While Uganda was being hailed for her generosity policies towards refugees, the country maybe seen to be accepting more refugees for selfish gains
JUSTICE | REFUGEES
By Allawi Ssemanda
A day after Ugandan dailies reported the story alleging that Ugandan officials in Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) had inflated refugees numbers, and stole relief items for refugees in Uganda, I was shocked when the international media carried the same story painting Uganda as a country of merciless thugs. From The Guardian to BBC, one can tell that is not a good way of marketing the country.
Despite reports that the concerned officials were suspended to pave way for investigations, I think the four officials being suspended is not enough.They should be fired and imprisoned pending investigations.
While one may argue they are innocent until investigations are done, my view is different. If they claim to be innocent that the wrong doings were a scheme by their juniors, I strongly believe we should then blame them for sleeping on duty.
One may argue that this is against the principle that assumes how the accused persons should be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, I believe for the case of fighting corruption, this law should be broken. After all, breaking bad laws is good for the soul. We must put aside such laws and deal with the corrupt that are making Uganda look like a smelling swamp. Such laws may seem good, but are the reason why corruption is not about to end.
Let us not forget that this is not the first time seeing cases of corruption allegations in OPM. In 2012 and 2013, we witnessed cases where billions were stolen from that office, and some officials like Geoffrey Kazinda arrested and has since been sentenced. This made some Ugandans believe that the swamp in OPM had been drained.
But following Rosa Malango’s letter to the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda in which the UN’s resident co-ordinator in Uganda notes that there are “incidences of gross mismanagement, fraud and corruption” in Uganda’s refugee operations, it is clear that the arm which is in charge of refugees in OPM is a dirty swamp, it is a swamp with stinking and contaminated waters with corrupt moral officials whose interests are money and they steal with impunity. Despite the Kazinda’s leaving OPM, this swamp remains dirty and should be drained, it looks like the white washed graves Jesus taught us in the book of Mathew 23:27, a swamp which looks like clean outside, but stinking from all corners with corrupt people.
This is the time to drain this swamp once and for all. Even after blaming the former prime minister Amama Mbabazi claiming he failed to supervise the office when over sh50b meant for the peace, recovery and development programme in northern Uganda was misappropriated and the arrest of several officials, the same office is once again facing the same challenge. However, this time, the challenge is about relief items meant for refugees stolen and inflating their figures as millions of dollars are allegedly stolen. This explains why the president must bite; he must bite with his both canine and molars teeth such that the pain is felt, this is when OPM will become clean once and for all.
Actually, because of corruption, our country is bleeding and at inflexion point, which should worry all of us save those who benefit from corruption. Mathematically, inflexion point is defined as a highest point on a curve and at this point the country can continue going upwards or can easily plunge deep and collapse. This is the reason we must deal with the corrupt decisively else we are risking sink with our country at hands of these vultures.
If need be, we can suspend some laws and deal with the corrupt mercilessly. After all, our MPs during the passing of age limit bill when they suspended some rules of procedure taught us that when rules are stopping you from doing what is “right”, it is okay to suspend them. In the same sprit, let us suspend Article 28 (3) (a) of our Constitution, which dictates that the accused persons are presumed innocent until the contrary is proved. This will help us have the corrupt fired from jobs and imprisoned without bail as investigations and their cases are going on. This is not bad for it is good for our country that the corrupt are slowly bringing down.
The President should help us in doing this. Even if courts decide otherwise, the President can go on and order the firing of the accused persons from their offices in interest of our country. This is called the doctrine of civil necessity, which the medieval Jurist Henery de Bracton taught us that; a necessity is more important than a mere law. This way, to preserve and protect the public good(s), necessity gives us the right to make legal what is illegal. Otherwise, following the laws and handling the corrupt with gloves will accelerate trickle down service delivery, and cause more suffering to innocent Ugandans.
One maybe wondering why I am appealing to the President to be the one to take action. The answer is precise, in the whole country; it is only him who took oath before God to protect all Ugandans and national interests.
Ugandans ought to know that the alleged corruption in OPM last week is already affecting Uganda at international scene. While Uganda was being hailed for her generosity policies towards refugees, the country maybe seen to be accepting more refugees for selfish gains, which I think, is wrong.
In 2017, Uganda was being praised in almost all world’s capitals and by international organisations such as UNHCR and UN, which resulted in UN’s secretary general António Guterres visiting Uganda with gushing praises to the government and leading a drive to raise over $358m to support Uganda in facilitating refugees. However, the recemnt development has put our country on spot with international media carrying us (Uganda) in headlines on a bad note, with the UK, European Union and the USA threatening to withdraw aid and stop several refugees programmes in Uganda. Actually, European Union mission in Uganda formerly went an extra mile and reported the case to EU’s anti-fraud office (OLAF), for investigation.
The writer is a PhD Student of international relations and diplomacy