KAMPALA, Uganda, November 15, 2012 - Ugandans are emphatically demanding death penalty for those who continue to perpetrate the endemic corruption in the country. Disenchanted Ugandans say current laws are too soft on corrupt, Advocates propose open execution and conviction of perpetrators, emulating the Singapore system.
Under the current law, the Anti Corruption Act of 2009 section 26, the maximum sentence for corruption is ten to twelve years in prison plus a fine of the court’s discretion. The maximum sentence for false accounting by a public officer cannot exceed three years of imprisonment. Embezzlement carries the severest penalty of 14 years maximum imprisonment.
“The corrupt should be removed from our society. This was done in China, if you engaged in corruption they would hang you”,Alex Ruhunda, the Member of Parliament for Fortportal Municipality said in a bid to convince the house against graft by officials in the nascent oil sector.
However, some moderate activists do not believe stiffer penalties will prevent corruption. They argue that inadequate transparency in governance rather than weak laws has allowed the practice to thrive. They also say the politically well connected avoid investigation and prosecution, so tougher laws would have little impact.
Indeed, Justice John Bosco Katusi recently addressed the problem of selective prosecution when passing verdict on to the former managing director of the National Security Fund. Katusi stated, “I am tired of trying small fish while the big fish enjoy deep waters.”
Activists cite the difficulties in prosecuting high ranking officials as further proof of selective prosecution. Officials, former vice president Gilbert Bukenya, often avert prosecution for “lack of sufficient evidence” or other technicalities which brings automatic acquittal. For example, three government ministers, Sam Kutesa,John Nassassira and Mwesigwa Rukutana, recently won acquittal due to lack of evidence in their trial over misuse of government funds.
The former acting ombudsman attributes continued corruption to lack of financial resources in the office of the inspectorate of government to effectively combat the practice.
“The effects of corruption make it a capital offence, however there is an international crusade against capital punishments and as such we have to weigh the problems of capital punishments against those of corruption,” Raphal Baku told local media.
The East African bribery index 2012 conducted by Transparency International gave Uganda the lead position in corruption - - with 40.7% among the five east African nations including Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania.
The most recent corruption scandal involves graft in the office of the prime minister. The investigation centers on Geoffrey Kazinda, the principal accountant for the office. The scandal centers on misuse of of approximately $30 million in donor aid, meant for the victims of the Bunduda landslides. The investigation came thanks to media reports that revealed Mr. Kazinda’s wealth, which contradicted his position as a low ranking public official.
Although Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi attempted to assure donors that the country is working to establish controls, but also that conviction of Mr. Kazinda can only come after a thorough and independent investigation. The Prime Minister’s statements also are attempts to calm opposition activists who claim the Prime Minister should step aside to allow independent investigation, since the incident took place inside his office.
President Yoweri Museveni seems to share Mbabazi’s view, though he also concedes the seeming defeat from the cancer of corruption.
“We successfully fought the liberation war, the only war that remains a challenge is that of corruption”, the president said in his pre- 50th independence anniversary speech
Among its effects, corruption has created a sharp economic divide between a section of the working class especially the ones in public offices and the rest of the ordinary Ugandans who either morally work genuinely or have no avenues to join the race of citizens amassing wealth from corruption.
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