CAN BLACK FIGHT THE DARKNESS OF CORRUPTION?
This week, the Ugandan tri-weekly newspaper, The Observer updated its Facebook page status with a lengthy reminder of what seemed to be an endless list of corruption scandals that have rocked the Pearl Of Africa.
The update seemed to be pointed towards stirring an urge of responsibility among readers to take part in the Black Monday protests. This refers to an anti-corruption campaign where activists dress up in black every Monday to mourn the theft of billions of money. Billions meant to benefit Ugandans which end up in the bottomless pockets of individualistic beings.
That over $300 million is lost to corruption annually in this country which relies on donor nations to account for 29% of its national budget is a fact bold enough to send anyone into their wardrobe in search of black attire with tears rolling down their cheeks profusely.
But like many people reacting to that update, “does dressing up in black drive the point home and how powerful would it be in terms of fighting this cancer?” I asked myself.
My answer. Very effective.
While there is no laid out best way to fight corruption, the costly malignant vice continues to eat into the well-being of society partly because we don’t care. Yet we are the victims in the long or short run.
In 2000, UGX1 billion was lost in police ghost payments. That figure seemed to double twenty times when in 2003, UGX20 billion was lost in training ghost soldiers. That same year, the infamous UGX1.6 billion GAVI funds were stolen. Years later in 2012, all suspects but one man, Mike Mukula are free. And even him, his next card is appealing against the four year sentence.
The figures just kept on growing each passing year. 2006 numbers stand out; UGX600 billion stolen from the Global Fund, UGX782 billion meant for the government education program, UPE disappeared that same year not to forget the UGX20 billion lost in the so-called AGOA scam. Just to mention but a few.
When the Queen of England visited this country in 2007, someone braced me for the future when they forecast that after all the visitors and the storm that came with them evaporated, the level of theft was to wow the world. Two hundred and forty seven BILLION shillings.
That is the available amount said to have been lost. From ghost cars, lights that only shone for as long as the Queen stayed to everything shoddy work, just like those before, the CHOGM scandal matured into committee investigations, acquittals…and the day ended leaving the door open for more.
And more did come. Temangalo, Umeme subsidy fees, NSSF, NAADS, Posta Kenya, IGG’s office…the thieves just got better at what they were doing.
At present, more money is to be spent on national IDs even after UGX205 billion was lost in in 2011. That year was not done delivering the corruption headlines. UGX169 billion was paid to one businessman as compensation for losing the deal to develop city markets, money for local council leaders’ bicycles amounting to UGX5 billion was stolen.
And who will forget 2012?
As though reacting to the false Mayans’ prophesy that the world was ending, thugs at the Public Service Ministry created ghosts who even had pictures through which they siphoned UGX150 billion. Ironically, two men who had served as part of the president’s security detail were among those affected by the theft of the pension funds.
A further UGX375 billion was lost somehow at the Ministry of Education. And teachers continue to wallow in disappointment due to poor pay. And who can easily forget the freshest wound of them all? The Office of Prime Minister over UGX50 billion scandal where tale has it that UGX74 million of the money to rehabilitate communities coming out of decades of war was spent to film 54 homes that had not been built at the time the film was made!
For 2012, the Ministry of Finance sets the record. This time, ghost firms swallowed UGX400 billion just like that. And you notice, all figures are billions!
And now one NGO is calling upon Ugandans to dress up in black one day of the week just to show frustration towards such level of sheer white collar theft. Can black fight the darkness of the cloud of corruption that hangs over this nation?
My answer is YES.
After reading those figures that are not new to me over and over again, my mind raced. I closed my eyes for a second and imagined Kampala streets reflecting the mood of towns across the country. Women rushing to work in black, a man making final touches to his black tie on an all black suit as the light shines red, youth crossing the road….all dressed in black. A town painted in black. A country in mourning. I can hear the excuse ‘I own nothing black’ in the murmurs. Somewhere in the Bible, residents wore sacks to mourn.
While the man with the gun still has all the power, the one that mourns in a silent audible way raises awareness to fill the earth. The thief has built on the weakness that no one asks for accountability,; that no one seems to pay attention to ways on how to fight corruption not at the maturity stage but right from the grass roots. Any thing goes. And sadly, that society looks at the few adorned in black with the question, ‘Can that fight corruption?’ yet they are doing nothing.
Next Monday, I am ready to be part of the movement. I may not be part of the crowd but if it does anything to add my voice, Monday is an all black day for me.
The black attire does not deter the thief from stretching out their hand into national coffers to create 2013 scams. But it reminds everyone be it the judge about to pass a ruling or even those assuming highest offices that the world is watching. That the mother who just lost a child because the drug that could have saved her offspring is not available in the government hospital is watching. Is aware.
I have a dream. That one day, some people will wake up to streets full of people dressed up in black. People that are aware that the theft going on in their country affects them directly. That while some can fly to anywhere to have their ears cleaned, the sunk health system is all they have. I dream of the day when our greatest tool will be how much we know; the awareness that every single coin unaccounted for affects every one of us in one way or another.
And yes, black can fight the darkness of corruption.