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Should the corrupt be pardoned?

By David Mukholi

Added 6th January 2020 05:18 PM

Stories of unaccounted for, diverted and stolen public funds have been reported by the media. And stories of poor service delivery severely affecting the people and sometimes resulting in death are also reported and linked to corruption.

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Stories of unaccounted for, diverted and stolen public funds have been reported by the media. And stories of poor service delivery severely affecting the people and sometimes resulting in death are also reported and linked to corruption.

Corruption stands out as one problem that stood in the way of service delivery in 2019 and past years. It is still a big problem.

In nearly all worship places, preachers in their messages ushering in the New Year condemned corruption and called for the fight against the vice. In his 2020 sermon at Namirembe Cathedral, the outgoing Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Rt. Rev. Stanley Ntagali, stressed: “The corruption war begins with you and me. If you are not corrupt, you can preach the gospel against corruption because you will have broken a part of the corruption chain.”

Stories of unaccounted for, diverted and stolen public funds have been reported by the media. And stories of poor service delivery severely affecting the people and sometimes resulting in death are also reported and linked to corruption.

Several anti-graft agencies are working, but the problem seems insurmountable. The positive thing is many agree that corruption is evil and must be dealt with.

But it is hard to figure out the corrupts’ views. They probably consider themselves smart and think their fraudulent acts cannot be detected. In other words, they think the non-corrupt are stupid.

It is also possible they assume they are untouchable, which explains why they act with impunity. Besides, among the corrupt, there could be those who think it is normal to dip their hands into the till. Rampant corruption has desensitised the people to the extent they have taken it as a normal way of earning.

Some job seekers are only motivated to apply where it is easy to steal and where corruption is sanitised as deals.

It is common to hear young people saying they cannot work in places where there are no ‘deals’. This explains why some districts considered poor, have unfilled positions because there is nothing to steal.

The existence of the several agencies to confirm that the fight against corruption has been going on. Their failure could mean the corrupt have outwitted the fighters. It is also possible some individuals in the fight have either been corrupted or are corrupt themselves, which complicates the war against graft.

In his New Year speech, President Yoweri Museveni warned: “The NRM has opened a war on corruption. We shall defeat corruption. There is no corrupt individual that we cannot bring down. All we want is evidence. We never want to be unfair to anybody. Stay tuned on this,” he said.

Last year, the President participated in a walk against corruption, which became a subject of debate. Some thought he was not best suited to participate, because of widespread corruption. Others were in support, arguing it was a strong statement against corruption. He also used the occasion to tell the country that he was wealthy and not corrupt.

As part of the war against corruption, other leaders and public servants are yet to come out and make the same statement publicly. If this happened the corrupt, if they actually know they are, would be identified by their silence.

When the National Resistance Movement (NRM) took power in 1986, the fight against corruption and misuse of power was (and still is) on the 10-point programme, which is a specific thought out checklist for fundamental change.

In the early years of the NRM in power, there were few stories about corruption. Maybe there was nothing to steal or it was underreported.

As the stories grew, over the years, coincidently with the economy improving and a more prying media, the Government responded by setting up anti-corruption measures, including a fully-fledged court to deal with related cases. Now with corruption persisting, it is time to consider conditional amnesty for the corrupt.

In Uganda’s history, since 1986, armed rebels fighting to topple the Government have been offered amnesty upon denouncing rebellion. These include fighters of all dissident groups, including the Holy Spirit Movement led by Alice Lakwena, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army and Peter Otai’s Uganda People’s Army. The amnesty partly contributed in ending the rebellion in Uganda as the perpetrators found it easy landing ground.

Similarly, pardoning the corrupt could contribute in fighting graft. It would involve making a law prescribing confession as a precondition for pardon.

All those who have stolen public funds publicly confess, show how much and how they stole and used the money. As part of the amnesty, property accumulated from the ill-gotten money is confiscated by the State.

There are some similarities between the rebels and the corrupt. Rebels ended people’s lives, destroyed properties and disrupted development. The corrupts’ acts denied people services leading to poor health, death and constricting development overall. Besides confession and pardon, spot checks on people’s properties and asking for instant declarations could be another weapon to fight the evil.

With many agencies and various methods, the war against corruption can be intensified and won.

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