The ongoing stealing of public funds and property is just a continuation of the NRA/M bush war life style.
Any body conversant with the history and behaviors of rebel Movements may agree with the premise that, they all wage war against governments of the day claiming that, they are “fighting to liberate the oppressed”. With this kind of claimed justification whether supported by the public or not, they will use all available avenues and accessible resources at their disposal to capture state power. No government that transformed itself from a rebel group to state government that can honestly claim to have used clean and justifiable means to get to get power. Those who say so, it is just propaganda which is an indispensable tool of any government.
These rebel groups normally create social disorder as one of the biggest tools to weaken and de-popularize sitting governments. Actions to create social disorder range from targeting and destroying government institutions, they rob banks both government and private, they steal public property such as food and cars, abduct and force victims to join their ranks.
Northing or few of what I have mentioned above may have been an exception to the NRA/M during their five years of armed struggle to overthrow the Obote II government. It may be interesting to talk to the many middle-aged men and women who spent five years in the bush during this armed struggle. However, anybody who is forty years old like me, doesn’t need to make serious consultations on this. Banks were often robbed during day time; citizens lost their cars; people’s gardens and animals in Luweero triangle and other places were looted. As someone who has had an opportunity to work in war ravaged places, and interacted with rebel groups, I know some people were trained to execute such missions. In other words, people are trained to rob banks and the public, very much the same way they are trained to kill any enemy, or anybody deemed to be so.
The NRA/M like other rebel movements, did not have enough resources. When a story is told that they started with only 27 guns (a convenient myth by the way), it is not because that is what they wanted; rather it was what was available, and all possible means had to be used to secure more guns and other needed resources. It is only logical that many of them were trained to execute such missions, and needless to mention that during the bush days, stealing was an official practice. The only difference being, then, the rebels were only stealing on behalf of their movement, or their superiors for that matter.
It is very important for the reader to understand that when rebel movements succeed in taking over state power, or enforce secession for a given region, that new government comes with it’s a culture and pattern of practices. Many of the Movement gurus, historical and die hard Movement supporters whose names repeatedly appear in the media more often for wrong reasons ranging from alleged gross corruption such as the Global Fund scandal, the NSSF scandal, stealing of public property disguised as privatization, and here the list is endless, is just a continuation of a culture and a pattern of practices created while still in the bush. Many of these people must have been planners or executers of the violent bank robberies, and many other despicable and inhuman acts during the bush war that created endless suffering especially to the people of Luweero for the those five years. It didn’t really matter very much if these fellows joined the bush as sons and daughters of respectable pastors, priests, ex-seminarians, religious brothers or Hajjis or Al-hajis for that matter.
It is very clear in my opinion that many of these people were involved in the bank robberies, stole people’s food and ate their animals for free. They were trained in doing all these things, and they did so because they deemed it morally acceptable as a group, and for many it became part and parcel of their life to this today. When Brigadier Kasirye Ggwanda tells you that he was trained to kill people, take him seriously, because he can shoot you for stealing a mango. And when Major General Muhwezi asks Justice Ogola where he was when he was fighting, he is actually questioning his naivety, for not knowing that during the bush, part of their training was amassing wealth by using all means and resources at your disposal, regardless of the law says.
It is now twenty 22 years since the NRA/M came to power, and this institutionalized culture and pattern of corruption, day time robbery and usurper of public property is only gaining momentum. The only difference with the way this kind of business was being executed between the 1981-86, from what we see to day, is methodology, but probably, the same individuals continue with same business. It may not be surprising that all the bank robberies that have taken place in the past years, have had a connection with this group.
An article written by Tangri, Roger and Andrew Mwenda: “Corruption and Cronyism in Uganda’s Privatization in the 1990s”, in: African Affairs 2001, is a masterpiece worthy reading to understand the ongoing endless corruption scandals. The style of comportment by the educated Movement elites with regard to privatization especially in the 1990’s seem to suggest that they felt so powerful and determined to get rich at all costs. It may be difficult or next to impossible to find any Movement historical who never benefited in the privatization scam. This was the time to get real rich. However, this mainly favored those who had considerable education. They controlled the cheques, took major decisions on anything that virtually generated revenues in this country. The people who are buying and selling off lands here and there, were also the beneficiaries from many of the privatized state institutions. They were also the managers of most of the so called state classified accounts, if we think of the ISO and ESO bosses. It is all dirty money making more dirty money.
For the uneducated or poorly educated ones, many were retrenched and pushed into the so-called reserve force, with less pay or no pay at all. A few benefited from the government educational institutions, but even then, only a few managed to make it. You can’t spend five years of smoking marijuana when you have never gone to school and expect to become a successful student. A few from my village who were retrenched, initiated an practice of planting and smoking bangi in the open. Many quickly sold the blankets, iron sheets and the whatever had been given to them for resettlement. They were not used to working hard to survive, but stealing and threatening villagers.
They started from stealing our chickens and bananas, and these are the very people who forced the Movement government to create Operation Wembley to deal with the carnage of terror that had taken the country by surprise in the beginning of this decade. These were well coordinated and professionally trained thieves and murderers. Because of their dangerousness, our police did not even make an attempt to deal with the issue. It had to be comrades dealing with (former) comrades. It was the military dealing with the problem it fully knew was intertwined and intrinsically related with the establishment.
What I really want to share with the reader is the clear continuity of the culture of corruption, armed robbery and politics of impunity within the Movement government. So much has been robbed in broad day light, billions siphoned from public reserves, and in most cases, perpetuators are simply terminated while they continue to enjoy the loot. Whatever is happening today and yesterday predates the early days of the NRA/M days of the armed struggle.
The names mentioned in the NSSF saga, Universal Primary Education fund scandal, the Global Fund scandal, just to mention a few, are not novices in this field. They are part of the historical network that started the job long time ago, and since they are in power, and do what they do out of conviction and believe that they deserve it and they feel morally justified to do it, no change should be expected soon, unless otherwise.
It is however imperative to be cognizant of the fact that they are a few great men and women within the Movement government fighting from within to change the system. Unfortunately, the number is increasingly getting smaller and those falling off from the wagon is bigger. While many of them may have been part and parcel of the gruesome, repugnant behaviors of the NRA/M during the armed guerilla struggles, they are belatedly realizing the importance of civility, rule of law and constitutionalism.
The NRA/M despite all its shortcomings during its armed struggle, through its good propaganda, and given the political circumstances of the time had an opportunity to be a respectable party. Unfortunately, it lost vision, and it is continuously lacking clarity of ethos and the whole leadership systematically getting enmeshed into politics of the stomach. The clear out come is the infighting of who is richer, and how to out compete with each other in amassing wealth. It is no longer stealing for the survival of the Movement, but individuals.
From the foregoing, it is increasingly becoming clear that any revolutionary movement that fails or finds itself incapable of reviewing its values vis-a-vis the values of the society it claims to liberate and lead, has only itself to blame when it eventually finds itself completely irrelevant.
That is where we are, gross corruption, robbery and usurpation of public property. It is the culture and pattern of behavior brought about by the Movement and it is here to stay as long as they are here. Any attempt to challenge it, is increasingly becoming tantamount to committing a treasonable act. Rehabilitating a thief or serial robber is as difficult as dealing with an alcoholic person. The only way of keeping an alcoholic from drinking it to keep him away from the temptations of places like bars. Otherwise if you let him get close to the brewing pot there is nothing to be surprised about if you find him or her drunk. For most of the historical Movement members, given their history, the best solution is to keep them far away from public money.
Mr President, if you love your country, and want to save the Movement, act and now. Show us that you are better and not like them. It is the time to show that you are among the few rehabilitated ones, and not among the chaff.