President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has promised to follow Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli's modus operandi to fight corruption in Uganda.
Addressing a joint press conference at State Lodge in Masaka on Friday, Magufuli said corruption cannot be fought successfully without the involvement of the general public. He also hastened to add that the fight needs decisive action from the top leadership of the country.
Magufuli's intolerance to corruption has won him admiration within East Africa and worldwide two years after he took office as president of Tanzania in 2015. He said corruption had partly persisted in Tanzania because the past leadership did not face it squarely.
Magufuli who has only been out of his country, four times since he took office in November 2015, said he immediately slapped a ban on foreign travels by government officials and ministers.
He said by leading as an example on limiting foreign travels, the country has been able to save lots of money that has been diverted into development. Government officials in Tanzania need clearance from Magufuli himself for travels abroad.
He said fighting corruption requires direction and determination by the top leadership like the presidency and it also requires a leadership that is ready to enforce it.
The press conference almost turned into an anti-corruption lecture as Dr Magufuli outlined what his leadership has done in fighting corruption.
Museveni, who, has decade after decade declared war on corruption albeit unsuccessfully, appeared to have been attentively listening while some government officers present would occasionally clap and stamp their feet on the ground as Magufuli went on outlining some of the benefits from his intolerance against corruption and corrupt officers.
He said the money saved from purging the government of ghost workers, restricted travels abroad and other anti-corruption initiatives has been used to increase the country's development budget from 26 per cent to 40 per cent.
Magufuli said it is from such savings that the government of Tanzania is funding its 726 kilometer Standard Gauge Railway at a cost of Tshs 7.1 trillion.
Museveni in April this year vowed that all people involved in corruption if caught will be exposed and dealt with according to the law. The threat was made after the arrest of then minister of state for Labour, Employment and Industrial Relations Herbert Kabafunzaki. He said Kabafunzaki's arrest was is just a taste of what is to come.
Museveni has however not arrested or sacked any other corrupt persons in government compared to what his visiting counterpart is doing in Tanzania. Museveni personally admitted to not doing enough and congratulated Dr Magufuli for being intolerant to the corrupt.
Museveni said Magufuli is succeeding in the war on corruption because he is not entertaining bureaucratic methods when dealing with the corrupt. Magufuli said corruption is yet to be eliminated from Tanzania but he said it is being fought heavily.
"Corruption is a really an enemy, but President Magufuli has given us new impetus. Even me, I'm picking new things from him which you will hear about in the coming days", Museveni said.
One of the journalists at the press conference seemed to anger the Tanzanian leader when he asked whether Magufuli's fight against corruption was not violating the rights of those that have been summarily sacked over alleged corruption.
Magufuli said the government has to choose whether to continue with human rights or continue with corruption.
The Tanzanian president said they have built special courts to handle corruption cases and that the aggrieved parties have options of appealing in other courts if they are not satisfied by the decisions of the special courts.
On his part, Museveni observed that the corrupt are abusing the rights of majority of the citizens.
"The corrupt people are the ones abusing the human rights of everybody and the issue is, that the institutions are distorted like the courts and so on instead of defending the rights of the right people, they are defending the corrupt people", Museveni said.
MUSEVENI, UGANDA'S UNAPPRECIATED PROPHET
Magufuli praised the Uganda-Tanzania relations saying; of the four times he has been out Tanzania since taking over office in 2015, two trips have been to Uganda.
"I have been out of Tanzania four times but the two times I have been out, it has been to visit Uganda. This shows how important the relationship between Tanzania and Uganda is to me,” Magufuli said.
“Idi Amin was in Uganda but he did not discover the oil. All the past Presidents did not see the oil but the experienced Museveni discovered it and using his professionals, he studied it and began the process of drilling it. A prophet is not honoured in his country but back in Tanzania, we are so grateful to Mr Museveni,” Magufuli added.
Museveni said Uganda chose Tanzania over Kenya for the $3.5 billion oil pipeline because of terrain and compensation costs. He said Tanzanians are "not as greedy as Ugandans". He asked Ugandans to fully embrace the opportunities that the 1,444km Uganda–Tanzania crude oil pipeline would bring.
BURUNDI PEACE TALKS
Meanwhile, the two presidents condemned the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open a war crimes investigation into Burundi, saying it will likely undermine regional peace initiatives.
The two presidents said the ICC decision is likely divert them from peace-making process. Museveni is of the view that the ICC investigation be halted for the peace process to be given a chance.
"Investigation of the Burundi situation, we condemn it because it is diverting us from peace making. What we want is peace making in Burundi. We’d arranged that later on, we would have truth and reconciliation commission which could go into all those issues but after peace. Anything that goes into disturbing the peace, we shall not support it and I will consult other East African leaders and communicate officially to the ICC. They should stop this unilateral actions without consultations. Why don’t they consult us? This is our region, these are our people, we have more information", said Museveni.
Museveni who doubles as chair of the East African Community (EAC) has been working with the former Tanzanian President, Benjamin Mkapa to bring the warring parties in Burundi to talks. Magufuli concurred with Museveni condemning the latest ICC decision on Burundi.
"This process is actually going to disturb the stability of Burundi instead of making it in the proper way. After all the facilitator is a Mkapa", he said.
Mkapa and his team of mediators on Burundi peace talks are expected to hold another round of talks during the third week of November.
ICC judges Chang-ho Chung, Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua, and Raul C. Pangalangan of pretrial chamber III issued the decision to open an investigation on October 25. The decision was under seal to protect victims and potential witnesses.
While the two Uganda and Tanzania leaders are opposed to the ICC decision, Human Rights Watch in a statement said the decision by ICC gives victims hope that those responsible for grave crimes over the past two years could be held to account.
In late April 2015, the announcement by the Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza that he would run for a third term ignited protests in the capital, Bujumbura, and later in other locations.
The unrest led to thousands of deaths, alleged torture of opposition figures and over 300,000 refugees fleeing into neighbouring countries.
Burundi became a state party to the ICC in December 2004. Following its notification to the UN secretary general of its intent to leave the court in October 2016, on October 27, 2017, Burundi became the first member country to officially withdraw from the ICC.
The pretrial chamber found that the court has jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed while Burundi was an ICC state party.
The judges also concluded that the prosecutor is authorized "to extend her investigation to crimes which were committed before 26 April 2015 or continue after 26 October 2017 if certain legal requirements are met."
So far, the ICC prosecutor has identified the crimes against humanity of murder and attempted murder, imprisonment or severe deprivation of liberty, torture, rape, forced disappearance, and persecution allegedly committed in Burundi, and in certain instances outside of the country by Burundi nationals.
In September, a UN-mandated commission of inquiry indicated that there were reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi, including murder, torture, rape, imprisonment, and persecution, against a backdrop of almost total impunity.
The commission urged the ICC to investigate these violations. The ICC according to Human Rights Watch is meant to act as a court of last resort, stepping in only when national courts cannot or will not prosecute the most serious international crimes.
Hundreds of people have been tortured, killed, raped, or disappeared in Burundi since 2015. The Burundian justice system, deeply corrupt and manipulated by ruling party officials, almost never conducts credible investigations or brings those responsible for these crimes to justice. Hundreds of arbitrarily arrested people have been detained on trumped-up charges.