Instead of reaching out to each other, we are stealing from each other. What a paradox! What is happening to value systems of this great land? On Monday 3rd December 2012, The New Vision cover page headlines can shock a visitor to death, but are only telling for a resident –for corruption stories are sadly becoming a way of life in this Country. These headlines/subhead lines were on a single newspaper cover page, i.e. (1) Germany cuts aid over corruption (2) OPM scam: Police opens 72 case files (3) Over 4 billion lost in Lira district Council (4) Billions from Global Fund vanish again. Perhaps, the only fine orange among the rotten apples was the fifth sub-headline; Uganda named tour paradise by experts.
Folks, it’s now clear an iron curtain of corruption has descended across our country? Indeed most sectors of life are affected- be it church, homes, schools, sports clubs, government offices, private offices, gardens etc. For example, farmers are reportedly conniving with extension workers to inflate input prices, some local councils and community leaders are taking bribes to make unfair decisions in village courts, police constables are reported receiving ‘facilitation’ to intervene on behalf of cunning village landed gentry to cheat peasants, teachers are riding bodabodas for quick buck and receiving salaries (from tax payers)while our children are receiving no lessons, milk vendors are powering water in milk to cheat consumers, traders are tampering with weighing scales and cheating farmers, politicians are buying votes , business men are cheating government taxes etc – this trend may not be in the headlines –but it is sadly entrenched. Will a compendium of anti-corruption laws and legislations stop this anarchy? As a Country- we need a renewal and a return to our ancestral values that define us a people that lived by code of respect, fairness, community and honesty. All leaders and parents of this Country must engage in preaching and stop pointing fingers- because, givers and receivers of bribes are in summery all criminals. I hope this will not be dismissed by sceptics and law puritans as moralising the fight against corruption.
My hunch tells me we have focused more on putting in place hardware administrative, legislative and judicial systems while relegating software incentives that entrench powerful value systems and social sanctions in our country. The NRM government has worked to strengthen investigative organs that deal with corruption. For example, the government reformed the office of the Auditor General (AG) and Director of Public prosecutions (DPP) from mere departments to substantive and independent institutions. The Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) has powers of high court and is visibly interrogative and very much on the scene in the corruption fight. The anti- Corruption Court is in place. The civil society is also involved in a bevy of actions aimed at visualizing corruption for masses. For instance the name and shame book by the Anti-Corruption Coalition and the latest push in form protests codenamed ‘black Monday’ – are highlighting citizens’ rage at this rampant theft. Debates in mainstream media and social media are hot and sometimes toxic. Even religious leaders have pitched prayers and led missions to ask the Almighty to bless this land and rid it of the sin of corruption. But the net result of these genuine efforts has been more exposure of corruption scandals as opposed to reducing and finishing it off. By exposing these corruption scandals, state agencies must be applauded and encouraged rather than the spurious demonization that has been going on. Yes, we pay taxes to government to do a good job. And when they do it right, we should pat them on the back. But exposure of corruption is only good but not good enough. We must find ways to stop it.
A sustainable solution to corruption lies in return to a robust struggle for revival and entrenchment of values of community and citizenship. Especially so with young people in our schools, clubs and everywhere. They need to learn that the world must be shared and every one must have an opportunity. That to own twenty houses you can’t sleep in at once and four cars you can’t drive at once is meaningless and backward. Parents must live by example- we must for instance go to our kids’ schools and request to speak to children classes about the subject of values like morality and community. If we don’t live by example and preach our historic values- society is gone! Not even the fiercest of laws and prison sentences will avert this dangerous trend. Does this sound simplistic? No. It’s the only credible journey we must start.
Nelson Mandela, in his latest 2011 book – Conversations With My Self; tells a compelling story about real progress. He counsels that “…. In judging our progress as individuals, we tend concentrate on external factors such as one’s social position, influence and popularity, wealth and standard of education. These are of course important in measuring one’s success in material matters and it is perfectly understandable if many people exert themselves mainly to achieve all these. But internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing ones development as a human being. Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others – qualities which are within reach of every soul – are the foundations of one’s spiritual life. Development in matters of this nature is inconceivable without serious introspection, without knowing yourself, your weaknesses and mistakes….never forget that a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying”
The foregoing gospel according to Mr. Mandela is important. Interpreted seriously, it summons our courage as a country to engage in serious introspection. He reminds us that those internal factors like honesty and readiness to serve others are the most important and within our reach. Aren’t those we need to overcome corruption? Can we defeat the reigning dominant psychology that is bent on material factors that Mr. Mandela talks about? Can we rally to the principle of common citizenship that Winston Churchill talked about on 5th March 1946?