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The corrupt are heroes, the honest are fools

By Vision Reporter

Added 26th November 2008 03:00 AM

The Inspectorate of Government on November 19, officially released results of the third National Integrity Survey, yet, another milestone for the Inspector General of Government (IGG), the Police and Judiciary who took the trophy of the poorest integrity in the land.

The Inspectorate of Government on November 19, officially released results of the third National Integrity Survey, yet, another milestone for the Inspector General of Government (IGG), the Police and Judiciary who took the trophy of the poorest integrity in the land.

By Prof. Augustus Nuwagaba

The Inspectorate of Government on November 19, officially released results of the third National Integrity Survey, yet, another milestone for the Inspector General of Government (IGG), the Police and Judiciary who took the trophy of the poorest integrity in the land.

According to the report, the corrupt practices were largely attributed to greed, a practice characterised by what I call primitive accumulation of capital.

This refers to a situation where people steal public resources with impunity, including drugs for children, and medical equipment.

As a result, Uganda continues with a shameful infant mortality rate of 76 per 1000 children born alive every year and even a more shame of death of 435 per 100,000 women annually during child delivery.

How about our schools and roads? The answers are known to every body. It is, however, most saddening the corrupt and the wealthy are perceived as “heroes” while the honest and the poor are regarded as “fools”. This is the highest level of moral decadence and societal betrayal.

Three thousand five hundred years ago, the Law of Moses condemned bribery. Bribery is considered one of the images of corruption that changed the nature of man. For this reason, the Lord gives us a very important commandment in the Law of Moses in the Old Testament. The Lord said: “And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous” (Exodus 23:8).

In the Book of Deuteronomy, the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who takes a bribe” (Deuteronomy 27:25).The Bible further says: “He who hates unjust gain will prolong his days” (Proverbs 28:16), “Do not gather my soul together with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men. In whose hands is a sinister scheme and whose right hand is full of bribes. But as for me, I will walk in my integrity. Redeem me and be merciful to me” (Psalm 26:9-11).

Over the centuries, anti-corruption laws have proliferated. Nevertheless, legislation has not succeeded in curbing corruption. Corruption in Uganda is spreading like a summer fire.

Corruption can be put in perspective from the 1950s where families and friends were exchanging gifts. However, the gifts were transformed and they transcended the family and friendship levels. The 1970s were a period of moral decadence where the army went on rampage and would grab people’s property in broad daylight. This was orchestrated by the leadership of the then president of Uganda Idi Amin who presided over an economy that virtually atrophied.

In the mid-1980s, the country seemed to have returned to sanity. However, the corruption cancer has now eaten away the moral fabric of the society.

It is even astonishing that the church — the epicentre of morality — has not been spared. It is not uncommon for the people of God to extort money from the church goers under the guise of performing miracles of healing, praying for them and solving their personal problems to the extent of annexing their property.

Corruption is so widespread and sophisticated that it threatens our existence. Bribery has become the life blood of individual members in society. The IGG is laudable for the commendable work that is being done. However, the IGG can hardly succeed single-handedly.

The institution requires everyone’s support in every arena. At home, what values are parents imparting in then children?

Then, at school what are the teachers doing? Are they role models as they used to be? The public servants, the Business community, our political leaders, the Judiciary and the youth are they mindful of the fact that corruption affects us all.

We must all rise up to the challenge to fight the cancer even in its remotest form or we relax upon a sinking ship. This is in line with Montesquieu, a celebrated French philosopher, who counselled thus: “An injustice committed against anyone is a threat to everyone.”

Uganda is not devoid of capacity to fight corruption. All that is needed is political commitment to fight the vice. It is disheartening that people will only value a service to which a bribe has been paid as reported by the National Integrity Survey.

How do we fight this cancer? Strict enforcement of the law is necessary to make corruption a very risky and non-lucrative venture. Like Edmond Burke said, “The necessary condition for the triumph of evil is for good men (women) to do nothing.”

The vigilance of the general public in reporting and testifying against the corrupt suspects would be a good sign in the desired direction. To facilitate this, however, informers, whistle-blowers and witnesses need protection, otherwise they will fear retribution.

To re-echo the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “Our lives begin to end when we keep silent about things that matter.” Corruption is like a snowball, once it starts rolling it must increase. This implies that when those who are corrupt go unpunished, few are willing to swim against the tide. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil,” observed King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

Granted, greed may be good for making money, but it invariably winks at corruption and illegality. Usually, the victims of corruption and the economic devastation it spawns are the poor— the ones who rarely bribe anyone.

This country is extremely dire for an intervention. We cannot accept the shame of living in poverty amid plenty. Yes, together we can change the face of our country.

The writer is a poverty eradication
specialist in the African Region

The corrupt are heroes, the honest are fools

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