Kampala, 21st/October/2013; a report has criticized the government of Uganda for failing to prosecute its senior officials implicated in the theft and diversion of public funds, despite regular promises by the country’s president, hence escalating corruption scandals which have had a direct impact on human rights in Uganda over many years.
A 63-page report, “Letting the Big Fish Swim: Failure to Prosecute High-Level Corruption in Uganda,” released by Human Rights Watch and Yale Law School’s Allard K. Lowenstein Human Rights Clinic, documents Uganda’s failure to hold the highest members of its government accountable for large scale graft, despite good technical work from investigators and prosecutors. The report points out that the officials use legal loopholes and laws that insulate political appointees from accountability to elude punishment.
“Scandal after scandal, the government’s patronage politics and lack of political will undermine the fight against corruption in Uganda,” said Human Rights Watch’ senior Africa researcher, Maria Burnett at the release of the report, at Makerere University in Kampala. Adding that, “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.”
In 2012, donor funding worth US$12.7 million was stolen from the Office of The Prime Minister. The money was meant to rebuild Northern Uganda, a region ravaged by war for over 20 years, and Karamoja, which ranks as Uganda’s poorest region. The President’s wife is the minister in charge of this region. Uganda has been rocked by various scandals which have led to donor aid cutting. The report notes that the theft of resources intended to help realize fundamental rights to justice, health, water, food and education can have disastrous consequences to Ugandans.
“We think that corruption in Uganda will not be addressed until high-ranking officials are prosecuted. There high level of impunity high-ranking officials and security agents.” said Burnett. “This court is tired of trying tilapias when crocodiles are left swimming,” Justice John Bosco Katutsi, a former head of the Anti-Corruption Court said in a 2010 ruling.
The report said the implicated government officials are just shifted to new positions. “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, adding that, “Uganda’s national game of musical chairs needs to stop. Corrupt officials shouldn’t be able to wriggle out of the prosecutor’s grasp.”
“This report resurrects our call to government to demonstrate its political will to fight corruption, and desist from harassing human rights activists and obstructing public access to information. Large-Scale graft deprives Ugandans of their basic rights. Government should also investigate all cases of abuse and violation of media rights and freedoms documented over many years.” said HRNJ-Uganda’s National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala.
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