By the time of writing this, many Ugandans were casting their votes to elect their next president and Members of Parliament after a sixty-day plus gruelling and high stake campaigns.
Politics aside, I made time to study manifestos for the three leading contenders in the presidential race: Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement, Robert Kyagulanyi of the National Unity Platform and Patrick Amuriat of the Forum for Democratic Change.
I was surprised and quite dismayed by the limited amount of focus and attention given to corruption in these candidates’ manifestos. They all appeared to lack a concrete and coherent response plan to fight corruption.
Corruption is currently the ‘elephant in the room’ for our country and it should be dealt with sooner rather than later. For many years, corruption has been wreaking havoc in the country and you will note that today, Uganda is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
We can talk about road construction, building state-of-the-art health facilities, free education, and so on. But whereas these are great aspirations that the country desperately needs, without a firm grip on corruption, none of them may be accurately attained.
This is what I mean: The roads will be poorly constructed - leading to more road carnage; the glittering health facilities will lack medical supplies or qualified personnel; and the beneficiaries of free education will find it hard to get jobs because of their inadequate skills.
What is abundantly clear is the troubling infiltration of corruption in almost all sections of the Uganda population ranging from public servants down to members of the public. This, in part, will make the job ever harder and I can only imagine the immensity of the challenges awaiting our incoming president.
On a construction projects, for instance, you will find that project resources are siphoned right from the top down to the lowest-ranked project employee. Everyone literally takes off with whatever they can lay their hands on.
In the same vein, if you walked into a public office today and duly received the required service without paying for any inducement, you will surely come out feeling like you have won a lottery. In some offices, there are even unofficial standard rates set to be paid before accessing would-be free public services.
At the moment, any further increases in corruption will worsen the country’s already frail economy that has been bruised by Covid-19. In reviving the economy, proper accountability will be crucial in tackling the high unemployment levels, health sector challenges and falling productivity.
When former American President Barack Obama first entered the White House in 2009, one of his staffers told him:
“The presidency is like a new car. It starts depreciating the minute you drive it off the lot.”
I agree with this statement, but I also think that if the incoming president in Uganda builds early momentum and takes swift action against issues like corruption, his depreciation may be at a much-slowed pace.
At the end of the day, all of us Ugandans, have a role to play in rebuilding our country. For as long as we put Uganda first, rather than our personal selfish interests, I am optimistic that we can correct the past mistakes and make Uganda a better place.
Mr Mukalazi is the country director of Every Child Ministries Uganda.