October 21, 2013 (KAMPALA) - Human Rights Watch has in a report released on Monday accused the Ugandan government of unwillingness and failure to fight corruption involving senior figures.
The report entitled “Letting the Big Fish Swim,” jointly authored by Human Rights Watch and the Yale Law School’s Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic says failure to bring to book powerful individuals accused of corruption has led to the loss of millions of dollars of public money.
‘‘No high-ranking government official, minister, or political appointee has ever served a prison sentence despite investigations into numerous corruption scandals over many years and an impressive array of anti-corruption institutions,’’ observes the report.
‘‘Scandal after scandal, the government’s patronage politics and lack of political will undermine the fight against corruption in Uganda,” said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher in a statement released on Monday by Human Rights Watch.
“Throughout President Yoweri Museveni’s 27 years in office his promises to tackle corruption have proliferated while officials responsible for graft at the highest levels go free,” Burnet added.
The report argues that the massive theft by individuals in the Ugandan government has had a direct impact on human rights. As a case in point, the report cites the US$12.7 million of donor money stolen by officials in the office of the Uganda Prime Minister.
The money was meant for the post conflict recovery of northern Uganda, a region that for two decades was at the epicentre of the conflict between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
In 2010, US$ 45 million meant for fight against AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria was diverted by officials in Uganda’s Health Ministry. Another US$12 million was stolen from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations. In each of these cases, none of the officials involved in the theft was found guilty and jailed for the thefts.
“Instead of being brought to justice, people accused of stealing millions and millions of dollars in Uganda are often just shifted to other government positions,” Burnett said.
“Uganda’s national game of musical chairs needs to stop. Corrupt officials shouldn’t be able to wriggle out of the prosecutors’ grasp.”
A significant potion of Uganda’s national budget still comes from donor support. In the 2012 budget for example 30% came from donors.
Human Rights Watch recommends that international donors should financially support anti-corruption local activists in documenting and raising awareness of corruption.