1. Amama Mbabazi
John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, in the eyes of the US ambassador quoted recently in a Wikileaks cable, is “consistently linked to corruption scandals.” No collection of words could better describe the security minister whose possessions reflect the efficiency with which he misuses his positions.
Said to have crossed from Burundi into Uganda’s western sub-region of Kigezi at a tender age, Mr. Mbabazi registered gain after gain to become one of Uganda’s most powerful politicians. But the higher he moved up the ladder the deeper he dipped his hand into the public treasury.
In the 1980s, at the height of the NRA rebellion that catapulted Yoweri K. Museveni to power, Mbabazi allegedly swindled money meant for procuring badly-needed military supplies to the struggling rebels. As head of the Nairobi-based external wing, Mbabazi reportedly lived a lavish lifestyle as his comrades starved and died in the jungles.
“Those who claim to know NRM more than me, like Mbabazi were even supposed to be hanged because of the many evils they did when we were still in the bush, which eventually affected the progress of our armed struggle,” the Daily Monitor quoted opposition leader Kizza Besigye, Museveni’s bush personal doctor, spilling the beans in February. “We were very frustrated with him (Mbabazi) and even Museveni wanted him to get court martialled.”
Mbabazi survived the guillotine in the bush and learnt that he would freely steal under Museveni’s watch with little or no measures taken against him. He was not mistaken.
During the preparation of the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Mbabazi baptized himself “Inspector General Chogm”, a nonexistent portfolio, and interfered with the work of the organizing committee, turning Chogm into the corruption scandal it was.
Mbabazi, according to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chogm Audit Report of May 2010, inflated the cost of procuring the Terrestrial Trunked Radio facility from $3.2million to $ 5million, and connived with other parties to pocket the change. PAC actually established that the cost of the facility “should not have exceeded US $ 2million.”
Again, Mbabazi – like all other perpetrators of the Chogm fraud – enjoyed impunity even though the report called for his prosecution in the Anti-Corruption Court. Such a deeply-entrenched culture of impunity must have induced him to encroach on workers’ savings.
Hardly a year after Chogm, Mbabazi allegedly used his power as security minister to force the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) to buy his land at Temangalo at an exorbitant price, seizing shillings 11 billion of workers’ savings.
A parliamentary probe into the fraudulent transaction established that Mbabazi, 62, and the then Finance Minister, Ezra Suruma, had violated the leadership code, influenced NSSF to buy the land and engaged in a transaction in which their personal interests clashed with the public interest.
But the probe report was dismissed on very flimsy grounds and the prime perpetrator, as usual, walked away untouched.
2. Salim Saleh
Unlike Amama Mbabazi whose known fraudulent deals remain largely local, Gen. Salim Saleh is an international fraudster. His original name is Caleb Akandwanaho.
Saleh’s first high-profile corruption allegation surfaced at the height of the privatization drive in 1996 when key state enterprises were being sold to members of the political establishment and their in-laws, friends and relatives. Saleh controversially bought Uganda Grain Milling Company and, shortly after, sold it to Greenland Investments Limited at a huge profit.
Hardly a year later, in 1997, Salim Saleh connived with other senior government officials to sell Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB) to themselves in the name of a sham Malaysian company, Westmont Land Asia (Bhd). In the course of the fraudulent deal, and the scuffle that ensued, Saleh and company looted colossal sums of money from the Ugandan treasury. At one point it emerged that Westmont had fraudulently paid itself $1.5million to cover management costs.
Eventually, in 1999, Saleh said he had, through Greenland in which he acquired shares, bought UCB from Westmont. It became clear that Museveni’s relatives had turned the country’s economy into their private property, playing around with it to the tune of their desires.
In 1998, as Ugandans helplessly watched how a handful of individuals wrecked their bank, they learnt that the very man at the centre of looting UCB, Salim Saleh, was involved in the procurement of four junk Mil Mi-24 helicopter gunships at an inflated price. Saleh allegedly received a bribe of $800,000 to help Consolidated Sales Corporation win the contract to supply the Belarusian gunships, some of which had one wing each and could not fly.
The junk helicopter scandal was exposed when high-ranking military officers were busy plundering Congolese resources. According to the 2003 final report of the United Nations Panel of Experts on Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Salim Saleh and James Kazini led an elite network that effectively plundered Congolese diamonds, coltan, timber and gold and generated huge “revenue from the export of primary materials, from controlling the import of consumables, from theft and tax fraud.”
The network, according to the report, worked closely with the international criminal gang of Victor Bout, a Russian dealer who excelled in money laundering and marketing stolen minerals and firearms. Mr. Bout is currently facing trial in the US for plotting to provide arms to a terrorist group.
Salim Saleh and his men succeeded in massively plundering Congo’s resources because, according to the report, they resorted to “military intimidation; maintenance of a public sector façade…and manipulation of the money supply and the banking sector, using counterfeit currency and other related mechanisms.”
The final report (2003) confirmed what the UN Panel of Experts had established in its first report of 2001. The first report had enraged Uganda and prompted Kampala to commission Justice David Porter of Britain to investigate the UN accusations.
The Porter Commission of 2001 dismissed the first UN report and exonerated Saleh and his elder brother, President Museveni, from the accusation of plunder. But the UN panel of experts insisted its findings were credible and upheld them in the final report of 2003.
In 2005, the International Court of Justice found Uganda guilty of plundering its neighbor’s resources and ordered Kampala to pay Kisnhaha $10 billion in reparation.
The heavy fine imposed on Uganda, unfortunately, did little to deter implicated officials from engaging in further acts of corruption. A few days to the February 2011 general elections, a senior member of the leading opposition Forum for Democratic Change accused Salim Saleh of attempting to bribe him with shillings 1 billion to support President Museveni’s bid for reelection. Saleh dismissed the accusation of bribery though he admitted giving money to Mubarak Kirunda for other businesses.
Despite this clear record of perpetual abuse of power, Salim Saleh keeps on occupying senior government positions. He is currently the presidential advisor on defence.
3. Shaban Mubajje
Greatly isolated by the people he purports to lead, Ugandan Mufti Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubajje is widely condemned for selling Muslim properties for his selfish interests. He is regarded persona non grata in almost all Mosques in central Uganda.
Sheikh Mubajje, 56, assumed the leadership of the Muslim Community in 2000 following years of disunity that had often driven factions to unleash violence against each other. His ascendance to the office of eminence was widely celebrated because it supposedly ushered in a highly learned leader. He was especially revered by members of the youthful Salafi (Tabliq) sect who reviled previous muftis – and elderly Muslims in general – for adulterating Islam with innovations.
In his initial years, Mubajje appeared to have united Muslims. This unity started to disperse as news spread that the mufti had sold two Muslim plots on William Street, including one that housed a mosque, without the knowledge of the relevant institutions.
A commission of inquiry led by Islamic University vice rector Muhammad Mpezamihigo established that Mubajje had wrongly sold the properties, a conclusion that the accused rejected and attributed to Buganda chauvinism. He also rejected calls for his resignation, prompting some Muslims to take legal action.
Attempts to oust Mubajje through the courts of law proved futile as the judge, despite reproaching the defendant for repeatedly telling lies, ruled that the mufti had the right to sale the land.
But Mubajje did not win in the court of public opinion. Many Muslims believe that the cleric abused al-amaanah – the trust – when he embarked on selling properties he was supposed to watch. Abusing al-amaanah, according to Islamic traditions, is a sign of hypocrisy.
Muslims also believe that Mubajje would have lost the legal battle had government not intervened behind the scenes to save his neck. Mubajje is an open supporter of Museveni’s rule.
The Mufti later sold another piece of land that hosted Muslim Girls Primary School at Old Kampala. His actions reflect the stomach-turning mismanagement that has stunted the growth of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council for decades. Poor management has rendered Muslims nearly landless and significantly reversed some of the achievements of former president Idi Amin Dada – who allocated strategic chunks of land to the believers. Little is known about how Mubajje spends the money he gets from selling properties he is meant to protect.
By dragging their leader to a secular court that is presided over by a non Muslim, Muslims disgraced themselves, humiliated their mufti and effectively passed a vote of no confidence in him. He should have resigned.
Mubajje’s failure to resign prompted sections of the Muslim Community, including the Salafis (Tabliqs) who backed his rise to leadership, to declare a rival mufti. The declaration of Zubair Kayongo as mufti cemented the division of the ummah and refreshed embarrassing memories of two rival muftis jostling each other for the microphone to lead national prayers during the 1993 independence celebrations at Kololo Grounds.
Mubajje’s determination to cling on to power even at the expense of Muslim unity demonstrated how his personal interest – power – took precedence over community interest – unity. He is no different from Muammar Al-Gaddafi, Laurent Gbagbo and Mwai Kibaki whose refusal to step down as heads of state invited death, destruction and turmoil to their respective countries.
Mubajje enters the club of the corrupt from two doors: selling Muslim land against their will and lying to them that he has never sold any property of the sort. As a religious leader, and most importantly as an Islamic religious leader, Sheikh Mubajje was least expected to betray his people by selling their possessions, by uttering false statements, by acting arrogantly when called to account.
Mubajje’s conduct, and the response it generated, piled shame on all Muslims whom the Qur’an describes as a just and the best nation ever raised up for mankind because they “enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil.” (Quran 3:110).
By abusing his people’s trust, repeatedly lying to them and showing no respect for them, Mubajje not only failed to forbid what is evil; he himself became an agent of evil.
4. Jim Muhwezi
Maj. General Jim Muhwezi Katugugu is one of Uganda’s richest politicians. His residential house in Rukungiri is a palace. But he has not amassed this wealth without allegedly stealing from the public.
Two years after becoming state minister in charge of primary education, Mr. Muhwezi was censured by parliament in 1998 over abuse of office. His huge unexplained wealth, his shares in Crane Bank, his dealings with tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia, created suspicion that he might have stolen money meant for Universal Primary Education.
Muhwezi’s dishonest behavior ceased to be mere speculation in 2005 when he, as health minister, misappropriated money meant for treating HIV/AIDS victims, fighting malaria and tuberculosis and immunizing children against killer diseases.
A commission of inquiry into the mismanagement of the Global (and GAVI) Fund led by Justice James Ogoola established in 2005 that Mr. Muhwezi – along with two junior health ministers, Mike Mukula and Alex Kamugisha – had cases to answer, including causing financial loss and uttering false statements.
In 2007, Muhwezi was arrested and charged with theft, abuse of office and embezzlement of over a billion shillings for immunization. He was remanded to Luzira prison and later released on bail.
By stealing funds meant for treating pregnant mothers dying of malaria, for treating bed-ridden HIV/AIDS patients, for immunizing children against polio, Muhwezi appeared no better than Teedy Seezi Cheeye whom Justice John Bosco Katutsi described as a beast, a rogue and a mass murderer for engaging in the same fraud.
The Global and Gavi fund theft left junior perpetrators, including Cheeye, in jail. But high profile culprits, especially Muhwezi, remain at large.
5. Sam Kutesa
Like Amama Mbabazi and Vice President Gilbert Bukenya, Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa understood the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as a looting bonanza. In preparing for Chogm, Hon. Kutesa was specifically responsible for arranging venues, accommodation, conferences and the secretariat. He had nothing to do with procuring vehicles.
But far from executing his tasks to satisfaction, Hon. Kutesa usurped the role of the works and transport minister and spared no effort in ensuring that the contract of procuring Chogm vehicles is awarded to Motorcare Uganda, a company in which he once held shares. “The procurement process was fraudulent and marred with many irregularities,” concluded the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chogm Audit Report.
Besides, the vehicles supplied under Kutesa’s influences had “wrong and substandard specifications” in model and year of manufacture, some actually were junk, including ambulances that lacked oxygen cylinders, hooks, drug cabinets and emergency lights.
PAC recommended that Sam Kutesa and his comrades in fraud “bent procurement procedures” to serve their selfish interests and that they “should be dealt with according to the law.”
But the law could not take its course under a regime that rewards, rather than reprimands, corruption. And Kutesa knew this very well – he had been rewarded before with a ministerial post after parliament censured him in 1999 for abusing his office as minister of planning to award his company, Entebbe Handling Services, a deal of aircraft ground handling at Entebbe International Airport.
6. Badru Kiggundu
Dr. Badru Kiggundu heads a body that organizes fraudulent elections in Uganda. Such a person cannot be clean.
The Electoral Commission maintains a national register adulterated with ghost voters intended to ensure victory for candidates of the ruling party, especially Yoweri Museveni. Many registered voters do not find their names in the register on voting day.
The February 18 presidential and parliamentary elections involved polling stations where the number of votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters there. The election equally featured cases in which results declared at the polling stations greatly differed from those recorded on the declaration forms. Such are the elections presided over by Dr. Kiggundu and his team.
Being hired and fired by President Museveni, Dr. Kiggundu is not expected to behave any better. He is under instruction to ensure victory for the ruling party, doing exactly what any other occupant of the same office would do unless if the electoral body is reformed, along with the electoral laws, to accommodate the interests of all parties. The electoral body is not fraudulent because Kiggundu is the head; it is fraudulent because it was designed to be so.
So why blame Kiggundu? Kiggundi is corrupt because he willingly heads a corrupt institution, ignoring widespread calls for his resignation.
7. Kahinda Otafiire
Like Gen. Salim Saleh and Maj. Gen. James Kazini, Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire is not just allegedly corrupt; he is possibly a seasoned thief, judging from his reported conduct in the Congo and elsewhere.
Taking advantage of his senior position in the elite network that effectively plundered diamonds, coltan, timber and Gold in eastern Congo, Otafiire set up lucrative business enterprises in the neighboring country and refused to pay taxes, as reveals the 2003 final report of the United Nations Panel of Experts on Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo:
Members of the Ugandan network are typically tax exempt. The Panel is in possession of documents showing that the network uses its control over the RCD-K/ML rebel administration to request tax exonerations for imports of high-value commodities. The granting of numerous tax exonerations to UPDF Colonel Otafiire between late 2001 and early 2002 is one of numerous cases. Not only did Colonel Otafiire benefit financially but, eventually, those exonerations forced local competitors out of markets in Bunia and Beni, leaving the petrol trade largely under the control of the network.
Otafiire’s conduct in Congo partly explains why Uganda, as the International Court of Justice ruled in 2005, is supposed to pay Congo $10 billion in reparation. Yet he was the presidential adviser on the affairs of the country he was looting.
Even in his own country, Uganda, Otafiire is routinely accused of abusing power. Fourteen years ago, he was dragged to a parliamentary probe committee for allegedly stealing copper rivets worth billions of shillings from an Asian businessman.
In 2007, Kahinda Otafiire abused his office as minister of local government when he fraudulently allocated the Nakawa-Naguru estate redevelopment project to Opec Prime Properties Ltd, according to a 2008 report of the Inspector General of Government.
The IGG had earlier, in 2006, accused the same person of violating procurement procedures when he granted the tender of computerizing the lands registry to a little-known company, Steward’s Net Technologies.
Otafiire reacted by accusing the then IGG, Faith Mondha, of writing reports when she was under the influence of alcohol. To this attack, Mondha – according to the New Vision – responded, “He (Kahinda Otafiire) is corrupt and he is not fit to be minister.”
8. Andrew Mwenda
Andrew Mwenda has been Uganda’s most prominent journalist. But he betrayed journalism when he succumbed to the temptation of Paul Kagame’s money.
Mr. Mwenda’s major preoccupation today is to sing the praises of the Rwandan president and to whitewash his gross human rights violations and repressive rule. For details please see: The fall of Andrew Mwenda: How bribery turned a revered journalist into a vulgar propagandist (The Campus Journal of Nov. 2010 – Jan. 2011).
9. John Nasasira
John Nasasira is the chief architect of Uganda’s roads that develop potholes within weeks of their construction. The professional engineer has headed the ministry of works and transportation for fifteen years.
“Roads which had just been repaired or reconstructed had developed defects including potholes, bleeding and stripping,” the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee said of the roads repaired in preparation for the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting। “An example of this was Entebbe Road which was done by Bitumen Surface dressing.”
The committee’s Chogm Audit Report of May 2010 established that Nasasira diverted shillings 200 million of Chogm money to construct a road to Gilbert Bukenya’s private hotel.
Besides, John Nasasira, in connivance with Sam Kutesa, bent procurement procedures to award the contract of supplying Chogm vehicles to Motorcare, according to the report.
The report concluded that Nasasira should face the Anti-Corruption Court. He did not.
10. Yoweri Museveni
As he struggled to consolidate his newly-seized power over two decades ago, President Museveni blamed Africa’s problems on “leaders who overstay in power, which breeds impunity, corruption and promotes patronage.” But it is now clear that Museveni, as a 19th Century French diplomat would put it, has learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
Museveni has followed in the footsteps of power-greedy African rulers as if he has never expressed extreme contempt for them. Not only is he waiting to die in power, Museveni has nurtured a culture of corruption that has never been tolerated by any of his predecessors or most of his contemporaries in the region.
Museveni’s reward for high-profile corrupt officials is promotion, rather than prosecution. This is how he treated Jim Muhwezi and Sam Kutesa who were censured by parliament in 1998 and 1999 for abuse of office but both later bounced back as ministers of health and foreign affairs, respectively.
The two officers and Amama Mbabazi, the security minister and secretary general for the ruling NRM party, have been named in numerous corruption scandals and numerous commissions of inquiry have recommended their prosecution. But none has faced any serious action and none has ceased playing a leading role in Museveni’s government.
Museveni also maintains strong backing for Sheikh Shaban Mubajje, the mufti whose followers have rejected as a thief. Such backing, often expressed in form of heavy police and military deployment, is the remaining life support for Mubajje’s ailing reign.
This culture of impunity characterizes Museveni’s decades-long rule. It has breaded corruption and deprived poor Ugandans of basic services. It suggests that Museveni lacks the will, or even the ability, to confront corruption. It may also suggest that he abets, or even engages in, acts of corruption.
Museveni’s engagement in corruption ceases to be debatable if you examine the tactics he uses to win elections. He instituted an electoral commission that has excelled in organizing fraudulent elections to favour the ruling party and he has, through his agents, allegedly bribed peasants with soap and sugar to vote for him.
It should by now be clear that Museveni’s government thrives on corruption. Any attempt to fight corruption undermines the lifeblood of his power. To fight corruption is to fight Museveni.
The Campus Journal