By Oweyegha-Afunaduula and Charles Kawagga
We have been very close friends since 1966. We stayed in the same house, Presidents House, at Busoga College, Mwiri, Presidents House, and occupied the same double-decker bed in the House until we were admitted for A- level studies at the same College, and were separated by the fact that those days we had to occupy different and separate cubicles. It was one demonstration that one had gone up the educational ladder. We were separated further when the key author of this article was appointed in 1970 by the College authorities to serve as Head of House of another House, Hannington House, but that did not completely separate us, because we did Biology and Chemistry at A-level together at Busoga College, Mwiri. We were always together in Class and outside Class.
By sheer coincidence, we both loved drama, debating, and social and cultural activities, but also art, which bonded us even more. Apparently, the Chief author of this article became President of the College Dramatic Society, Debating Society, and Social and Cultural Society simultaneously and gained a lot from the continued and continuous association of the second author. When we finished our A-Level studies in 1971, we both got different jobs to keep us busy and going while waiting for the results of our joint Cambridge University/East African Advanced Certificate of Education. When the results were released in early 1972 by both Cambridge University and the East African Examination Council, we learnt we had done well and qualified to join University. However, we had to wait to find out which universities we would be sent to.
We later learnt that the Chief author was to go to the University of Dar-es-Salaam and the second author was to go to Makerere University for our Bachelor of Science degrees. This was the first time we knew studies, even if similar, were going to separate us by virtue of the decision of the East African Examination Council. Meanwhile, The chief author got a job at the then Uganda Steel Corporation, which was located in Jinja, as a Clerical Officer. The second author got a job as a secondary school teacher at Nile High School. Interestingly and most coincidentally, we rented the same residence in Jinja, during this time.
Tears flowed when the time came to go our separate ways, for the rest of our academic and subsequent professional lives thereafter. That was when the chief author of this article was leaving for the University of Dar-es-Salaam, together with four other Mwiri products – the late Paul Gwaira, Dr John Balirwa, and Fred Mufumba. The second author escorted the four Mwirians, who had used our residence in Jinja as their final meeting point, to the Taxi Park, from where they would get transport to Kampala to join several other Ugandan students admitted to the University of Dar-es-Salaam. Most interestingly, although both authors of this article have never met physically since June 1972, their minds have remained intrinsically linked, especially after July 2007, when the first author reached out to reconnect with the second author.
They are both retired academics who have never got tired of delving into complex issues. The chief author lives in Uganda while the second author lives in the United Kingdom, a constant reminder of the 51 years of our spatial separation. One issue, which has brought our minds together is the malaise of corruption in Uganda, which has gradually resulted in seismic levels of compromised standards, of the many revered institutions of the nation, as we knew them. One can only think of Primary Education, Health, Roads, etc., etc., as the list is simply too long to include here. Corruption was one of the vices President Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni and his men promised Ugandans in 1986 to rout out, but the citizenry has looked on in dismay and total disbelief, to see corruption going from bad to worse over the last 37 and is threatening to sink down further unless there is a drastic intervention to eliminate or reduce the putrefying levels of corruption.
We have decided and chosen to concentrate on the Office of the Prime Minister, given the centrality of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in the engineering, proliferation, and institutionalization of corruption. Although it has been written and said that the NRM regime cannot tick without corruption, the President was heard one time saying that corruption builds the economy, and recently discouraged his Inspector General of Government (IGG) from adopting and applying the Lifestyle Audit technique to combating corruption in Uganda, arguing that it would discourage the looters from investing their loot in the country, specific studies of an institution’s role in promoting corruption are rare. Together, we agreed on this article.
It is not the first time that any of us has written about corruption in Uganda. Oweyegha-Afunaduula has written two eye-catching articles recently, which circulated widely in Uganda and outside Uganda. One is “Politico-corporate corruption of environment and environmental decision-making in Africa: Uganda in perspective”, and the other is “The Monetary Corruption of Politics in Uganda: Opposition for Positions”. Prime Ministers usually chair Cabinet Meetings and Supervise the performance of Ministers, whom they appoint if they are Executive Prime Ministers, or who are appointed by Executive Presidents and placed under Prime Ministers who are not Executive Prime Ministers but are the Heads of Government while the Executive Presidents are the Heads of State, and have the sovereign power and authority in their hands, which they may or may not share with their Prime Ministers.
The Prime Ministers are ultimately the ones who must ensure that government delivers public services to the people and that the national budget is appropriately and effectively distributed among the Ministries to ensure that they perform within the budgetary allocation since they are the leaders of government. The first and last Executive Prime Minister of Uganda was Apollo Milton Obote, who assumed the post on 9th October 1962. It is often falsely stated in written and spoken form that Benedicto Kiwanuka was the first Prime Minister of Uganda. The truth is that he was the first and last Chief Minister of Uganda, who held the post for months without the instruments of power since these were hoarded by the colonial Governor until very late. But even before Kiwanuka really held them for any length of time, the colonial government of the British Protectorate of Uganda, which lasted until Independence Day on 9th October 1962, organized General elections.
Kiwanuka and his political party, the Democratic Party, lost power to Oboe and a political alliance of convenience of Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) and Kabaka Yekka (Kabaka Only) Party. Because of his executive powers, and in the interest of the political alliance, Obote was able to convince his Party, UPC, to agree that the Kabaka, Sir Edward Mutesa, should become the President of Uganda, after independence. As a Commonwealth Realm Uganda had Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, as its Head of State, whose representative was The Governor, Sir Walter Coutts. On 9th October 1963, Sir Walter Coutts handed the Head of State position to Sir Edward Mutesa, The Head of State was a ceremonial position because executive power and authority were in the hands of the Prime Minister, Apollo Milton Obote.
As Executive Prime Minister from 1962 to 1966 when he abolished the federalism-tolerating Uganda Constitution, to entrench centralism under an Executive President -himself – Apollo Milton Obote performed very well, ensuring that the post-colonialism government invested heavily in agriculture, education, health, Africanization, and the growth of cooperatives, and thus social development. When he got the instruments of power, he inherited a fine education system running very efficient schools, mostly established by Christians, and a few by Muslims, but in which the majority were white teachers, recruited from the UK, U.S.A, and Canada.
His Africanization policy saw an upsurge of Black teachers such as Stephen Akabway at Teso College, Dan Okunga at Busoga College, and Adoniya Tiberondwa at Lango College. He oversaw heavy investment in building new schools and new hospitals and equipping both old and new schools with quality staff and the necessary equipment to ensure quality social services. All Ministries performed very well in the development, transformation, and progress of the country. Corruption was minimal. At that time, the economy of Uganda was performing better than the economies of most of the so-called Asian Economic Tigers of today: South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, etc.
After 1966, when Obote concentrated all political power and authority of the executive prime minister and head of state on himself, the focus began to shift from social development to militarization and power retention. Thus, political corruption started to creep in. However, financial corruption remained fairly low, although a Kabaka Yekka Member of Parliament, Daudi Ochieng, claimed in Parliament that Apollo Milton Obote, together with his Chief of Staff, Idi Amin, had used the Uganda Army to steal Congolese Gold. It took a highly powered Judicial Commission, appointed by Parliament, to clear the two men of any wrongdoing. The Commission included the Chief Justices of Kenya, Tanzania, and the East African Court of Appeal, with Wako Wambuzi, who later became Chief Justice of Uganda three times, as Secretary. Those days a President was not above the law and could be easily censured by Parliament if found to have abused the office.
When General Idi Amin overthrew Apollo Milton Obote on 25th January 1971, using 18 reasons why, including corruption, he did not separate the former role of Prime Minister and President, but instead entrenched power and authority further in his own hands making use of decrees and the Uganda Constitution 1967, designed by a former Attorney General and future President of Uganda after the fall of the military supremo, Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa. Idi Amin fell to the combined rebel military power of Apollo Milton Obote’s Kikosi Maalum, Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s Front for National Salvation (FRONASA), and Tanzania Peoples Defense Forces (TPDF) in late 1979.
The post-Amin Era Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) governments of President Yusuf Kironde Lule and President Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa never appointed a Prime Minister because that was incompatible with a Military Commission (MC)of the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). Its military power and influence hovered over the civilian governments of the two men. The MC assumed some of the authoritarian powers of dictator Idi Amin and could interfere in and reject some if not all, the decisions of the President or the legislature called National Consultative Council (NCC). Although the motion in the NCC to remove President Lule from power after only 63 days in office, was moved by Paulo Wangoola, the MC pulled the strings behind the scenes.
The same was true of President Binaisa after 11 months in office. Paulo Muwanga, the Chairman of MC, became the Interim President but did not find it necessary to appoint his Vice Chair of MC, Yoweri Museveni, whom he regarded as a refugee in Uganda, as the interim Vice President, nor did he appoint a Prime Minister, preferring to wield all power and authority in his hands, with the support of the MC. Probably all he wanted was to prepare the country for General Elections later in 1980 and then leave power to whoever was elected President to form a government. So, the UNLF Government was a disguised military Government, with the immediate post-Idi Amin civilian Presidents being deceptively free of military manipulation.
Uganda did not get a Prime Minister again until President Apollo Milton Obote formed the post-UNLF Government in 1981. The post-UNLF regime non-Executive Prime Minister was Otema Allimadi. He served Obote as such from 1981-1985 as Paulo Muwanga served as Vice-President. The Obote UPC regime was overthrown by the Tito Okello Military Junta in July 1985, with accusations of tribalism and nepotism.
We never heard of Prime Minister Otema Allimadi being involved in corruption or corrupt deals. He concentrated on supervising Ministries and chairing Cabinet Meetings to ensure efficient service delivery and the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the country, following the eight years of Idi Amin rule and the 12 months of UNLF/UNLA rule.
The Tito Okello Junta appointed Paulo Muwanga as its non-executive Prime Minister. This action by the Junta convinced many to believe that Muwanga participated in the overthrow of his own Government and that he was a greedy and selfish man who spent the five years as Vice President undermining the authority of his boss. However, Muwanga did not stay in the post of Prime Minister long enough to engage in corruption. The Junta, probably moved by concerns within corridors of power that Paulo Muwanga was not politically reliable because of greed for power, moved quickly to replace him with Engineer Abraham Waligo, who served as Prime Minister for the Junta from 25 August 1985 to 25th January, when the National Resistance Movement/Army militarily overthrew the Tito Okello junta. We never heard of Engineer Waligo being involved in corruption during his short tenure as Prime Minister.
The post-Tito Okello Junta non-Executive Prime Minister of Uganda was Dr. Samson Kisekka who was appointed by the rebel leader now President of Uganda, Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni. He had served as a member of the external political wing of the NRM/A rebellion. He was one of the many top Baganda politicians in the Tibuhaburwa Museveni regime. His suffering in Mulago before Museveni okayed the government to send him abroad for treatment, could have suggested to many that he was not a corrupt politician. He served as Prime Minister from 31st January 1986 to 22nd January 1991 when the President appointed him Vice-President. It is not clear how he got his Temangalo land. Wikipedia, however, records that he got involved in many business deals, including a transportation company, a, a hospital, a fishing company, a dairy cooperative, and an insurance company, among others. It is difficult for a politician to have so many businesses without being corrupt.
Many African politicians, very unfortunately, tend to be shamelessly greedy and selfish, and when this is spiced with high levels of impunity, inevitably gravitates into their primitive accumulation of wealth, illicitly stolen from the public purse while they rule. For example, very early in his rule, President Tibuhaburwa Museveni himself registered a firm called DANZE, which defrauded the country\’s millions of Shillings in tax evasion. The President did no more than apologize and wind up the firm. There is no evidence to show that he paid the taxes he had defaulted on while his firm existed and conducted business. However, he is today famed for being one of the richest rulers in Africa. It is not clear how much more Dr. Samson Kisekka defrauded the country as Prime Minister and then as Vice-President.
George Cosmos Adyebo replaced Kisekka as Prime Minister of Uganda. He was picked from the lecture room at Kyambogo University. He served from 22 January 1991 to 18 November 1994. He was not a corrupt Prime Minister. He was replaced by Kintu Musoke who served from 1894 to April 1999. He was not known to have been a corrupt politician. Kintu Musoke was replaced by Professor Apollo Nsibambi, who served from 5 April 1999 to 24 May 2011. He was probably the cleanest of President Museveni’s fleet of Prime Ministers. He was replaced by Amama Mbabazi who served from May 2011 and served until Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, the career Museveni Minister, was appointed Prime Minister.
It was during the time when Amama Mbabazi and Ruhakana Rugunda served in the post of Prime Minister that the country was shocked by revelations of huge corrupt deals, involving the stealing of public money through that Office. A chronology of huge corruption deals since President Tibuhaburwa Museveni came to power in 1986 will show to what extent corruption has been perfected over the last 37 years. But before we give this chronology, let us revisit the period 1981-1986 when the President led his combatants in raiding banks, cooperative unions, cooperative societies, buses, factories, and trains, grabbing money, equipment, and goods; and 1987 when a currency exchange rate scheme to make the Uganda Shilling as strong as the United States Dollar resulted in Ugandans losing billions, maybe trillions of shillings to the new regime.
Some people argue that this was the beginning of NRM/A functionaries becoming stinkingly rich here in Uganda and in Rwanda since some of them had ancestral roots in Rwanda and opted to go back, the most prominent among them being none other than Paul Kagame. We shall only mention a few of the corruption scandals in this chronology. However, some big ones included selling public parastatals at peanuts to regime functionaries or those connected to them, including Indians; and giving money bonanzas to businessmen and businesswomen, some closely related to each other and/or to the Museveni family. Most of the money is feared to have been lost as those who got it failed to pay it back, or watched their businesses collapse due to an unviable business environment.
Now, the chronology of some big-time corruption scandals is as follows:
CHOGM 2007 Scandal: Vic-President Bukenya, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and John Byabagambi, John Nasasira, Mwesigwa Rukutana, and Isaac Musumba were all involved in the Great Robbery of money. Parliament allocated 270 billion Shillings to CHOGM, but 370 billion Shillings was spent, according to the Auditor-General, but according to independent Parliamentary sources of information, as much as 500 billion Shillings was spent, most of it finding its way into the pockets of Ministers.
Global Fund 2008 Scandal: Officially 25 billion shillings got lost, but independent sources put the grand theft at 95 billion Shillings. Temangalo Land 2008 Scandal: This involved Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, Amos Mutabazi, and Amos Nzeyi. It was called the NSSF-Temangalo Land Saga. NSSF paid 11 billion Shillings to Nzeyi for 41.4 acres at 24 million Shillings an acre.
ID 2010 Scandal: This involved Isaac Musumba and others. A German firm called Muhlbauer was contracted by Government to produce National IDs. However, by February 2022, the firm had produced only 400 IDs, yet the government had borrowed over 150 billion Shillings to finance the ID project. According to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, contracting the firm resulted in the loss of 19 billion Shillings the Ministers implicated were Kiddu Makubuya, Kirunda Kivejinja, and Isaac Musumba, but also included in the scandal reportedly Permanent Secretary in the Local Government, Stephen Kagoda.
Bicycle 2011 Scandal: A locally registered firm, Amman Industrial Tool Equipment Ltd was hired to procure and supply 70,000 bicycles for LCs, but not a single bicycle was delivered. Some Shs. 4 billion was lost. Microfinance 2011 Scandal: This involved former Vice-President Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe. Several Ministry of Finance officials were involved as was MP Tim Lwanga. Large sums of money were stolen but we have not been able to establish the exact amount. All that Government did was remove Specioza from her job as Chairperson. We did not hear that Ministry of Finance Officials lost their jobs.
Hassan Basajjabalaba Compensation 2011 Scandal: Reportedly 169 billion Shillings was paid for loss of City Markets. Ministers Syda Bbumba and Khidu Makubuya were involved in the scandal. They lost their jobs, but public money was never recovered, to our knowledge. Pensions 2012 Scandal: 169 billion Shillings meant to pay withstanding pensions to former East African Community workers (1080 of them) disappeared through Cairo International Bank. Obviously, top officials of the Ministry of Public Service and Ministry of Finance were involved, but we may never know who and whether it will ever be recovered, if not recovered yet from the thieves.
Prime Minister’s Office 2012 Scandal: Five billion Shillings disappeared in thin air leading to the UK, Denmark, and Ireland governments freezing development aid to the Office of the Prime Minister, Prime Minister’s 2023 Iron Sheets Scandal: The current Prime Minister is Robinah Nabbanja. Perhaps the worst incident of corruption, known to the public so far, during her tenure of office was the stealing of iron sheets meant for the poor citizens of Karamoja, by 26 ministers and 31 MPs. They collected and diverted the iron sheets to their respective homes, where some of them were reported to have used the loot to build and renovate animal sheds on their private farms, etc. This infamous “Amabaati list” included none other than the Prime Minister herself, the Vice-President, and the Speaker of Parliament. Curiously, the Judiciary of Uganda exonerated these politicians of any wrongdoing and selectively chose to charge only three out of the culpable 57.
Prime Minister’s Office 2023 Coffee Scandal: The latest big-time corruption deal in Nabbanja’s Office was, among other things lately, was to teach the Uganda youth how to drink coffee, for which the Prime Minister’s Office asked Parliament to approve 1.902 billion Shillings. This was part of a total of 9.662 billion shillings, which was requisitioned for, apart from teaching youth how to drink Uganda coffee, training farmers on how to produce coffee (3.831 billion Shillings), training in financial literacy and business management skills (2.652 billion Shillings) and administration of the project (1.271 billion Shillings). However, the Parliamentary Accounts Committee became suspicious that it was a great robbery for the following reasons:
Some of the coffee shops established in Gulu, Lira, and Mbale during the campaign were non-existent.
The Auditor-General in his report questioned the existence of coffee equipment.
The contract to train the youths on how to drink coffee was awarded to Inspire Africa (U) LTD, a company owned by Nelson Tugume, an inner circle member of President Museveni’s family.
Elsewhere, outside the Prime Minister’s Office, there was the 1988 Santana vehicles scandal, involving the Minister of Security, Balaki Kirya, and also the ENHAS Scandal involving Minister Sam Kutesa, and many others. We would have mentioned the Lubowa Hospital scandal and the coffee scandal at whose center was the President himself, but since we are concentrating on the corruption in the Office of the Prime Minister, this is beyond the scope of the article.
The country has waited for too long, and is waiting, to see what President Tibuhaburwa Museveni, who innovated Zero Tolerance for Corruption (ZTC) will do to stop his Ministers and other high-ranking public officials; from using their positions and offices to steal or rob public money through corrupt deals? How is he going to ensure the Office of the Prime Minister does not continue being used by unscrupulous people to rob public money, ostensibly to deliver goods and services that are perennially never delivered? Or is it the implementation of the myth that corruption builds the economy? Instead, what we are seeing are politicians, old and new, and some military officers who are also active in politics, becoming stinkingly rich through the primitive accumulation of wealth. So, overwhelmingly rich are many corrupt politicians and some military men, or those attached to them, all of whose source of wealth remains questionable, were it not for a free=for-all within this cabal of closely connected individuals during the NRM/A era.
When the Inspector-General of Government, Beti Kamya, proposed to adopt Singapore’s method of fighting corruption, which was successful in that country and involves carrying out a “Life Style Audit” of all those holding any public office in the land, the President, to the great shock and dismay of the citizenry once again, cautioned and even discouraged her, saying it would undermine development by compelling the looters to invest their loot outside the country.
It is a well-known fact in the anti-corruption corridors the world over, that when you fight corruption, corruption will invariably, and quite often, vociferously fight back. This counteroffensive against the anti-corruption war is often spearheaded by the corrupt officials themselves or their surrogates. What makes the Uganda corruption scenario very unique and quite peculiar globally, is that it is President Museveni himself who rose up to caution and by so doing, publicly emasculating his Anti-=corruption Czar, Betty Kamya, which gave a great sense of relief and succor to all looters of public funds in Uganda.
The Ten Million Dollar Question is: Can Zero Tolerance for Corruption become a reality in Uganda so long as President Tibuhaburwa Museveni is in Charge? Many skeptics think that President Museveni’s regime will collapse instantly, and its tentacles will atrophy, like did happen to the Roman empire, which collapsed in one night, if corruption is eliminated. They say it is central to the long reign of President Tibuhaburwa Museveni. Really?
For God and My Country.