Sunday, April 16, 2023

The political and legal reading now appears evidently on the wall, and some of the ministers prominently cited in the diversion, receipt and putting to personal use the roofing sheets meant for the vulnerable people in Karamoja need to jump and not wait to be pushed. Carry your own crosses, and we thank The New Vision newspaper for breaking the story, being bold, firm and vigorously exposing the suspects.

After President Yoweri Museveni’s letter dated 3 April, 2023, copied to Vice President Jessica Alupo, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, all Ministers and Ministers of State, Permanent Secretaries and Members of Parliament, it isn’t hard  to notice that the mabati recipients are on stitches. 

With multiple inter-agency investigators knocking on doors, checking telephone call logs, CCTV trails, and vehicle movements, trepidation is not avoidable, especially when political rivals lurk around. The indictment of a large group of ministers is unprecedented and should be handled with utmost integrity and scrutiny. The case offers a perilous moment and ill omen because Alupo, Speaker Anita Among, Nabbanja, and her two deputies Rebecca Kadaga and Rukia Nakadama alongside 22 ministers and 30 MPs named as beneficiaries to the bonanza although they plead innocence. Some could actually be charged for lying because contrary to what they claimed, evidence emerging points to calculated clientelism.

It’s the third time under NRM administration that a group of ministers are indicted together with criminal offences, the first being Evaristo Nyanzi, Andrew Lutakome Kayira and Lwanga Galimiryango who were charged with treason in 1986. Then in 1991 eighteen high profile politicians from northern Uganda comprising Ministers Daniel Omara Atubo, Zachary Olum, Moses Ali and Dr Ambrose Okullu had treason charges slapped on them.

Much later VP Prof. Gilbert Bukenya was arrested and charged with fraud over Chogm. In 2005 three health ministers were all arrested, charged and locked up in Luzira prison with corruption related offences in the Global Fund for HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Recently, junior labour minister Herbert Kabafunzaki passed off more as a footnote for allegedly soliciting a bribe at Serena Hotel.

Judging from its contents, repudiation to Nabanja’s official brief, President Museveni insisted that the diversion, regardless the excuse, is “political subversion”, and must be punished by legal and political actions. Ministers Mary Goretti Kitutu and Agnes Nanduttu who directly supervised Karamoja and caught with sheets in their respective homes, and Finance State Minister (Planning) Amos Lugolobi who used them to roof his goat shade should jump on their own than wait the sack.

Kitutu, Nanduttu and Lugolobi should jump to demonstrate remorse and own up personal responsibility. Lugolobi flipped many uncoordinated and unintelligent responses when first exposed by denying knowledge of the sheets, and then falsely claimed that he had given them to a church, before plucking them off his goats shade as if they could sensibly be re-used. A section of top politicians are used to flipping benefits, and a failure or even delay to bring them before courts of law could send a wrong message that the so-called powerful can get away with behaviours that ordinary Ugandans cannot.

Every politician named in the scandal except Kitutu has dubiously insisted that they are innocent of all the allegations which make people wonder why they think the public believes that a vice president or minister can have hundreds of roofing sheets delivered to their well-guarded homes by people presumably unknown to them if they didn’t solicit for them. It’s an indication of the low opinion to which they hold their audiences and think the public is so gullible to believe their crap. 

While these ministers like all Ugandans are entitled to the presumption of innocence and a fair trial before a competent court of law until proven otherwise, they shouldn’t be allowed to invoke sympathy on tribal and religious grounds because after all Museveni appointed them well-knowing their social groupings.

These indictments presumably to be followed by of even higher profile suspects, should be an eye opener to top political leaders that flagrant impunity won’t be tolerated. And there are those others perhaps in higher political rankings who believe they cannot be touched because of political expedience but that status should be exploited to keep their dubious involvement in the court of public opinion so they are made to wear the badge of shame.

Having worked closely with Uncle Matia Kasaija over the last twenty three years, it will pain me to probably see him limping into court sessions for arraignment and trial. Whether this case will be watertight or fail the smell test is a ball game to watch. For now most Ugandans seem to want to see some blood flowing on the ground. And while no one is above the law in Uganda, everyone deserves a fair legal process. The general public is disgusted and won’t show genuine sympathy especially to the ministers involved in this saga because there is widespread perception that top government politicians are inflicting damage on society yet drink generously from the public trough.