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Reviewing President Museveni’s “What is Africa’s problem?”

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Pamella E. Ahairwe

In his book, “What is Africa’s problem?” President Museveni presents that the cancer of corruption, as one of the persistent challenges plaguing Uganda, inspired him to embark on an unconventional and risky path to power. As the book says, “...we also fought to end murder in Uganda, to end corruption in government, and to end backwardness in the economy.”

In recent weeks, we have been confronted with revelations of how public officials, who are supposed to protect the public interests, continue to embezzle most of the national cake. As President Museveni clearly stated in 1992, so is today. The officials are “busy looking for avenues through which they can divert funds and materials for their own private use.” As a result, Uganda suffers unchecked corruption (1) in government, (2) by public officials, (3) by political leaders, (4) in the courts of law, (5) in the police force, and others.

President Museveni’s book acknowledges that political leaders should implement reforms that fulfil number seven of the NRM’s Ten-Point Programme, which aims to eradicate corruption and abuse of public offices. However, as the book further prophesies, today’s Ugandans remain to be convinced of the solidity of this NRM cause. We are experiencing unprecedented violation of the ‘corruption-free leadership’ objective that the NRM portrays as essential to promoting the political, economic, and social development of our country.

There is a narrative that corruption leads to economic development because corrupt officials invest in the country. However, this is not necessarily true. First, corrupt officials steal public resources that would have been invested in the country anyway. Secondly, the grand theft of public funds hinders effective service delivery in key sectors such as education, health, transport, security, and energy. Corruption ruins the functioning of institutions, worsens poverty, undermines job creation, stalls development, weakens citizens’ trust in government and leaders, and attracts more corrupt leaders. As the book points out, “…Corruption is cancer that, if it is not checked, will hinder progress in all sectors of society…”

In Uganda, corruption is now so entrenched in society that being corrupt is seen as an essential skill to becoming a politician. Sadly, leaders who once had the fire to fight it have slowly watched all their flames die out. However, it is not too late for the NRM leadership to regroup, recoup and refocus on one of the crucial reasons for its establishment. Rwanda already shows us that the cancer of corruption is curable. The corruption zero-tolerance policy has enabled Rwanda to perform better and better, achieving an anti-corruption score of 53 percent and ranking the 48th least corrupt among the 180 countries. In recent decades, Uganda has relaxed its fight against corruption, a weakness that needs to be addressed urgently, strictly, and consistently. With the zero-corruption tolerance policy accompanied by the right enforcement, commitment, and leadership, Uganda can also cure the corruption mania that currently makes it one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Ms Pamella Eunice Ahairwe is a development economist, [email protected]