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OPINION: Uganda And the Oil Curse That’s Already Started!

Fellow Ugandans,

For the people to fully grasp what corrupt conduct is, we cannot be comparing them to nothing or to themselves. We have to compare them with those who have proved their integrity under the same circumstances.

Let us first clarify the three bribes involved in the current oil corruption scandal where a Chinese businessman has just been convicted by the US Justice department for bribing Afrian leaders.

1 – The first bribe is a $500,000 dollars bank transfer to  one Sam Kuteesa for a non-existent charity.

2 – The second bribe is another $500,000 dollars brought in cash by plane (and nobody has yet mentioned that in Uganda). I am waiting for Museveni’s comment on that.

3 – The third and last bribe in this saga was by the same Chinese company to President Idriss Deby of Tchad for his country’s oil contracts.

So there are two bribes involving Uganda, and confusion might have prevented some media people from asking clear, well-targeted questions. If the first bribe was for Mr. Kuteesa’s charity, what was the second bribe for?

Now lets restart the discussion here by comparing the two African leaders involved, President Idris Deby of Tchad and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (pictured). In this comparison we leave out Mr. Sam Kuteesa who is just some middleman “eating” with his boss in the Uganda related bribes.

The two leaders Museveni and Deby have both been at the helm of their countries for three decades. However the first difference is that in this corruption case, Idris Deby was offered $2 million dollars while his Ugandan counterpart Museveni was given only $500,000 dollars as his bribe money.

This says a lot about how insignificant the Chinese see Mr. Museveni and “his oil” compared to Idriss Deby and the resources in Chad.

But the biggest difference between the two leaders, and which is not being said loudly enough by any of our anti-corruption crusaders so far, is that the Chadian president Idris Deby actually DECLINED the $2 million dollars. He said ‘No’ to the Chinese bribe.

So between the two, who should have taken the Transparency International Award for fighting corruption and refusing bribes? They instead awarded the one who is accused of corruption, and did so in broad daylight as everyone watched in disbelief.

While nobody is perfect and the people of Chad might decide on the other problems they have with their leader, it takes another level of man or woman to constantly reject all the colossal bribes coming their way, and a leader who ensures that government procurement and bidding processes are fair and clean. These genuine anti-corruption leaders also can be found to be assuring that all culprits face justice, and the country’s sovereignty is constantly protected for the benefit of their own people.

I remember in 1972 when the British and the Indians offered a truckload of cash (dollars, pounds and Indian rupees) to bribe Idi Amin. The Ugandan leader sent all the cash to the government coffers, exposed the bribe during a public speech and deported the British and their Indian cronies in 90days.

Those who cannot say no to corruption have no place calling themselves our leaders. Currently it is such weak greedy and dubious characters who are filling all our government offices everywhere around this country fleecing the people. And while there has been a claim that poverty is behind this practice, then how come in other similarly poor African countries like Botswana, Rwanda and Namibia we see zero tolerance for corruption, and it is working magnificently for their peoples and their countries?

So don’t joke with the true caliber of men and women who are incorruptible. Especially here in Africa. They are the rarest race of humans.In a league of their own. They stand for justice in a way that others only fake the people of this country about. The incorruptible are also the ones who genuinely help the ordinary downtrodden citizens. They ensure no wastage of resources. They kick out anyone doing anything against the population. And they personally check to see that all public services are functional as designed and providing their designated services promptly to the people.

Now lets compare this firm incorruptible leadership to what our Museveni here has been found engaging in and where US court evidence depicts as scrambling for the $500,000 dollar cash bribe brought in by private jet and which was declared as an election contribution yet the rigged election of secret tally centers and political violence had already been completed three months earlier.

The two African leaders in this specific scandal are therefore actually incomparable in both creed and anti-corruption substance.

I can say in clear conscience that the whole difference between them is robust firm leadership against corruption, versus wide spread opportunistic political monkeyism.

I have also said previously that the proverbial oil curse has already started in Uganda. And it takes another level of leader to be able to control what comes with the huge expectations and prospects of oil. The curse simply starts with heartless greed. A disposition that can, and is already leading to any and all types of governance ills and social inequalities which in the end will negatively impact the poor downtrodden people of Uganda.This heartless greed quickly leads to a careless attitude in service to the people, abandonment of leadership spirit and related responsibilities to wards the nation, and therefore total disregard for the lives, property and well being of the citizenry as we have increasingly witnessed in the last few years:The Kasese massacre, the attacking of parliament, the violent changing of the constitution which saw people killed in Rukungiri and around the country, theself-appropriation of national resources (the infamous statement “myoil”), the blatant rigging of 2016 elections with secret tally centers and mass harassment of political opponents and their supporters so as to be in power by hook or crook for the oil revenue, the Arua debacle that saw Yassin Kawuma and countless others murdered with impunity in broad daylight for no apparent reason while others were arrested, tortured and thrown to the darkest of stinking gallows on false treason charges and false assassination attempts,guns planted in innocent peoples hotel rooms and the presidential vehicle deliberately damaged and then political opponents are now facing a Kangaroo court for allegedly trying to murder the president. All this amidst a myriad of other high profile murders, serial killing of Entebbe women, abductions,assassinations of Sheikhs and wanton religious persecution of Muslims under what is now widely known as trumped-up charges and false accusations.

It all starts with endemic heartless greed. The oil curse.And unknown to most, the financial prospects of oil are playing a silent but major role in creating this environment.

When gold was discovered in Karamoja, the same callous behaviour went wild in the region, and to this day nobody except the late Father Declan O’toole knows the full extent of the injustices and violations of human rights that secretly occurred in that remote semi-desert district under the excuse of clamping down on cattle rustling.

It is because of his knowledge of the truth that the Irish father was summarily murdered by the UPDF one evening at his home, and today nobody has any ceremony in his memory for the indigenous people of Karamoja whom he had served, helped and protected for decades.

Father Declan O’toole was the only person who went face to face against the military, marching into the barracks with nothing more than his faith in God and firm belief in standing against evil, and demanded that the military leave the local people alone. He was killed a few weeks later at his home at night by two UPDF soldiers reportedly sent to eliminate him for his relent less stand defending the local people, their ancestral lands and their livelihoods..

I therefore call on all Ugandans to stop the behaviour that praises, defends, legitimizes, and perpetuates corrupt bribery practices. It costs peoples lives.

When funds for the HIV program are stolen and the culprits walk Scott-free, it is you the ordinary Ugandans who die quietly in your home sand/or mourn your dead relatives who couldn’t get the anti-retroviral drugs. Do you think about who is directly responsible for their deaths?

Why continue praising the very thieves whose activities are causing our own people to die in harrowing pain and suffering because of selfish corrupt conduct?

Do you think they care how many of you die when they are stealing the money?

Let me state this clearly again: Corruption is against your own best interests. Corruption is a public servant killing his own people.

We as a country have to reject this crime against if we are to meaningfully develop even faster, more robustly, more durably, as more healthy and well educated people in the long term, starting from present day citizens to future generations of Ugandans.

For decades the poor have been constantly coerced by corruptpublic servants into paying bribes lest they do not receive the services thatare originally either at a lesser official nominal fee, or are even supposed tobe free of charge. This has been going on with total impunity and insincere attempts at fighting corruption. This amounts to hundreds of billions of shillings taken off regular citizens every day. Money that not only would have helped citizens improve their standards of living, more importantly, the money would also have helped grow the economy via the increased purchasing power that citizens would have had and local businesses would have been the ones growing with those very billions of the total daily corruption funds. What is happening is that the people are instead having to pay that money to all our corrupt officials around the country.

What sane economic investment environment is that? Isn’t corruption now the national culture?

When we all fight corruption together, it is you the ordinary citizen that first benefit, and you do so immediately by making savings from what could have gone to the corrupt.

And then the coffers of the state are able to provide you even more services and more infrastructure development that also brings jobs and spurs the economy.

In every successful country, every coin counts. And everything is about accountability., including in leadership, business and work.

People who cannot control themselves cannot control their money. Even a child has to count their every coin every end if the day. They should then plan how their money will be spent the next day and what they are going to save come what may. It is called budgeting, and it is not just some rhetorical word.

On a macro-economic scale, corruption is even more disturbing for Africa. Every year, an estimated two-thirds of foreign businesses that attempt to invest here end up leaving because of the endemic bribe requests at all levels and being constantly held to ransom by ourselves and our corrupt African officials and local leaders. Why are we blocking what could have been an even faster, supersonic economic development? The same development speed that we are currently witnessing in other regions of the world in recent decades. Including a particular tiny country in our own neighbourhood here in East Africa which just two decades ago was wallowing in the bloodbath of a 1994 mass genocide plus a total collapse of the state and the economy, yet today they have not only surpassed most of their neighbours, they are currently ranking higher than certain European countries like Spain and Italy when it comes to fighting corruption. (Global anti-corruption index 2017)

Who thinks it is an easy journey? It requires determination, accountability and commitment to progress by the entire society.

And if all the necessary anti-corruption laws are in place, all that is needed is to implement them, right?

But if you are all permanently praising and bowing to known corrupt thieves like hypnotized sheep who see fraud as normal behaviour then why is it in our laws? Who suffers in the end? And what then is your true value?

The truth as we a;ll know is that corruption and bribery has no regard for national economic growth or the added value that good foreign investment brings to the economy, the continent and the African people.

When we first request for bribes before approving or facilitating investors, we undermine the healthy and fair competition that would have allowed us to select, obtain and benefit from the best and most successful companies to help our economies thrive, provide good jobs, good products and services, and also increase government revenues.

The current situation automatically means that countless  honest and well-meaning foreign businessmen and first class foreign companies(including African companies struggling to expand in regional economic integration on the continent) are all being prevented by we ourselves from doing mutually profitable, developmental and rightful business projects in and with Africa simply because some idiots first wanted a bribe.

Worse still, this situation means that we are left grappling with only the corrupt foreign fraudsters, foreign mafia’s, and foreign plunderers. The only ones happy to quickly pay the silently demanded kickbacks and bribes as is normal in their illicit business worlds.

People who are most likely to pay poorly their employees,produce fake or substandard products in order to unscrupulously make a quick buck so to speak, or even dodge taxes.

We are creating more problems for ourselves in the long run.

Yet the one thing required in order to crush the disease of corruption is just ethical leadership from the top, and down to all institutions.

Recently the local news reported about a Local Council meeting where one councillor asked to know exactly how to respond if and when someone offers them a bribe.

Well they should just do what Idriss Deby does. He said “No Thank You!”.

Most of all, they should put in place processes where bribes would be in vain and/or impossible, and repercussions should befall those who ask or pay bribes.

But it starts with each person deciding that “from now on wards I will not be part of this evil culture.”

The corrupt behaviour that some people call “smart” and “sharp” here in Uganda today, is just cheap, satanic, unscrupulous, petty, myopic stupidity somewhere else.

Where are all the once vibrant Uganda government companies and parastatals that numbered more than 100 which were mismanaged, looted, then sold off to the very people who were selling them, at often zero shillings,they then resold them again to their foreign business mafia cronies at huge profits to themselves.

Isn’t it corruption and limitless greed that caused these companies disappearance?

Now we hear that they are bringing back something that they will present as the national airline again. I am told that this one is a private company of their own.

The very people who destroyed the one that they found brand new and performing well with about 27 large medium and small planes when they first came from Tanzania in 1979.

I would like to know what what happened to all the elaborate reasons that they gave when they were looting and selling off the company? Who is the imbecile now?

At this juncture, I call on the relevant institutions of Uganda, from the government ministries and the media, to the judiciary, the military, and the parliament, to all professionalize themselves and their respective institutions, and take the fight against corruption one major step up.

You have all made corruption and impunity a way of life in governance here in Uganda.

For decades crooks and snakes have been inflating themselves as intellectuals, revolutionaries and pan-Africanists but now look at the old taxi park pickpocket level that they really are 30 years later!?!

What kind of leadership is that when one has become an exhibit in court? What kind of vision does one have if some corrupt foreign mafiosi can throw some little money somewhere and you immediately forget your national responsibilities as you first dash for their money?

While there was once a title called “The New Breed of African Leaders” , now isn’t it clearly just heartless greedy monkeyism at work? How else do we think the oil curse starts?

By Hussein Lumumba Amin

Kampala, Uganda

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