Local reports say that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni believes that one way of tackling corruption in the country is by offering amnesty to repentant corrupt leaders.
President Museveni announced this last Saturday at a meeting attended by the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party MPs at State House, Entebbe. The 71-year old leader of the NRM said he will forgive public servants who confess to corruption or aiding corruption, but not those who are caught stealing.
“This time, I am going to be very tough about crushing corruption. I want you MPs to help me crush it. This is the time to eradicate that menace,” the Observer, a local News Agency reported. “For those civil servants who have been engaging in corruption, this is the time to confess. If we gave amnesty to those that fought the government, especially during the LRA war, how about those who confess to corruption?”
The announcement was received with mixed emotions. While some government officials applauded the announcement, others said his speech is “his usual song” on corruption.
“For him to have talked about amnesty to the corrupt, it means the investigations could have indicated that his brother or a relative is in a corruption scandal. We agreed that whoever is caught should go to jail and his properties auctioned to get back public funds. How do you again amend something you have not implemented?” One MP who attended the caucus but wanted to remain anonymous argued.
To those complaining that the rule is tough, the President “warned that he is going to get tougher unless the thieves confess and return the loot,” the news outlet said.
For a President who has used power, time and resources to ensure that he remains in the top position in spite of calls by the opposition leaders, and monitors for an international audit on the recent elections, his fight on graft is just but ironic.
Although reports from the EU monitors showed that the February polls were held in an intimidating atmosphere, and was neither independent nor transparent as it ought to be, the government continued to reject the allegations with officials claiming that Museveni’s victory was lawful, free and fair.
A 2013 report by Human Rights Watch and the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic of Yale University found that the president and Parliament "have failed to empower key institutions, either by failing to fill key vacancies or by failing to establish institutions..."
The report named the Ugandan leader as one of those responsible for what it calls widespread "bribery, nepotism, and misuse of official positions and resources" in the country.
Lack of implementing a country’s set of laws, for selfish personal gains is unethical. It is corruption. But Museveni seems to be seeing corruption from a filtered perspective, which only targets looters.
There have been rumors that the NRM leaders are plotting to keep the east African leader in power longer. The party members are pushing for a change of constitution, which the President appointed Odoki Commission to draft in 1988. The commission later sought views of Ugandans from across the country, and one of the views that was passed is that the term of office for the President shall be five years, renewable only once. This was and is still the view that Ugandans unanimously reinforced.
In a televised interview earlier in the year, Museveni confirmed fears of the possibilities of term limit changes. He told the BBC: "We don't believe in term limits. "If you don't want them [leaders] to be there forever, you vote them out."
How to vote such leaders out, when they have all the privileges to keep holding to power is what Ugandans and the rest of Africans facing the same predicaments have to devise in the near future.
If offering amnesty to looters will help put the menace to an end, by all means, the plan should be supported and could be a learning platform for the rest of the African nations dealing with corruption in their economies.