Monday, June 18, 2012


Last week former State House official Alice Kaboyo dodged a bullet.

Charged with abuse of office leading to the loss of up to sh1.6b GAVI funds along with former health ministers JimMuhwezi, Mike Mukula and Dr Alex Kamugisha, Kaboyo pleaded guilty and was let off with a slap on the wrist – a sh20m fine or a two year jail term if she failed to pay the fine.

As an individual she was charged with causing a sh250m loss, money that was meant for immunization programs in the health ministry.

The ruling was received with a worrying disinterest.

Was it that it has been a long time since the case kicked off that we have all forgotten what it was about (stealing life savings vaccines from the babies of Uganda)?

Was it that the conclusion of the case was a forgone conclusion, harking back to the crocodile and tilapia analogy of one retired judge?

Are we so desensitized to the shenanigans of our rich and powerful that we can shrug off such a case and go on with the tough job of getting along?

Maybe we empathise with the poor woman’s frustration with our a convoluted justice system and do not begrudge the good lady cutting a deal any which was she could to extricate herself from the process?

As easy to read as we seem as a people, the muted reaction following the conviction of Kaboyo on her own plea is hard to fathom.

"But maybe that is what makes the Ugandan or African for that matter so resilient. In the last few centuries of our existence we have been sold into slavery, gunned down, colonized, diseased and spat on by foreigner and non-foreigner alike and we are still here. In fact we are growing at such a fantastic pace that people other than ourselves are most concerned about it.  We are the original turners of the left cheek...

One would have to check but this must be landmark case in Uganda. By pleading guilty and paying her fine Ms Kaboyo is thumbing her nose at us, she is admitting to the crimes we the people of Uganda accuse her of and is asking us “What are you going to do about it?”

All other people who have been accused of corruption have protested their innocence relentlessly, played at remorse and if convicted have gone kicking and screaming to serve their time.

But the truth is Kaboyo is a bit player in a larger phenomenon.

A culture of impunity that courses right through the narrative of our everyday lives.

The President has always argued that our society is far away from true democracy because we don’t have very credible stratifications that cut across the largely artificial boundaries of tribe, religion and ethnicity around which we can organize to compete for political power.

It’s a hard argument to counter.

But I think we are now getting there. Not in the way that we may have intended but we are getting their anyway.

The divide between the have and the have-nots is sharpening. Where the haves are the educated, driving, chattering classes, who to the have-nots, live totally unattainable lifestyles that the have-nots are convinced can only be attained by corruption, theft and crude accumulation.

The have-nots of course, not advantaged by access to education and technical know-who eke out a living often working for us, jumping out of the way of our second hand cars and  having to display sickening obsequiousness to obtain our favour.

"You see, when the revolution comes, the distinction some of us make between pilfering government officials and the rest, will not exist for the wretched of the earth...

Which reminds me of the story of my friend who is as Ganda as they come. During the unrest a few years ago in Kampala this friend was hauled out of his car around Makerere and made to prove his identity. After passing all the tests, the angry youth remained unconvinced about the pedigree of my friend. You see my friend just happens to be dark as night, whose height and loud self-confidence may suggest he is a nilot.

In view of such a context when the brown stuff starts flying,the English speaking elite will close ranks against the rest, purely out of self-preservation, regardless of whether we are angels or demons. A totally unnecessary but inevitable situation the way things are going.

Is there any hope for us? Maybe, if the purveyors of such impunity can repent of their sins and turn away from their sins … but then again this is Uganda!

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