an endeavor at increasing the President’s leverage on the country, by circumventing legitimate state institutions.
Thing is, the people Daddy’s Little Girl ought to arrest are walking free. But then again, her hands are tied; for she can only arrest those who are corrupt “without leave”.
Mr Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda email@example.com