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Why Uganda should employ ignominy to combat corruption

By Admin

Added 1st September 2016 11:21 AM

The evidence was gone since the exhibit had been chewed by the suspect! Word regarding this incident spread like wildfire around town and by the following day when we went to school, the most interesting but more embarrassing part of the incident was not because this officer had chewed the note, but that he had been caught taking a bribe!

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The evidence was gone since the exhibit had been chewed by the suspect! Word regarding this incident spread like wildfire around town and by the following day when we went to school, the most interesting but more embarrassing part of the incident was not because this officer had chewed the note, but that he had been caught taking a bribe!

Coming back from school one evening in the late sixties, my late father, then a Grade III Magistrate in Mbarara, told us that a certain officer had been caught taking a bribe of sh20. In the process of receiving it, the local Police  or Musirikye, as we had nicknamed them since they had no guns but batons to quell the disorder by telling people, “Musirikye, musirikye” (keep quiet, keep quiet), caught up with him and as guilt would have it,  the officer threw the sh20 note in the mouth and chewed it. 


The evidence was gone since the exhibit had been chewed by the suspect!  Word regarding this incident spread like wildfire around town and by the following day when we went to school, the most interesting but more embarrassing part of the incident was not because this officer had chewed the note, but that he had been caught taking a bribe!


I was in P.2 then and this money chewer had two children in P.3 and P.4 in the same school. From there on, fellow pupils, bigger in size than some of us, would harass this man’s children by reciting how their father had not only taken a bribe, but also chewed the exhibit.


The catchword was “bribe” not “chewing” the exhibit, because it was considered an anathema to be corrupt through bribery at the time. I recall vividly that these children never returned to school the following year for it is possible their father took them to another school in order to save them from harassment.


Three or four years ago, a headteacher in Lyantonde was caught with a bunch of matooke  he had obtained illegally and he apologetically told his arresters that he had nothing to feed his family on that day, which had the previous night gone hungry. His captors let go him, as he was in the actual fact telling the naked truth.


Again, a few years ago, during our senior management meeting at Ministry of Health, I was intrigued when it was considered illegal for any government servant to stay in office after the official 5:00 o’clock clock out time whether doing official work or not. I arguably told the chair that for a civil servant to put in extra hours after 5:00pm when he would be playing golf or drinking ajon demonstrated devotion and patriotism instead of crime.
The senior management members could not believe this civil service standing order but swallowed it bitterly.


In the recent past, many a people of the so-called respectable class in society have presented false papers to certain entities to apply for a job or stand for an election office. Others have been implicated in other aspects that include soliciting monies, property, favouritism and nepotism. In some cases, allegations of corruption have been brought up against some public servants by other officers only to be ruled out or quashed in the courts of law as false, incompetent or unfounded.  Such officers, who falsely allege, should ideally equally be categorised under the Corruption Act.


The examples above are a tip of an iceberg of many other actions that would qualify for corruption.


According to the Black’s Law dictionary, corruption is defined as an act done with intent to give some advantage inconsistent  with official duty and the right  of others. It is the misuse of entrusted power for private gain which is endemic in most administrative and political systems.


It manifests multifariously and consists essentially unlawful or improper self-enrichment or using influence and privilege of office or position for undue advantage.


Simply put, corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for personal gain or the benefit of a group to which one owes allegiance. The Uganda Anti-Corruption Act 2009 defines corruption as an offence committed by a person if she/he does any of the following:


i) The solicitation or acceptance, directly or indirectly, by a public official, of any goods of monitory value or benefits, such as gift, favour or any other form of gratification for himself/herself or for another person or entity, in exchange for any act or omission in the performance of his or her public functions.


ii) The offering or granting, directly or indirectly to a public official of any other form or gratification for exchange for any act or omission in performance of his or her public functions.

iii) The diversion or use by a public official, for purposes unrelated to those for which they were intended for his or her own benefit for his or her own benefit or that of third party, of any movable or immovable property, monies or securities belong to that official received by virtue of his or her position of administration, custody for other reasons.


iv) The offering  or giving , promising, soliciting  or acceptance, directly or indirectly, of any undue  advantage to or by  any  person who directly or works for, in an y capacity or private sector  entity for himself or herself or for any other person, for  him or her  to act , or refrain from acting, in breach of his or he duties.


v) The offering , giving, solicitation  or acceptance directly or indirectly  or promising  of any  advantage to or by any person who asserts or confirms that he or she  is able  to exert that he or she  is able to exert  any improper influence over  the decision making any person making of any person performing  functions in the public or private  sector  in consideration  of the undue  advantage.
vi)  Fraudulent acquisition, use or concealment of property derived from any acts mentioned above.
vii) The participation  as a principle, co-principle, agent , instigator or accomplice  or accessory  after the fact  or in any other  manner  in the commission  or attempted  commission  of, or conspiracy  to commit , any of the acts referred to above.


viii) Any act or omission in the discharge of his or her duties by a public official for purposes of illicitly obtaining benefits for himself or herself or for third party.


ix) Neglect of duty. Corruption tends to include varius things like, conflict of interest, bribery, nepotism and fraud. In Uganda, the IGG Act Sec 2, defines  corruption as the abuse of office  for private  gain  and includes  but not limited to, embezzlement, bribery, nepotism, influence, peddling, theft of public funds or assets, fraud , forgery causing  financial loss or property loss or false  accounting  in public affairs.


Corruption is not only the abuse of public office   but also private or commercial office for private gain. It invariably involves giving someone in position of power, either in government or in a corporation, so that he or she will use or abuse his or he power and act in a manner favoring the giver.


 The President has clearly stated that this time round he is in for kill of anybody engaging in corruption. Admittedly so, corruption seems to have reached its zenith nowadays from nadir levels from the times some of us were growing. In those days, the words, “bribe”, “corruption” were anathema in society and treatment for the vice was not only law but shame as well.


Two types of “societal corruption” seem to exist; “Greed Corruption “ where those  who have much more, who are paid much more from the tax payers’ dough  than the ordinary civil servant, engage in the elements mentioned above, and   “ Needy Corruption”  where people are forced to act in an unlawful manner in order to make ends meet.
In His  effort to combat the misdemeanor, which people, clean and holier than the Pope, will the President employ to hold corruption by its horns  and bring it to its knees since our law is not having significant impact on the culprits or preventing the would culprits  from engaging into the habit?


To join the President in the fight, I wish to opine as follows:
i)    That The President sets up a credible study team possibly, external, to carry out a study to find out why corruption is much more rampant in the country nowadays than the days I told you an officer chewed a 20 shilling note.  


ii)    Beyond the law, what role society can play in socially exposing and embarrassing the corrupt. To wit: If a person is  found to be corrupt  and goes to attend a church service or wedding function, the congregation should move out on him and leave such person  marooned and suffering from Ignominy .

When he enters a bar to quench his thirst on the fruits of corruption, people should go out on him. I bet when this person ever goes back home, he is likely to go into exile or commit suicide. The curse of corruption will torment his family and posterity. No one would love this type of scenario where humiliation, embarrassment is the treatment.   I pray Ugandans employ Ignominy as the tool innocent to fight corruption in Uganda!

The writer is a medical doctor in Uganda

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