In April 2013, President Yoweri Museveni removed the lid from State House coffers and poured out so much money that it needed to be carried in a sack. The picture of a man in Kaliro, Eastern Uganda, heaving under that load of 250 million cash that the president had just donated to Busoga Youth Forum (BYF), left many economists astounded. The president has since then dished out more money. For example, on Friday October 5th, 2018, the president toured downtown Kampala and gave out over 3 billion shillings to several Saccos in Nakasero Market, in the Old Tax Park, at St. Balikkudembe Market and in Kiseka Market.
With this trend, wherever the president is, it is bound to rain many brown envelops stashed with cash to cover this and that for this and that group. The question is, is the president’s largesse a form of corruption with which he entrenches himself in power by ensuring that those who take his money follow his party line and keep voting ‘wisely’ or something else? The case appears blurry. Busoga region, comprising the districts; Jinja, Kamuli, Bugiri, Mayuge and Namutumba has now and again been commended by the president for always voting ‘wisely’ [for him]. In fact, when the president donated 250m to BYF in 2013, he was fulfilling a pledge he had made during the 2011 presidential election. As for his recent donation of billions to Saccos in downtown Kampala, political pundits speculate that the president needed to appease them following several protest rallies against the regime. The business community there has for a long time shown popular support to former FDC party leader Dr. Kizza Besigye and lately, Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine. Now, the president figures that reaching out to these traders under the guise of fighting poverty through his Operation Wealth Creation program would endear them to him like he did in Hon. Kyagulanyi’s area code – Kamwokya, where he gave100 million shillings to the ghetto youth.
The president has even employed Niccolo Machiavelli’s theory of ends and means. For instance, in 2005, every MP was given 5 million shillings to consult the electorate about the pending removal of presidential term limits from the constitution. Political analysts say this was a subtle bribe meant to swing the MPs to vote in support of knocking out the two-term presidential limits from the constitution, something they did successfully.
But, a much more conspicuous example of Mr. Museveni exerting the-ends-justifies-the-means theory is when he dished out 110 million shillings to MPs to clear their debts. It was the president’s way of saying thanks to the legislators for backing the “sole candidate” resolution orchestrated by then Northern Youth MP Evelyn Anite. This resolution saved the president from facing stiff competition and possible loss in the 2016 presidential elections.
And then in 2017, every MP received 29 million shillings ostensibly to consult their constituents over the highly controversial presidential age limit removal amendment. In total, this move cost a whopping 14.5 billion shillings for 486 MPs. The fact that a few sane MPs returned the money to the Parliamentary Commission as a bribe says a lot about the ulterior motive that necessitated the release of that money. One cannot forget the 2 billion shillings that the president doled out to the NRM MPs ahead of the election for Deputy Speaker of Parliament which was being contested by Jacob Oulanyah and opposition sympathizer Muhammad Nsereko. Although it was claimed that the money was a facilitation with which to celebrate their reelection, insiders say it was a disguised bribe for them to vote Mr. Museveni’s choice for Deputy Speakership – Jacob Oulanyah. Indeed, Hon. Oulanyah won.
Those who have benefited praise the president for his generosity. On his part, the president says he is doing the best he can to fight poverty and youth unemployment.
However, economists criticize his wasteful spending; saying his approach only treats symptoms rather than the root cause. In fact, some argue that the president’s giving of money to the youth in the style he does is not empowerment but rather a form of corruption. This is because there are no systems in place for following up to ensure that the money is put to good use, thus it entrenches patronage and causes macro instability.
“Macro instability offsets economic growth, and if the president’s constant donations are not stopped or revisited, they will consequently affect the country’s economy and lead to unspeakable inflation,” says Ramadan Goobi, an economist.
On the money not being put to good use, there are cases where as soon as the president leaves the venue of donation, those who receive the money engage in fist fights demanding to share the president’s bounty equally. In September 2018, after Mr. Museveni had given out sums of money to the ghetto youths of Kamwokya, some of the youths told the press that the president’s donation had ended in the wrong hands. One of the ghetto youth was quoted saying that the youth in the ghetto had graver financial and literacy challenges that call for government launching bigger and more transformative initiatives than dishing out hard cash to a few individual groups. Even after the president had given a lot of cash to Saccos downtown, the Chairman of Uganda Transport Development Agency, noting that the presidential donation had entered into the pockets of wrong people urged the president to always do thorough background checks so that his money is given to genuine groups.
It is possible that in his liberality with money, the president has genuine intentions, yet because of greed, many are forming fake groups and making successful bids of defrauding him. Thus, it makes more sense for the president to put in place systems of checks and balances to ensure that this money is not misused but serves the purpose for which it is released. Agency, Mr. Mustafah Mayambala, came out to say the presidential donation had entered into the pockets of wrong people who would use the money for personal aggrandizement.
Mr. Mayambala urged the President not to be quick to dish out money but to first always do thorough background checks so that his money is given to genuine groups. It is possible that in his liberality with money, the President has genuine intentions, yet because of greed, many are forming fake groups and making successful bids of defrauding him. Thus, it makes more sense for the President to put in place systems of checks and balances to ensure that this money is not misused but serves the purpose for which it is released.
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