John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, in the eyes of the US ambassador quoted recently in a Wikileaks cable, is “consistently linked to corruption scandals.”
Said to have crossed from Burundi into Uganda’s western sub-region of Kigezi at a tender age, Mr. Mbabazi registered gain after gain to become one of Uganda’s most powerful politicians. But the higher he moved up the ladder the deeper he dipped his hand into the public treasury.
In the 1980s, at the height of the NRA rebellion that catapulted Yoweri K. Museveni to power, Mbabazi allegedly swindled money meant for procuring badly-needed military supplies to the struggling rebels. As head of the Nairobi-based external wing, Mbabazi reportedly lived a lavish lifestyle as his comrades starved and died in the jungles.
“Those who claim to know NRM more than me, like Mbabazi were even supposed to be hanged because of the many evils they did when we were still in the bush, which eventually affected the progress of our armed struggle,” the Daily Monitor quoted opposition leader Kizza Besigye, Museveni’s bush personal doctor, spilling the beans in February. “We were very frustrated with him (Mbabazi) and even Museveni wanted him to get court martialled.”
Mbabazi survived the guillotine in the bush and learn’t that he would freely steal under Museveni’s watch with little or no measures taken against him. He was not mistaken.
During the preparation of the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Mbabazi baptized himself “Inspector General Chogm”, a nonexistent portfolio, and interfered with the work of the organizing committee, turning Chogm into the corruption scandal it was.
Mbabazi, according to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chogm Audit Report of May 2010, inflated the cost of procuring the Terrestrial Trunked Radio facility from $3.2million to $ 5million, and connived with other parties to pocket the change. PAC actually established that the cost of the facility “should not have exceeded US $ 2million.”
Again, Mbabazi – like all other perpetrators of the Chogm fraud – enjoyed impunity even though the report called for his prosecution in the Anti-Corruption Court. Such a deeply-entrenched culture of impunity must have induced him to encroach on workers’ savings.
Hardly a year after Chogm, Mbabazi allegedly used his power as security minister to force the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) to buy his land at Temangalo at an exorbitant price, seizing shillings 11 billion of workers’ savings.
A parliamentary probe into the fraudulent transaction established that Mbabazi, 62, and the then Finance Minister, Ezra Suruma, had violated the leadership code, influenced NSSF to buy the land and engaged in a transaction in which their personal interests clashed with the public interest.
But the probe report was dismissed on very flimsy grounds and the prime perpetrator, as usual, walked away untouched.
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