by Rosebell Kagumire
Last week, Ugandans saw and participated in different dramas that can only give you a glimpse into a nation in a moral dilemma.
Businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba was arrested at Entebbe International Airport
as he attempted to leave the country after a four nights of a cat-and-mouse chase and several police summonses. For a week our intelligence couldn’t ascertain whether Basajjabalaba was in the country as his lawyer and also my shameless Member of Parliament Michael Mawanda lied to courts!
Basajjabalaba is wanted over fraud in connection with alleged forgery of a consent document, which led to payment of Shs142 billion by the government. This arose from the reversing of the then Kampala City Council decision to sell Nakasero, Shauriyako, and St. Balikuddembe (Owino) markets, and the Constitution Square to Mr Basajjabalaba.
These are not the only cases that have this businessman’s name in fraud schemes. Daily Monitor reported detectives told Basajjabalaba he was under arrest because “The President [Museveni] has agreed that you be arrested.” This is a year of chasing and this statement is very telling.
After two nights in Luzira prison, Basajjabalaba got his right to bail! He was asked to pay 60 million shillings and his entourage to court proudly whispered how they had carried 300 million to the court!
Outside the courthouse in Kololo, Basajjabalaba had jumbilant crowd waiting for him and evoking the name of God – being on their side! I don’t blame them, there’s not just God but very many gods –Ugandan gods on their side for now!
Basajjabalaba hails from my district even after Museveni chopped it into pieces! I was quite disheartened last year when a journalist based in Bushenyi told me of a story regarding Basajjabalaba taking a tender to construct a stadium and up now nothing has been done! This journalist informed me that not any media house in the region could broadcast that story because most people somehow get to taste a bit of Basajjabalaba’s money or are too afraid to do anything. And why can’t this happen in Bushenyi if you are dealing with a man who ‘eludes’ a country’s intelligence for a week and his arrest only comes after the president has agreed?
In the same the Anti-Corruption Court., Soroti municipality MP Mike Mukula was not lucky! Mukula was sentenced to four years in prison
after he was found guilty of embezzling of Shs 210m of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) funds.
Mukula signed for Shs 263m on behalf of the First Lady, Janet Museveni, which money was part of GAVI funds donated to Uganda for treatment of children infected with HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis.
In this Gavi scandal up 1.6 billion shillings were allegedly misappropriated under the nose of Jim Muhwezi as Minister for Health, Dr Alex Kamugisha State for Primary Healthcare and Mukula. Mukula’s supporters were in tears and Mukula called this political persecution and selective justice.
"I saw people wailing when Mukula was sentenced and was wondering how the Mothers who lost their kids for lack of drugs, the HIV/AIDS patients who went without ARVs and the TB Patients who had no drugs and possibly those who died should have done were feeling. What should those who lost relatives for lack of drugs because GAVI funds were diverted do? The FACT is Mukula and the gang stole money meant to save lives of Ugandans and he should not be forgiven. We should only call on the state to bring the rest to justice."
And journalist Angelo Izama
wondered why is there so much sympathy for Hon. Capt. Mike Mukula
? When the Global Fund/Gavi was to news what the OPM scandal
is today he was vilified now the political mood seems different but why?
Charles Mwanguhya, another journalist responded:
"Did you see the celebration that followed Bassajjabalaba’s bail and do you remember the daily demonstrations and riots in Markets when he took them over? Tells you one thing, the handling of the politics of corruption defeats the fight itself and will distort both the politics and graft fight."
Some Ugandans seemed to sysmpathy with Mukula because the money was returned or believed he was being singled out while the other two ministers were untouched. The Ugandan government heads are basically at that time where regime survival is priority. They will ‘sacrifice’ one at a time to show those with money bags that they are indeed fighting corruption.
What Ugandans should be discussing is not whether Mukula’s conviction was selective or persecution, we should be calling for the rest of the gang to be brought to justice. But this is not an easy call to reach as many quickly resort to tribal politics, the same politics the regime wants us to focus on!
It is very telling to see that Mike Mukula is chairperson for Eastern Uganda for Museven’s ruling party NRM while Basajjabalaba is NRM Chairperson for my district, Bushenyi. This shows how corruption is the most well distributed asset (Kabwegyere believes) Uganda has got!
Going by the reaction of Mukula’s supporters I wouldn’t be shocked if in future some Minister or Prime Minister is being prosecuted for the OPM scandal and we will have Ugandans flooding our courts in tears!
To those working for this regime and helping the powers that be steal our resources and the rest of the country suffers with poor public services, I hope you learn something from Mukula conviction! In the end , it doesn’t matter who asks you to steal!
A version of this article was originally posted on the author's blog