Ugandan citizens protesting corrupt officials. Credit: FarukMedia. - Photo: 2024

Dozens Of Ugandan Officials Swept Up in Major Corruption Scandal

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | 6 May 2024 (IDN) — In a shocking development, dozens of Uganda’s high-placed ministers and legislators have been accused of stealing from the poor communities they serve in a sprawling scandal that has outraged graft-weary citizens.

Sanctions imposed by Uganda’s Anti-Corruption Court target Parliament Speaker Anita Annet Among as well as Amos Lugoloobi, state minister for finance in charge of planning, former ministers Mary Goretti Kitutu and Agnes Nandutu, a former barmaid and journalist who reportedly turned herself into police.

In the case of Lugoloobi, the New Vision newspaper published a photo of what it said was the minister’s goat shed roofed with government property.

Official corruption is rampant in this East African country, but officials caught in major scandals rarely face criminal charges.

“The charges are highly welcome as we have been having a culture of impunity because (the suspects) have godfathers in the system,” said Marlon Agaba, executive director of the pressure group Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda. “We have known government officials to steal billions of shillings, not stealing iron sheets from the poor.”

Some 26 ministers and 31 legislators have been named in connection with the case. President Yoweri Museveni. often accused of lacking the political will to stem corruption, has now ordered detectives to investigate the case.

“This is unprecedented in the history of the National Resistance Movement administration,” said Ofwono Opondo, a government spokesman.

The scandal came to light when the local New Vision newspaper reported that security officials in eastern Uganda had intercepted government-branded iron sheets being sold by relatives of Kitutu, the minister in charge of Karamoja.

The stolen iron sheets were from a Ugandan government-funded project to house those in Karamoja, which the United Nations Population Fund said is not only one of Ugandan’s poorest regions but one of the poorest regions in the world with 61% of its population living in “absolute poverty.”

“The actions of these individuals, in taking aid from those who need it most, and keeping the proceeds, is corruption at its worst and has no place in society,” Deputy Foreign Secretary Andrew Mitchell of Britain said in a statement.

“The Ugandan courts are rightly taking action to crack down on those politicians who seek to line their own pockets at their constituents’ expense.”

Freeze and travel bans

Sanctions also imposed by Britain include asset freezes and travel bans. They are the first Britain has imposed against individuals in Uganda under its Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions regime that was introduced in April 2021.

Uganda’s Parliament has so far rejected the charges against its speaker, stating Among was being punished over her support for the East African nation’s anti-gay legislation.

“The Iron sheets have been used as a ruse to conceal the real, unstated but clearly obvious reason for the sanctions—which is the. speaker’s stance on the recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality Act,” Chris Obore, director of communication and public affairs, charged.

Uganda recently enacted an Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023, which penalizes consensual same-sex activity with up to life in prison. Since the rule was first announced last year, it has attracted international condemnation.

A total of 42 people and entities have been blacklisted by Britain under its new corruption-targeting sanctioning powers.

Sanctions were also announced by the U.S. including visa restrictions and reduced support for the government on the grounds that it is a violation of universal human rights. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Ugandan citizens protesting corrupt officials. Credit: Faruk Media

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