President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda cracks the whip against Political Corruption
President Yoweri Museveni’s regime is cracking the whip against political corruption in an ‘iron sheet’ scandal that has roped in 22 cabinet ministers and 31 Members of Parliament including Chief Administrative Officers. Already 2 of the 22 cabinet ministers involved in the scandal have been arrested and charged before the Anti-Corruption court and 8 other ministers are lined up for prosecution as investigations continue.
This corruption scandal follows an expose from the State House Anti-Corruption Unit (SHACU) in which relief items mainly involving iron sheets meant for vulnerable households in Karamoja were allegedly diverted. Earlier in December 2021, parliament passed a supplementary budget worth $10,367,163 to support various programs in Karamoja, including the purchase of 100,000 iron sheet pieces, and other relief items like food and goats.
Karamoja subregion, though rich in minerals suffers from insecurity occasioned by cattle rustling, famine, and food shortage due to prolonged droughts and is home to high levels of poverty in Uganda.
Among those implicated to the fury of the president are Vice President Jessica Alupo, Speaker of Parliament Anita Annet Among, and Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja. President Museveni has since instructed all those involved to return the iron sheets or pay an equivalent as police handle investigations with a preferred charge of theft for those found culpable.
In a letter written to the Prime Minister, the president has dismissed this as a mere political mistake and called it political corruption since it involves bribing voters to get political favours. This was in reference to the implicated politicians defending themselves by claiming that they used the iron sheets in their constituencies and not for personal benefits. This is the first time the president is cracking the whip on political corruption to the extent of promising to take political action on top of pursuing criminal proceedings.
Political corruption across Africa continues to undermine democracy and development. Politicians have tended to divert public resources to procure political support. Political corruption has undermined electoral politics turning elections into rituals where the ‘haves’ steal from the ‘have nots’ and donate part of the loot to stay in positions of power and continue siphoning public resources for private gain. No wonder in Africa, it’s the politicians that are the richest and continue to rule over the poor.
The Secret Known is that political corruption has contributed to monetised and commercialised electoral politics across Africa. Countries like Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa among others have been found to have very costly election campaigns because political candidates are spending massively on constituency needs to endear voters. The unfortunate bit is that these politicians steal public resources for political capital at the expense of service delivery.
Political corruption has also fuelled and entrenched regime survival as regime enterprises have benefited from the encroaching of public resources to fund political programmes, weaken opposition, and manage electoral outcomes. Africa is rich with examples of regimes that have benefited from political corruption to maintain their stay in power. These include among others, Uganda, Cameroon, and Zimbabwe.
It remains to be seen if all the 22 implicated ministers in the ‘iron sheet’ corruption scandal will be charged in courts of law. Since Uganda doesn’t have precedents of implicated public officials in corruption scandals voluntarily resigning, the promised political action by the president has been interpreted to be the impending cabinet reshuffle that will see the involved ministers dropped.
If the president succeeds in having his cabinet ministers prosecuted and dropped from cabinet, he will have made a bold and unprecedented statement in the fight against political corruption in Uganda.