The perils of corruption in Uganda makes it a political problem

Morris Komakech

The subject of pervasive corruption in Uganda accentuates a deeply seated sense of pessimism, followed by powerlessness in its victims, which leads to an internalized and normalized justification of it. Corruption, primarily perpetuates itself through a degenerative morality/ethics, feeds the politics of lumpen proletariats, and, in my view, it is the manifestation of the body politics of violence against societal integrity.

Corruption in Uganda has acquired a unique and devastating characteristic that needs proper scrutiny. The arguments in Moses Khisa’s “Is Corruption a Moral or Political Problem?” (The Observer, Dec 3, 2015), enticed me to write this piece.

The uniqueness of Uganda’s corruption is that, it has acquired a sustainable life of its own and is now a regenerative system, courted and used officially as a political tool to sustain this government, and a method through which asymmetry in government obtains. However, the bigger picture of corruption is that it is largely inspired by the State functionaries as an exercise of structural violence. Through rampant corruption, the system violently assaults our moral fabrics, thereby, setting ground for heinous crimes against the State and all its institutions.

Ugandan is overwhelmed by corruption in ways that shocks even Lucifer, himself. Nothing in this country goes on without bribe seeking or expectation of it. No public or private institution is immune of this vice. Corruption is the HIV of our societal institutions, and its endemic malfunctions, are its AIDS.

The level of bribe seeking has become so commonplace that every service provider appears ordained with natural sense of deficits to justify the act. Every moment, from the simple act of chivalry, bribe and kickbacks are expected. For that, the environment for syndicated corruption, a version of organized violent crime, has festered. Here, everyone is connected on the corruption lifeline, from the President, Minister, the Judges, Law enforcement, to the last person who supervises ghost employees, signs for their salaries and shares such illicit proceeds with their bosses above.

The argument that bribe seeking is a form of indirect taxation, exemplifies a significant loophole in government tax regime. Here, again, we see the decay in moral principles, and inability to apply an equitable tax regime. The rich and well-connected people are allowed to transact business in this country without paying taxes. The so-called foreign investors are lavished with tax holidays with guarantees to repatriate profits tax-free, at the expense of the local investors.  In fact, the entire economic structure of Uganda is hostile, and excluding of local investments. It is such structured inequities that replenishes the bloodlines of corruption and augments the culture of bribe seeking and taking cuts. A Dr. Carl Stauffer observed that corruption feeds off of power asymmetry and thereby inadvertently nurtures and legitimates hierarchy, patrimony and dependency.

The brand of Uganda’s corruption, is the manifestation of non-combat violence waged by the NRM against the moral fabrics of society. The NRM’s core ideology is rooted in the justification of violence as a means of achieving social transformation. More-so, the people who loot this country are well protected. They have their sons, daughters and relatives in high places in the security agencies and in key nodes, where money and power changes hands.

I was sincerely disturbed by the arrogance and violence imbued in the testimonies during proceedings at the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire’s Commission that investigated the Uganda National Roads Authority. Suspects spoke as if they had the right to have acted unprofessionally to siphon funds and build substandard roads. To them, such diversions bore no imminent sense of criminality. Corruption has already devoured the moral and conscience of our society. You would expect the President to have acted expeditiously on the report. Only to note that his hands are tied because the tale of this corruption has a complicated trail and webs that spares no one. Everyone is culpable and we are left without any moral authority to confront it. The perils of corruption makes it equally a political issue.

Mr. Komakech is a Ugandan social critic and political analyst based in Canada. Can contact via