Besigye calls out Museveni on graft in govt

Gun Rights

A proclamation by Opposition politician Kizza Besigye that President Museveni cannot fight graft despite his tough rhetoric on ending the vice, has prompted a rebuke from State House and the ruling party.

In a media briefing in Kampala yesterday, the four-time presidential contender alleged that the president was an “architect … constructor” of a corrupt system eating up Uganda and that nothing will change with him in power.

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“Museveni has been leading both the official and the private corruption,” Dr Besigye said, citing, among others, nepotism in allocation of government jobs. 

He added: “… we cannot talk about corruption, let alone dealing with it, ending it, fighting it, without fighting the entity called Museveni and his family.”

In a swift rejoinder, Mr Faruk Kirunda, the deputy senior presidential spokesman, described Dr Besigye as an ingrate recycling old lies for which Ugandans rejected to elect him to run the country during his four barren attempts.

Dr Besigye challenged two of those results, but the Supreme Court upheld the incumbent’s victories, despite finding evidence of irregularities and rigging.

A veteran of the bush war that brought Mr Museveni to power in 1986, Dr Besigye served as the president’s personal physician, political commissar of the no-party Movement system and minister before breaking ranks in 1999.

He at the time narrowly survived being court-martialed after he, as a serving military officer, authored a dossier in which he claimed that the government had lost track and become corrupt besides reneging on its democratic promises.

He first ran for President first in 2001 on the Reform Agenda ticket, before trying again in 2006, 2011 and 2016 as flag bearer of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), a party from which Dr Besigye and some loyalists splintered last year to form a faction based at his office on Katonga Road in Kampala’s leafy Nakasero suburb. 

Citing these strings of electoral losses, Mr Kirunda last evening said claims that Mr Museveni cannot fight graft have long been “advanced by the president’s opponents, but most people don’t buy such unfair accusations”.

“President Museveni has established systems for fighting graft and remains the number one guarantor of the ‘zero tolerance to corruption’ policy,” he said, “As the chief executive [of Uganda], how can anyone reconcile promoting corruption as claimed with advancing national development goals? It doesn’t make sense.”

The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) government has prided itself in establishing or strengthening accountability and transparency laws and entities, among them, the Inspectorate of Government, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, the Criminal Investigations Directorate of Police, the Office of the Auditor General and State House Anti-Corruption Unit.

Despite these efforts, Uganda’s Corruption Perception Index ranking by Transparency International has not changed much, with the country on average among 40 most corrupt out of 180 surveyed globally.

In addition, the Inspectorate of Government, the official Ombudsman, reported last October that Shs9 trillion in taxpayers’ money is haemorrhaged through official theft.

This state of affairs, coupled with the President’s own findings in secret investigations, led him to admit during his June 7 State of the Nation Address that graft had infested the heart of government, with legislators, Finance ministry bureaucrats and accounting officers colluding to run a black market of budget allocation based on bribe offers. 

After making five back-to-back renewals of his war on corruption in public proclamations within a month, the President warned thieving officials to keep off his gun sight and vowed to crush such “saboteurs” whom he said betrayed the country’s heroes.

Speaking to ministers at a Cabinet retreat at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi yesterday, Mr Museveni announced plans to establish an Accountancy and Audit Unit under State House, in addition to a new sheriff over the taxman that he unveiled last week, to investigate and fight corruption in public service.

Earlier on Friday, he told a thanksgiving organised for him at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds in Kampala that permanent secretaries, chief administrative officers, town clerks and sub-country chiefs — who are guardians of public resources — midwife graft. 

Following his revived offensive on the vice, three Members of Parliament were arrested mid-last month and remain in on remand in prison on budget-related corruption charges.  

In his briefing to journalists in Kampala yesterday, Dr Besigye alleged that Mr Museveni’s soft heart for the corrupt began during the 1981-6 National Resistance Army (NRA) war, making it impossible to believe that he is the right man to salvage the situation.

“We started having problems with this system right in the bush. We were talking about it, some of us amongst ourselves and he (Museveni) would defend it,” Besigye said, “He (Museveni) said ‘don’t touch this because these [people], although they are corrupt, they are good fighters … When the war is over we shall see how to deal with it. For now, let’s just fight’.”

He did not name names. Dr Besigye also accused the President of promoting nepotism — which the opposition politician described as nepotism — by naming his wife Janet Kataha as Education Minister, their son Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba as the Chief of Defence Forces while the President brother Caleb Akwandanaho, alias Salim Saleh, is overall Coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation.

“At the pinnacle of the country is where corruption is where corruption comes from, where it grows and from where it spreads,” he added.

However, State House said claims against the First Family are unfounded because each of its members in government service merits the appointment.

“On nepotism, are the ‘target’ appointees Ugandans, are they qualified? Did the President break any law in appointing them? Why not challenge him legally if at all he erred? How many appointees of such nature are we talking of out of the total number of government workers, and what processes and procedures did they go through?” Deputy Presidential Press Secretary Kirunda said.

He added: “I think Dr Besigye is talking about another Museveni, not the President of Uganda, whenever he is voicing such allegations.”
President Museveni has repeatedly said his family is in leadership as a sacrifice to serve Ugandans, not to enrich his relatives, and that he would be happy to leave power and retire to look after his cattle if there was guarantee things in Uganda would not change for the worse in another hand.
Mr Museveni is also a frontline advocate of unity, blaming ideological disorientations of nepotism and sectarian under predecessor governments, as causes of bad governance of the country in the past. 
The NRM government, he has argued, abhors divisions along tribal and religious lines, and stands tall in propagating the ideals of patriotism, pan-Africanism, democracy and socio-economic transformation. 
Dr Besigye sees something else: a country restless at soul whose young are filing in droves to mainly the Middle East to snap up menial jobs, including being house-helps.
He argued that the lavish lifestyle of top bureaucrats and holding of a party to appreciate the President’s contribution amounted to a mockery of Ugandans, majority of whom are wallowing in poverty. 

However, NRM’s Director for Mobilisation Rosemary Sseninde said the record turn up of admirers and supporters at Kololo was testament to the love, respect and loyalty Ugandans afford the head of state for his feats in rebuilding and transforming Uganda.

“If other presidents can come from other countries to seek guidance from him, then who are we not to thank him? We are celebrating the achievements of a great man and the NRM party,” she said.

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