MR PRESIDENT SIR, BETTER LATE THAN NEVER, BUT CORRUPTION CONTROL INCLUDES THE PERCEPTION OF ELITE “CAPTURE” OF THE STATE
I celebrated the Easter gift our president gave us by locking up some individuals who stole iron sheets meant for Karamoja. Mr President, thank you. However, Mr President, the only thing that cut my celebrations short was the reductionist definition you gave to corruption. Whatever you meant by ‘subversion’ and ‘political corruption’ still bothers me. Otherwise, if we actually defined “political corruption” well, and “subversion” in the context of corruption, all our prisons would be full, and we might have to import expatriate judges, police, and army, to handle the problem. This is because; control of corruption entails the understanding of the “capture” of the state by elites and private interests.
Exactly, state capture is the reason I am writing to appeal to you, intellectuals and all good Ugandans to intervene.
Essentially, apart from stealing Mabaati, the private use of public office and resources is the core definition of corruption, ‘subversive’, ‘political corruption’ or bad governance. There is need for the country to liberate public institutions: the presidency, ministries, civil service, parliament, police, the army, and so on, from the private control of political rulers and their “capture” by special interests, which is one of the greatest problem in establishing a corruption free Uganda. I know it is hard for one to point at himself, but inevitably, a good leader starts with self-reflection and self conquest. This would be the greatest present to us and your legacy.
The other problem is, the absence of intellectuals in Uganda, and then, the culture of promoting, praising and glorifying peasantry: even giving them very high and sensitive public offices. Such practice can be extremely dangerous for our nation. You know where Amin almost took us, peasant like elite lack the intellectual capacity to govern (Plato).
Elite are a minority class of Ugandans, around 1% of the population, in whose hands power, wealth, good schools, university courses, businesses or prestige are concentrated. They believe ruling is meant for them, power is in their hands, the army, police, Kingdoms, and Bank of Uganda are theirs, including the best lands, and our oil and gas. They are privileged, heartless, and do not care about the ordinary people. Unlike intellectuals, they have no feeling for virtues and a common good society. It is they who grease corruption in our country. Far from the theft of Mabaati, those real thieves are hard to get, even when we know them.
BUT WHAT IS CORRUPTION REALLY?
Perhaps the President and our learned friends are too elite, honourable and excellent to know the meaning of all the bad words that describe the nefarious range of corrupt practices? Since I am not all that honourable, I will try to make a rundown of the shadier types of corrupt activities that people and government get involved in, and from that, you should be able to tell us, who greases the wheels of corruption in Uganda.
Mr President, to start with, a minister or one person who happily steals “mabaati”, bribes people or engages in extortion can be described as corrupt. But, now that these were government ministers who stole; how do we describe an entire government that engages in corruption? The word for it is KLEPTOCRACY, and I think the president forgot this word.
KLEPTOMANIACS are people who cannot help themselves from stealing. While “cracy” means power, governing or rule, so KLEPTOCRACY describes rulers who are so corrupt that no-one bothers to pretend they are innocent anymore. Mr President, sir, here is the list that characterises kleptocracy you need to save us from, alongside these thieving Ministers:
(1) BRIBERY and GRAFT: offering something, usually cash to gain an advantage, e.g. jobs, political favours or in return for votes.
(2) EXTORTION: Scaring, threatening or bullying someone into forking over something that you want from them.
(3) EMBEZZLEMENT: Nicking something that has been entrusted to your care. For example, public land, public companies, etc.
(4) CRONYISM, CLIENTELISM and PATRONAGE: showing favouritism to your friends, ignoring meritocracy.
(5) NEPOTISM: Giving jobs or promotions to your undeserving relatives, sons, clans mate or kinsmate.
(6) FRAUD: Intentionally fooling someone into doing something that hurts him or her.
(7) INFLUENCE PEDDLING: cosying up to someone in authority to get your way.
(8) KICKBACKS: under-the – table fees paid for your help.
(9) BLACKMAIL: Using other politicians’ secrets against them.
(10) VIOLENCE and KIDNAPPS: Using threats, and harassment to get ahead in politics or competition in politics.
So, corruption happens when politicians and public servants use their positions in dishonest ways, to gain power, money or property, it shouldn’t only be limited to stealing of Mabaati. It is this issues you need to help us with.
This word CORRUPTION needs to be treated seriously and holistically, because by the scores of World Governance Indicates, since they were introduced in 1996, during your rule, Uganda has never scored beyond 15% out of 100% in corruption control war. Right now, our score is around 11.58%. So, it could not have been the Mabaati stealing Ministers alone.
The word corruption was first recorded in the 1300s. It was derived from two Latin words: ‘co’ which means what is together, ‘rumpere’ or ‘rrupture’ verbs which mean to break. Therefore, ‘co-rumpere’ or ‘co-rupture’ is a Latin word that is translated in English as ‘corruption’ which literally means ‘to break to pieces’, or ‘to ruin’ what society has put together to maintain rule of law, and order for its welfare and progress. I trust you know all these, but through you, I am communicating to ordinary citizens.
I have time and again referenced Professor Robert Klitgaard’s (1988) three part formula: Corruption = Monopoly of Power + Discretion (freedom to use power at will) – (minus) Accountability. It simply explains the institutional causes of corruption as behaviour that flourishes when government agents, for example in Uganda: presidency, ministers, MPs, LCVs, public servants have, in other words the root cause of corruption in Uganda is public officers have:
(1) an checked power that is exclusive over public offices and resources;
(2) they have a wide margin of discretionary power or freedom to use power;
(3) they are not held accountable for their actions or inactions in public service.
Ugandans should, therefore, understand corruption as a consequence of bad institutional design, for example, a bad constitution, that has been broken down or mutilated to serve an individual or a particular class of people. But unless we have intellectuals and knowledgeable population, elites with continue to manipulate them and steal more than Mabaati, Mr President.
Therefore, it is bad institutions that create micro-economic incentives for corruption in Uganda. As student of development economics, especially institutional economics, we recognise the focus in fighting corruption should be placed on the way the country institutions, and value system affects its performance. For example, good soft and herd institutions, like a strong constitution, presidency, parliament, an enlightened civil service, employment on merit, and rule of law, separation of powers, an enlightened electorate and knowledgeable democracy would reduce corruption in our country. It can only be arrested by replacing free riding radical elite in our country, with intellectuals who have gone missing in action.
WHO ARE INTELLECTUALS? AND WHAT ARE THEY MEANT TO DO?
Intellectual does not mean all people of intelligence in terms of ‘intelligence quotient (IQ)’ or those with a lot of knowledge (highly schooled, diploma, degrees, masters or PhD holders) kept to themselves, called the sophists. Intellectuals are those with knowledge, keep searching for truth, rethink and reflect of societal challenges seeking to provide solutions. Their vocation is to deal with ideas, interpretation of complex issues for ordinary workers and peasants so that they are not taken for a ride or exploited by greedy elites. They deal with ideas and hidden meaning in words; simplify them in trying to shape society for the better. Intellectuals stand against injustice, exploitation and bad, corrupt governance. Intellectuals have ideological clarity.
They are wordsmith who include journalists, poets, musicians, novelists, literary critics, newspaper and magazine journalists, critical scientists, economists, sociologists, political scientists, historians, lawyers, teachers and many professors, who try to learn more, over and above the limits of their subjects, create an interaction of knowledge to protect and liberate society for bad elements.
Intellectuals are not those who are called number smith or memorisers of facts and abstract principles and: those who primarily produce or reproduce and transmit facts, quantitatively or mathematically formulated. These number smiths include those working with visuals media, painters, sculptures, cameramen.
The word smith challenge the status quo, they stand against oppression, elite greed, exploitation, evils of capitalism, conservative ideas, dictators and all forms of corruption, they do not just follow issues sheepishly or like a herd of lumpens driven around.
Finally, Mr President, for the last 40 years plus, who seem to have mistaken schooled people, degrees and PhD holders for intellectuals: No; these either schooled or learned people in knowledge, and sophists. They have no practical wisdom. The danger is a schooled accountant, engineer or doctor; poet can be extremely dangerous and lethal. That is why they have successfully manipulated you for the last 40 years. Unfortunately, on discovering them, you again went so low for peasants, who may no control them.
So, please, Your Excellency, Uganda needs “words smiths” and ideologically sound intellects, support them to liberate us from kleptocracy, to propagate freedom, social welfare, justice, they have to emerge and bring back freedom, formulate a proper direction of governance to save the country from these pretenders. Journalists, teachers, poets, lawyers, professors, etc., your work is to provide an analysis of intellectual dissidence, and much of what you know about the abuse of power in Uganda comes from your courage to tell the population, if we are to get back our country from elite state “capture”.
I thank you Mr President and all the citizens for reading my long piece of writing, but not longer than the problems we have in our country, and hope, you will act on one or two of the issues I have raised.
Your Concerned Citizen,
Steven Birija Wa Kazimura, from Bunyoro