Are There Mafias in Uganda?

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When I was transiting through my teenage years in the 1960s towards sitting for Cambridge School Certificate Examinations at Busoga College, Mwiri in Uganda, which were popularly referred to as Cantab, three related words intrigued my mind: Criminal, Pirate, and Mafia. They all trace their roots in the word crime.

Before I delve into the subject matter of this article, let me clarify that when I finally did my O-Level exams at Busoga College, Mwiri in 1969, they were not strictly Cantab. They were jointly set by Cambridge University and the newly formed East African Examinations Board. Crime refers to activities that involve breaking the law. it may be violent or subtle. One who commits a crime is referred to as a criminal. In Uganda, there has recently been a crime wave involving a sudden increase in the number of crimes of all types – physical, economic, political, social, ecological, and environmental.

Thus we have had an upsurge in the numbers of social, economic, political, ecological, and environmental criminals committing social crime, economic crime, political crime, ecological crime, and environmental crime This means that the number of criminals in the country has shot up astronomically and interconnectivity. Concurrently, extrajudicial killings have also shot up astronomically.

The binding word of all the crimes is corruption. Thus we have social corruption, economic corruption, political corruption, ecological corruption, and environmental corruption. Some of the corruption is committed by individuals, some is by groups of individuals and some is by institutions, even by the government itself. I learned that pirates are criminals who commit crimes at sea using ships to attack other ships in order to rob them. Apparently today in Uganda there are pirates on Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga, using boats to attack other boats in order to rob them of fish and other goods.

Since President Tibuhaburwa Museveni sanctioned soldiers to use guns ostensibly to enforce lawful fishing, there has been an increase in the number of Ugandans claiming that their fish and goods have been robbed by people carrying guns and wearing a uniform similar to that worn by soldiers of the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF). The word Mafia is today used to embrace all types and manners of crime summed up as corruption. However, while I was growing up in the 1960s I understood that the Mafia was a secret organization of criminals; a group of people within an organization, government, or political party who use their power or positions to accrue advantages of one type or another to themselves.

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary states that politics everywhere is still dominated by the Middle-Class Mafia. In the 1960s, Mafia used to be associated with countries such as Italy, Sicily, and the USA, where they dominated politics and the business world. When President Tibuhaburwa Museveni captured the instruments of power in 1986, and following the failure of his preferred Barter Trade to evade the use of the American Dollar, he soon committed himself to building a new Middle Class.

Thirty-eight years in his Middle Class is now the one associated with all types and manners of crime within and across borderlands. If you talk of business crime, intellectual crime, academic crime, cybercrime, political crime, economic crime, ecological crime, and environmental crime, virtually all those involved belong to President Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s new Middle Class. They are found in the army, police, Cabinet, legislature, judiciary, business, education, health, politics, you name it.

They are powerful and wealthy and work under concealment influencing virtually everything, including Presidential appointments and government deals, all for them to gain personally at the expense of the public. In another article “From State to Deep State” I have indicated that they can be more powerful and more influential than elected officials.

The first time I heard that there were Mafias in Uganda was from former Vice-President, Prof. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya, who used to refer to himself as Mahogany ( a tough, hard hardwood of Africa). He claimed that his downfall from power was caused by the Mafias in government. In an article by Muhammad Ibrahim in Ug Mirror of 27 August 2021, Prof Bukenya repeated his assertion that the Mafia Group in Uganda is a big network in the Government, which participates and ensures it removes any tree, however deep its roots are, and it frustrates service delivery for the personal gains of its members.

Even the new Prime Minister, Robinah Nabbanja alluded to the existence of a powerful corrupt Mafia in Government that can issue threats to those in and outside Government that threaten their interests. Even many Government officials have talked of the existence of a Mafia network frustrating the system.
There is a claim that the Mafia network has its roots in State House Entebbe and Kapeka where the President’s young brother operates and that frequently the network base in Kapeka can sometimes overrule the decisions and choices of the President of Uganda.

Clearly, therefore, if the innovator of Zero Tolerance to Corruption, President Tibuhaburwa Museveni, is to effectively and meaningfully deal with corruption in all its different forms and shades, he must tackle its roots in State House and in Kapeka. The Inspector General of Government (IGG) may be completely ineffective towards corruption generated in the State House or Kapeka.

As the former Vice President of Uganda, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya stressed and the new Prime Minister Nabbanja Robinah confirmed, Mafiasm (corruption) of the powerful and wealthy is real. It requires total political commitment to uproot it. This must involve rethinking the Middle Class that President Tibuhaburwa Museveni has been building for over three decades. It is a highly greedy and selfish Middle Class. Sometimes, if not always, it is armed and has access to the national budget, which it can use to finance its network operations.

Ecological and environmental crimes involving land grabbing, dispossession, and displacement of indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands, as also forest reserves and game reserves, is largely by the Middle-Class Mafias. There can be no meaningful and effective development, transformation, and progress in Uganda if a small group of people wants everything to itself at the expense of the absolute majority of people mired and entrenched in a deep sea of poverty by an increasingly greedy and selfish group of people. Power and wealth disorientation in the hands of a few is always a gateway for ultimate decay and collapse.

For God and My Country.

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