Should we now legalise robbery?

November 30, 2014

WRITTEN BY OSKAR SEMWEYA-MUSOKE

 

The inspector general of government (IGG) and the attorney general (AG) are in a twist! The two officers should be technical siblings.

 

However, just like Parliament did previously, the IGG has written to court protesting against the AG’s representation of the Inspectorate in a court case.

 

One of the greatest frustrations of the Inspectorate of Government is the public’s apathy towards Uganda’s rampant corruption.

 

Yet surveys have shown we firmly believe that corruption is embedded in our society!

 

Consequently, IGG Irene Mulyagonja has not taken kindly to AG Peter Nyombi’s opinion on the sub-contracted Chinese company for the Mukono-Katosi road construction. Indeed, the AG’s opinion goes against what his own deputy had advised earlier.

 

There are others who are sympathetic to Nyombi’s view claiming that the Chinese company that had been sub-contracted by the now infamous Eutaw group should go ahead with the work.

 

They argue that first, this company is good and, second, residents badly need the road and that its building was a political promise. Sadly, this is not a unique situation and corruption usually thrives under such circumstances. The argument here would be that the end justifies the means.

 

For the IG and other anti-corruption crusaders, it is plain simple: the Chinese sub-contractor is part of an illegal deal that has already siphoned off Shs 24bn of public money!

 

Consequently, Mulyagonja is entitled to feel disappointed that the AG has expressed an opinion exonerating an illegal contractor.

 

In her opinion, the minister of Works and the AG are ‘in bed’ with the contractor. Therefore, it would be absurd for the AG to represent or defend the IGG in a court case filed by the Chinese company to regain the contract.

 

For a deeper understanding of this saga and how we are besieged by corruption in Uganda, it is worthwhile to consider a 1990 short story, Visitors, written by Brian Moon. This very well-written story is told from the viewpoint of the main character, Mrs Morrison, who receives two sets of visitors in one morning.

 

Most literature teachers would love Moon’s writing. The story explores moral issues but the writer uses role-reversal as a technique to present the issues. The readers’ expectations or stereotypes are upset by the presentation of the other characters.

 

A van arrives outside Mrs Morrison’s house. It is clean and clearly well maintained but her stomach tightens and her heart sinks when she sees it. It is the second time in two months that a van is visiting!

 

A smart gentleman in a dark suit emerges from the van, gently knocks on the door and is allowed in. With a firm handshake he introduces himself as a robber from a company downtown!

 

When Mrs Morrison complains that another company had robbed her home just last month, the man gently apologises explaining that there may have been a glitch in their research and that it would not happen again.

 

He then informs the lady of the house that her phones have been disabled and electricity switched off. In addition, he knows that her husband is on an assignment and her daughter is away. All this meant that the job would be done in an hour and without interruption. Excellent use of research skills; one wonders!

 

At a signal, his team comes in from the van all dressed in clean, smart overalls. They have neat boxes and containers for packing the loot. The robbery team then meticulously records every item in an inventory list and a copy is left with Mrs Morrison.

 

As the robbery is ongoing, the chief robber engages Mrs Morrison in an argument over a cup of coffee – of course the robbers came with the coffee! His view is that a bill in their Parliament to legalise robbery should be approved and passed into law. Mrs Morrison is not too sure.

 

At the end of the robbery, the team cleans up because they do not want to leave a mess. They bid her farewell and promise to reconnect electricity and her phones within thirty minutes to ensure that she is not tempted to call for help too soon. They also promise to call the police.

 

Heavy-hearted, Mrs Morrison awaits her second visitors who arrive within an hour. It is the police! Four officers jump off their dirty, tattered pick-up truck.

 

Two of them are in old uniforms. The others are also unkempt, in sandals and dirty jeans. They bang on her door but do not even wait to be allowed in…

 

I read this story again when I saw KCCA enforcement officers arresting hawkers and taxi operators last month.

 

osm@kigothinkers.org

 

The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers.

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