As I have indicated severally elsewhere, corruption is many things in one. Here I want to focus on political corruption, the most pervading and most dangerous type of corruption preventing Uganda from making any meaningful progress in development, transformation and progress in the 21st century.
I will deal with it concurrently with a related vice called political pollution, which is a Siamese twin and vehicle of political corruption. The two coexist, act and influence together -negatively of course.
I will adopt the definition of political corruption given by Wikipedia, slightly modified, because it is broad enough to capture all its various ramifications.
“Political corruption is the use of political power by elected government or public servants such as the President, or their networks, for illegitimate private gain. The forms of political corruption are many and diverse but include bribery, buying political support, cooption, lobbying, extortion, cronyism, sectarianism, ethnicism, nepotism, caucusing, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, embezzlement, pensions for politicians and commissions in public projects.
This type of corruption facilitates criminal enterprises, such as money laundering, human organ and tissue trafficking, drug trafficking, and misuse of government power for other purposes such as repression of political opponents, police brutality, and distorting the national budget to deny social areas, namely education, health, agriculture and energy, while overcapitalizing the military and politics (State House, President’s Office and the legislature)
Political pollution, on the other hand, I will define as “the political penetration of and proliferation in every segment of society, institution and/or sphere of human life, activity and endeavor in order to ensure that whatever comes out is “politically favorable”.
Because both political corruption and political pollution tend to favor power and those attached to power in whatever way, it is extremely difficult to be free from their multipronged ramifications and influences at all levels of society. This has been exemplified very well in the case of Uganda where there is exacerbated Presidentialism.
In Presidentialism everything begins with the President and ends with the President. The President’s thinking, ideas, interventions, choices and actions, supersede anything and everything and, therefore, corrupt and pollute everything politically.
Nowhere was this so apparent as when the Covid-19 pandemic struck the world in general and Uganda in particular two years ago. The centrality of Presidentialism in everything small and big in the management, or mismanagement, of Covid-19 was not difficult to detect. Presidentialism was over glorified.
Therefore, in this article I want to pave the way for interrogating whether political corruption and political pollution of the management of Covid-19 Pandemic made it ineffective and inefficient, thereby denying most of the citizens the expected benefits of the local and external funding that government mobilized in form of donations by other governments and of charity institutions, and loans from global financial institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Banks and some countries abroad.
To-date, two years since the pandemic struck, most Ugandans have not been vaccinated against Covid-19. However, many human rights violations were committed by government, using its publicly funded instruments of coercion by the army, the police, and the many paramilitary groups created to control the people in favor of government.
Extrajudicial killings tortures, kidnaps and incarcerations were exacerbated, ostensibly to ensure that people stuck to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health to manage the disease.
These violations were most pronounced prior to, during and after the 2021 Presidential, Parliamentary and General Elections. Many victims of abuse were opponents of the regime in power. Many cannot be accounted for, many are in prisons, and many are nursing their wounds in their homes or in various health centres in the country.
So, it is not far-fetched to assert that the management of Covid-19 was punctuated by political corruption and political pollution than by success stories of Government against the disease.
Indeed, it became too militarized as power sought to use Covid 19 as a golden opportunity to control the movements and actions of the people, and, thereby, enhance its political influence.
If there was any success story against the disease it was by the intervention of God and Nature – two actors against the disease that were sidelined, ignored and excluded from the ultimate conquest of the disease.
Although the World Bank stated that Government accounted well for all funds given to it by the Bank to manage Covid-19, which is easy because accounting is done in offices behind curtains, political corruption and political pollution did not allow government’s funded efforts (locally and internationally) to be felt in most of Uganda beyond the excesses of the instruments of coercion felt everywhere, even in the farthermost rural area in the country during the pandemic.
The persistent question is “Where did all the funds go, if they were not siphoned off through political corruption and political pollution?
The Daily Monitor of 24th October 2021 reported the President of Uganda, Tibuhaburwa Museveni, assuring the nation the previous day that the money collected locally (some 69.2 billion Shillings ) was not stolen by Government officials.
To account for the money mobilized internally the President flagged off 282 Double Cabin Pickups, bought on his advice at a cost of 23 billion shillings. 70 vehicles and the Medical Equipment, personal protective Equipment and a marine boat donated were also publicly declared.
Unfortunately, most of the vehicles have ended up individualized by mainly the numerous Resident District Commissioners who work directly underneath the Office of President, and perhaps State House, which appear to be fused in practical terms.
The Ministry has yet to convincingly explain how it used the 82.5 billion Shillings Parliament bequeathed to it under a Supplementary budget to fight Covid-19. Also the Ministry of Defense has yet to explain convincingly why it received Covid-19 Funds almost as big as the Ministry of Health received.
The Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces is the President of Uganda. If he influenced the buying of so many vehicles rather than ambulances, it can be difficult to convince an inquisitive mind that he did not influence so much Covid-19 money going to the military.
This question keeps ringing: “How has the money that came in as grants, donations and loans from outside Uganda been used to fight Covid-19?
There is extremely little to boast of on the ground. Most hospitals, dispensaries and health centers have not changed from their previous condition before Covid-19 struck. Virtually all small scale businesses, which sustain our still big informal sector of the national economy, never got any money to relieve them of Covid-19 effects. Extremely many wound up, contributing immensely to the number of people now living under the poverty line (41% of the population is under poverty).
Last year in June Japan government gave us a grant of US$1,640, 443m to boost our country’s Covid-19 response. Earlier in May 2020, it gave us US$15m, and another US$ 13.3m to support refugees during Covid-19. In July 2020 it had given us US$2m to support our country’s response to Covid-19.
Belgium gave us 153, 900 vaccines and US$ 469m to fight Covid-19. Canada gave us US$2.5m and 2m Covid-19 vaccine doses. In May 2020 IMF disbursed US$ 491.5m to fight Covid-19, and this was followed by US$1 billion under the Extended Credit Facility, of which US$258m was immediately released to fight Covid-19.
The European Union in June 2020 gave us US178m Euros (US$198m) towards conquering Covid-19.
In June 2020 the World Bank gave us a loan of US$300m to boost government capacity to manage Covid-19, and especially to boost service delivery through the local governments., even when we knew rural infestation with Covid-19 was extremely low. In June 2021 the World Bank gave us US$200m to accelerate Digital transformation for post-Covid-19 Recovery.
In December 2021, the World Bank gave us US$200m to support economic transformation in Covid-19 times, followed by another loan of US$180.3m as additional funding for the Uganda Covid-19 Response and Emergency Preparedness Project.
During all that time Uganda was the most locked country on the globe because of Covid-19. Economic activity was at its lowest ebb, and in fact the economy was opened only recently this year.
The most vibrant activity in the country seems to have been borrowing for Covid-19, accompanied by building of hotels, supermarkets, arcades, skyscrapers and mansions.
One needs to establish the connection between borrowing and the booming construction industry amidst collapsing business activity, and point out the exact role of political corruption and political pollution in the status quo.
Why did government allow so many businesses to bow out of business when there was money to bail them out like other governments did to their business communities?
For God and My Country.
The Writer is a Ugandan Scientist and Environmentalist.
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