In the ongoing analysis of how Uganda’s seat of power is infested by hounds, let’s shift focus to early money bonanzas by President Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni to empower various firms with financial capital, ostensibly to enhance their performance in the economy.
By the time of writing this article we had not found evidence that any of the firms paid back the public money they received with the president’s authority.
But we know that the president still intervenes with money bonanzas to financially capacitate even very shadowy firms, such as those of the Italian-Arab woman, Enrica Pinetti, alleged to be a daughter of former Libyan strongman Mammuar Gaddafi. The president of Uganda, both as an institution and personality, stood on his feet and insisted that parliament allocated money to Pinetti to run Uganda’s coffee industry as the sole buyer and processor, and to build a state-of-the-art Lubowa Hospital.
Later the president said he was the one who told Pinetti to add value to Uganda Coffee before he angrily said he was Pinetti. Indeed, on February 10, 2022, Minister Matia Kasaija signed a coffee processing deal with Enrica Pinetti worth Ush284 billion ($77.5 million) to process and export Uganda coffee to Europe and the Middle East.
We were not been able to establish whether the Pinetti deal-based coffee processing has started and if Europe and the Middle East have started to get the Pinetti processed coffee. All we know is that at the instigation of the president of Uganda, Pinetti got the Uganda taxpayers’ money.
However, we know also that the building of Lubowa Hospital stalled, although Pinetti initially got Ush349 billion ($95.3 million) to build it, and the Minister of Finance asked Parliament for another Ush319 billion ($87 million) for the hospital.
This is part of today’s presidentially mediated fleecing of the country of scarce financial resources. In the past the story was roughly the same, but probably Ugandans were so mesmerised with “liberation” that they did not notice how money bonanzas then were disguised channels for diverting public money to the pockets of individuals, ostensibly to develop the country. Individual merit approach to the economy was very much at work as it was to political leadership and governance.
Below, in Table 1, is a list of firms publicly known to have received financial endowments in a similar manner. It would not be surprising if some of them no longer existed. However, it is publicly known that many firms owned by the top cadres of the NRM political establishment, and even those in the middle or even lower cadres but connected by blood and/or family to the cabal in power, did not start their firms with their own money.
They either got money bonanzas presidentially or through dubious deals that resulted in their primitive accumulation of wealth, which is the same as stealing from government coffers or from the public.
Table 1. Beneficiary Firms of Presidential Money Bonanzas of President Tibuhaburwa Museveni
Uganda Motor Ltd Ush1.7 billion UPET 2.4bn
Akamba (U) Ltd Ush 329 million Biggrey Trading Co 358 million
BTS (U) Ush173 million Central Purchasing Co Ltd Ush 5.3 billion
Dick Kizito Ush168 million GM Combine 368 million
Highway Motors Ltd Ush101 million GM TUMPECO Ltd Ush299 million
Jasaba Pharmaceuticals Ltd Ush209 million Kibuguma Coffee Growers Ltd Ush58 million
Makyo Enterprises Ltd Ush36 million Marks Pharmaceuticals Ltd Ush74m
Mpiima Trading Co Ltd Ush58 million Oscar Industries Ltd Ush218m
Republic Motors Ltd Ush547 million Siki Trading Co Ltd Ush145 million
Sembule Steel Mills Ush385 million Tank Hill Quarry Ush37 million
Spear Motor Ltd Ush14 million
It would indeed be useful if researchers found out how many of the above-mentioned firms still survive in the harsh economic environment, how many have returned the public money to the government coffers, and how many have paid and continue to pay taxes. We are saying so because we know for sure that the president’s own firm called DANZE was wound up by the president because it evaded paying taxes to Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). We are aware that the president apologised to Ugandans, but we are not sure if the firm paid the back taxes before or after it was wound up. That is for future researchers to find out.
Today corruption through money bonanzas is most detectable in presidentially launched and preferred purely economic, socially empty anti-community schemes, namely: Bonna Bagaggawale, Myooga, Operation Wealth Creation and Parish Development Model.
Although vast sums of money have been passed through these schemes, claiming that they are a means to combat debilitating poverty, the truth on the ground is that they have had little value added in the fight against poverty. They have either entrenched poverty in the rural areas or enriched those involved in implementing them, these are invariably NRM party functionaries, politicians of the ruling party, soldiers and presidential representatives in the country’s numerous, often unviable districts, and called Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) or their deputies (D/RDCs).
President Tibuhaburwa Museveni innovated the Zero Tolerance for Corruption (ZTC), but he probably did not suspect that the Money Bonanza Strategy (MBS) would emerge to be a major avenue for fleecing the country of money that would otherwise be invested in economic and social activities like agriculture, education and health for the social development of Ugandans.
However, we know and have stated in our previous article that the president discouraged his Inspector General of Government (IGG) Beti Kamya from using a method (ie, Lifestyle Audit) that was successful in combating corruption in Singapore to catch the thieves surrounding him. He reasoned that it would discourage the looters from investing their loot in the country and pushing them to invest in foreign countries.
If Ms Kamya felt a bit uncomfortable with President Museveni’s public emasculation of her efforts to fight corruption in Uganda, she actually came off quite lightly, compared to her counterpart anti-corruption CEOs elsewhere in Africa, who have been publicly humiliated and summarily hounded out of office long before the end of their tenure, the very moment these anti-corruption chiefs started stepping on the toes of some crooked members of the political establishment.
This list includes: Leonard McArthur of South Africa (2003); Nuhu Ribadu of Nigeria (2004); Ibrahim Lamorde of Nigeria (2007); Farida Waziri of Nigeria (2008); Prof PLO Lumumba of Kenya (2010); Ibrahim Magu of Nigeria (2015); Martha Chizua of Malawi (2021) and Abdulrasheed Mawa of Nigeria (2023).
This alarming mortality of the top officials appointed to fight corruption in Africa is a simple manifestation of corruption vociferously fighting back, all over Africa.
Growing up in the immediate post-independent Uganda of the 1960s, we were constantly bombarded with a common rhetoric by members of the ruling political class then, that the problems of underdevelopment in Uganda in particular and Africa in general were caused by colonialists. The citizenry believed these pollical leaders hook, line and sinker, although more out of patriotism than lack the desire to offer a counter-narrative.
Half a century later, this excuse does not only sound senile, but has become increasingly unsustainable. It is therefore high time we faced the ugly truth that one of the main reasons for our underdevelopment is not due to colonialists but is much closer home: an embarrassingly inept political leadership, characterised by excessive, if not unhealthy, desire to remain perennially in power at all costs, invariably spiced with excessive, if not destructive levels of primitive looting of public funds.
Incidentally, and very tragically for Uganda, these were the very sentiments expressed by none other than President Museveni himself, soon after capturing power nearly 44 years ago. The question remains: What then happened?
- A Tell report / By Prof Oweyegha-Afunaduula, a former professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences of the Makerere University, Uganda