I have read an article by Charles Onyango Obbo titled ‘Art of catching thieves; From Uganda to Kenya’ (The Monitor, Wednesday July 28, 2004) where the veteran columnist tried to compare Uganda’s corruption struggle with that of Kenya’s and the Donors quiescence on NRM Government.
I would hesitate to say that donors were hard on Daniel. A. Moi’s government and that they are turning their guns to that of Mwai Kibaki when they treated that of Museveni’s with kid gloves simply because donors- or development partners as we understand them around Uganda- have a stake especially in good governance that may have nothing to do with political systems.
My argument stems from the fact that, donors are composed of many countries which do not necessarily have the similar political systems in their homelands. Scandinavian countries, USA, Germany, Britain or China all have different political organisations/systems, but they have one unification factor as donors and that is good governance.
Coming to corruption, the donor community is very hard on President Mwai Kibaki’s government simply because Kenya as a nation has not put a legal framework that will enhance the struggle against corruption. At least Obbo knows the legal frame work in Uganda short comings in the real struggle not withstanding.
In-fact, one should get surprised on why donors are arguing on where the office of Kenya’s Ombudsman should be located. Whether it is located in the Ministry of Justice or President’s office is of no consequence especially when office is not independently functioning with a clear mandate and legal framework as in the case of Uganda.
Mr Obbo mentioned that there is a shift of companies especially the multinational companies. He gave an example of Mobile Phone Market where Uganda has 1 million subscribers compared to Safari Com to Kenya with around 2.7 million users. Indeed that’s not a surprise because there is good Telecom infrastructure in Kenya compared to that of Uganda. One would rather check on the growth rate of the telecom development in order to arrive at why Kenya boasts of such high figures.
As a matter of fact Uganda only boasts lone satellite earth stations (Intelsat) and one Inmarsat; and just analog links to two neighbouring countries compared to Kenya has four (Intelsat) stations. In mathematical terms Kenya has four times capacity.
In future I will attempt to compare public pay phones access points and Information Portals for the two countries to assess the level of ICT development.
I would also rather have Obbo comparing economic growth rates for the two countries and there per capital since corruption has serious effects on both. For Uganda’s case we have been singing of economic growth on average of 4.5% while Kenya talks of 1.7%. When NARC won the elections there were high expectations.
Then the GDP per capital in United States Dollars at that time and the glaring declining figures for Kenya as compared to those of Uganda gives donors the reason to shout more where it obviously hurting as according to CIA World fact book 2004, Kenya was at 1000 and Uganda 1400; Of course one could compare the above figures with those of Egypt estimated at 4,000$ and the troubled East Timor of about 500$.
Back to the question of corruption, I would wish to restate that stealing public funds has nothing to do with political inclination, rather as Obbo rightly stated governments need constant pressure and institutions to fight corruption.
First of all I agree with the argument that any political condition that would take power on a corruption ticket becomes highly unstable and in most cases, because of conflicting interests as in case of NARC, the confusion thereafter bleeds corruption because partners to the coalition are normally adhoc with one aim-capturing power.
In addition to this, such adhoc arrangements are never meant to change the image of government through fighting corruption and promotion of good governance but rather to change the players in the political field and thus, corruption becomes a modus operandi rather than an evil to fight. In fact you will realise that the new breed will wish to talk, live, drink and move like the old ‘wizards’ at government’s cost and in a very short time.
Secondly, it is not true that the government of Uganda and the donor community thinks that fighting corruption was less urgent because the office of IGG was part of the NRM’s famous ten point programmes. And even capturing power, the office of IGG was established under the statue No 11 of 1988. My argument is not whether that office has a serious effect on the fight against corruption but rather that there was a will to tackle it.
Thirdly, it is not true that for Uganda donors were not united against corruption. Indeed, the Ambassador of US South Wich was the voice against corruption. In Uganda’s case it was donor pressure that fertilised the Leadership Code Statue to breed the Leadership Code Act 2002.
Suffice to say the legal framework is also embedded in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda enacted in 1995 constitution. Uganda’s legal framework therefore is in place compared to that of Kenya where a new constitution is about to be passed and some elements of Kibaki government are fighting to ensure that it is never passed.
For those reasons, Kenya deserves more donors bashing than Uganda although I would also think that the struggle against corruption in Uganda must be strengthened not only by donors but also by all citizen that loves our country.
Mr. Mwai Kibaki’s government has launched investigations into K Sh 2.7b (Us dollar 33m or about 54b Uganda shillings) project to improve Kenya’s system for issuing passports. There are serious allegations against Kenya’s top officials who meddled into the procurement process with many irregularities. In Uganda while the level of corruption is also appalling, the obvious amounts may not be comparable with those of our neighbour where Moi might be an “angel” in the eyes of many who had hoped that NARC could make a difference.
Uganda’s is struggling through implementation of various laws like the Public Procurement Act 2003 that will play a big role in the fight if it supported by all stakeholders. Corruption cases around are majorly related to it.
And by the way on a lighter note when you read the press in Uganda you find a big fish like Okumu Ringa alleging corruption in ministry of Justice and Finance (This was reported in ‘Sunday Vision’) and when he is tasked to name the corrupt officials he states as usual that he was ‘misquoted’ (after two weeks when the story was run)- how did some one come out with the adage that ‘it is never too late’.
And another junior Minister who is a lawyer, Mr Bitangaro claims that there is no proof in an investigation implicating him in bribing a legal officer in Justice over a Yugoslav fraudulent claim (This was reported by Monitor). He was reported at first to have said that “he is a friend to Deus Byamugisha”-which means giving him a gift or token of millions of shillings is normal-‘then thereafter he asked who ever investigated for proof in form of cheques he allegedly paid- In other words even if the cheques are produced he is simply saying that he transacts business with a friend in Justice!? Here you don’t need donors to shout that there is corruption; they can only advise some of these ‘bad apples’ to shape out.
Lastly, I would wish also to state that petty corruption is higher in Kenya than in Uganda. In Kenya, the name Kitu Kidogo or chai is institutionalised and more common than Ugali compared to Uganda where the money paid as a bribe is rushed to the nearest drawer in order to avoid arrest. I travelled via Kenya sometime back and I was shocked when one of the immigration officials asked for 100 K. Shs (Ug. 2000/=) in order for him to stamp on my travel document. In fact, Akamba bus was delayed for about twenty minutes because I was still resisting paying. Don’t ask me whether I eventually succumbed!! There were also other government officials who were receiving small denominations of 20, 50 and other small ones, in order for them to offer services. In Uganda they rather ask for more and die.
In conclusion therefore, Kenya is rated highly in the corruption than in Uganda as indicated in the corruption perception index of recent. And since as we know that thieves have no political, racial or sex inclination, then donors should shout more because you put your mouth where your money is! Donors like us the way we are, but surely I believe they would not want to leave us that way.