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The money that Museveni failed to count

I will say one more time: no country in the world ever transformed itself from collecting taxes. It is not there.

Even if these were taxes from big businesses. In socialist/welfarist Europe — such as Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and several others — they even return the taxes to their citizens once they fall out of employment.

In Germany, for example, the department called Bundesagentur für Arbeit gives an individual back 60 per cent of their former salary starting the very month they became unemployed — till they find another job. Now, if they used these monies to fund the national budget, how would they manage giving back much more than what one paid in taxes?

There is a lie we love to tell ourselves about the ‘taxpayers’ money’ when holding public officials accountable - yes, we give them some money to supplement other state incomes. But for any serious government, taxes, collected from either businesses or individuals, form the smallest stream of income. Government officials ought to be held accountable for the country they were allowed to exploit for the common good.

When a group of people win the right to govern a country — either through arms or through electoral means — they are handed powers not to collect taxes, but to exploit the country’s resources.

Let us not focus on hardcore resources such as minerals, land or other resources (which often overshadow this conversation), but things such as tourism, public transport, telecommunication, banking, etc. are all sectors handed over to leaders to exploit and benefit their compatriots.

Sadly, for Uganda — and for most of Africa — since we are governed by folks who are content with small things, and small pleasures, and lack basic sense of big-picture thinking and sacrifice, they have cashed (willingly and sometimes, under threats of removal) on these big things.

Parliament is the bribe

During the recently concluded #UgandaParliamentExhibition, and the revelations of the colossal sums of money pillaged by all in parliament, in a beautifully crafted article, Kalundi Serumaga told us that “Parliament is the bribe.”

But what Kalundi didn’t tell us in more succinct terms, except subtly, was that the item being auctioned in this exchange of bribes was Uganda. Not just its people, but all of its resources. (And please don’t think about resources such as oil in Hoima or gold in Mubende. Let us stay in Kampala this time). 

Thus, we then were faced with a three-folded challenge: (a) to calm ourselves down and understand that the money we see in parliament constitutes a very small percentage of what is being stolen. The bribe is often substantially smaller than the real thing being negotiated and stolen.

This does not mean we move our eyes away from the bribes and the dealership, but that (b) we actually identify the different parts of Uganda, and the ways in which Uganda is quietly stolen. It is imperative to understand (c) that if the item being stolen is Uganda, the thieves and bribe-givers cannot be Ugandans themselves.

These are foreigners under the Andrew Cohen model. Kalundi Serumaga pieces this historical part reminding us about Cohen’s LEGCO and the way it bribed the elite. It is this historical section that we need to see in real time: for what was Andrew Cohen bribing the elite — the Musevenis, Anita Amongs, Owiny-Dollos of those days.

Again, this does not mean closing our eyes on the bribed or take away their agency. But we need to focus on both the bribe-giver and bribe-taker. At present, we have focused so much on the bribe eaters.  But who are the bribe-givers of our time?

Legally-protected monopolies

I will use two examples to demonstrate this point: telecoms and commercial banks. Telecoms: How did a public-owned telecommunication company, Uganda Telecom (UTL), become a museum piece while South African-owned MTN, and Indian-owned Airtel exclusively thrive and make obnoxious profits? Yes, they began buying their way into monopoly positions.  

On February 1, 2002, Daily Monitor carried a story where Yoweri Museveni, in a letter dated September 6, 2001 addressed to then prime minister Apollo Nsibambi, was pleading for the cancellation of monopolies that they had handed to MTN, Celtel (now, Airtel) and UTL. 

Among other things auctioned to these foreign companies was that any new players in the telecommunication industry would have to pay them to have a share of the market. It is unclear whether these monopolies were cancelled, but going by the telecommunication charges in the country, you can tell these companies still enjoy their monopolies after seeing off UTL to a quiet slow death.

But do we know how much these companies take away from Uganda every day? Can we comprehend the piece of Uganda being stolen for Yoweri Museveni to spend Shs 2 billion daily or Speaker Anita Among to spend some other billions of shillings on corporate social responsibility?

From a market share of 33 million telephone users, by selling its cheapest product, Pakalast to say a quarter of this market, which would be about seven million Ugandans; Airtel Uganda makes Shs 210 billion monthly. That is Shs 7 billion daily from their cheapest product, which costs just Shs 1,000 and is affordable for the majority of Ugandans. We haven’t added the extortionist levies on mobile money transaction and dodgy internet!

Uganda Bankers Association: Can anyone imagine a gang of profit-seeking, non-elected individuals and corporations that are comfortably seated in the Bank of Uganda Act of 2000? Part VII Section 36 (3) reads: “the bank may allow a commercial bank to participate in the activities of the clearing house on the recommendation of Uganda Bankers Association.”

By that, UBA has powers to offer binding and legally-protected demands and dictates to Bank of Uganda. And this advice is framed in reference to other commercial banks inside or outside of the gang.

Afraid of being locked out of the lucrative clearing house functions, all commercial banks have to be in line. The Act actually establishes UBA as the actual “Bank of Uganda” for all commercial banks. 

How did private bankers smuggle their way inside a legal document of the central bank? Ever wondered why Tumusiime-Mutebile, who doubled as consultant for the World Bank, closed all locally-owned commercial banks? Are you still wondering why interest rates on loans in Uganda average at 24 per cent, and yet banks in East Africa (especially Uganda) are the most profitable in the world despite being least efficient — as according to The Economist?  Yes, parliament is the bribe.

While our activism should not lose sight of the deals negotiated in the dealership at Parliament Avenue, we need to keep our eyes on the items for which these bribes are given. These items constitute the money that subsequent leadership will have to learn to count to grow Uganda.


The author is a political theorist based at Makerere University


-1 #11 Remase 2024-04-19 01:57
Fellow Ugandans, the point here is, Kyagulanyi/NUP should all up in arms and on the street's in support of the traders.

However, they are busy in parliament where they are completely useless! Al they do is to pass the go and collect billions of taxpayers money!

Then Kyagulanyi, who is a free man and enjoying taxpayers money, misled the poor youths who are being tried in a militant court and have been imprisoned for 3 years now!
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0 #12 Remase 2024-04-19 07:52
There's completely no need for EFRIS whatever! For 4 decades of M7's militant and autocratic rule, we have ill-equipped and inadequate hospitals in the country.

However parliament gives M7 trillions in security budget and billions in state house, travel, presidential donations, furniture, and other personal things for M7 every year!

If parliament were to cut M7's budget in half URA would get the money it needs from EFRIS 3 times more. If you went further to fight sanctioned corruption, certainly that would a long way to build a better infrastructure for our country! In other words, there's in no need for EFRIS but to account for the money that M7 has failed to count on purpose!
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0 #13 Charles Dicken Oruk 2024-04-19 11:56
Remase, the current political parties and their leaders will never bring change that the need so much in Uganda.

My pain is that, the people who supported the terrorist war of NRA/M in Luwero are the one confusing Ugandans.

Kizza Besigye supported Museveni in Luwero. He went to the bush because the UPC government was looking for him. He does not tell Ugandans why? What did he do to forced the UPC government looked for him (KB).
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+1 #14 Charles Dicken Oruk 2024-04-19 12:00
Any government including the current one will look for anybody who is doing something which is against the law.
Mugisha Muntu went to the bush to join Museveni and his NRA/M because of ideological differences with the UPC.

This is his words. Today he (MM) is not in NRA/M, I do not know whether this is also because of ideological diffeneces? If so, why is he not going to the bush to free Ugandans from Museveni grip?
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+2 #15 Charles Dicken Oruk 2024-04-19 12:03
The problem of Uganda today is that, all the opposition leaders are doing the wrong thing and expect the right answers.

Ugandans cannot fight the regime of Museven bare hands and chase them away. When the regime use the gun, and all other military hard wares against the poor people. Kampala is always under military operation and control.

During Obote II and Amin there was no patrol of miltiary men on foot in the city. If I am wrong let anybody corret me.

Freedom cannot come on a silver plate but through sweat and blood.
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0 #16 Remase 2024-04-19 19:53
Oruk, "Freedom cannot come on a sliver plate but through sweat and blood."

That is the truth and nothing but the truth. However a fugazi Kyagulanyi, who is only interested in personal gajns, is busy and hell bent on proving that there's democracy and rule of law in Uganda at all costs.

That's why he careless about NUP supporters who are being tried in a militant court and are rotting in prison! Kyagulanyi believes that freedom will come on a sliver plate and through the bogus elections!
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+5 #17 Lysol 2024-04-19 23:48
The money that Museveni failed to count, is to sustain his lavish lifestyle, and of his cabal.

Not to mention his militia, aka UPDF which is there to keep him in power for life. Museveni has always bribed his ways to cling onto power. Pure and simple!
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0 #18 Remase 2024-04-21 21:24
Fellow Ugandans, it isn't that we are paying less taxes and/or traders are not paying EFRIS, not at all!

It's all about the worst governing system that is best on corruption, nepotism, tribalism, patronage and militantirism!

The other day NUP MP, Lubega Segoma, praised M7 for appointing his friend, Balamu, as a minister! Segona clearly knows that M7's govt, which is; executive, parliament and judiciary is bassed on corruption, nepotism, tribalism, patronage and militantirism.

While on Bukedde TV, Balamu proved exactly that and went to the extent of calling upon Kyagulanyi, Lubongoya and Senyonyi to give him the names of NUP supporters who are innocently rotting in prison because of their political affiliation!
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0 #19 Remase 2024-04-21 23:02
Segona's friend, Balamu, went to the extent of information us that he took a NUP supporter to state house and asked M7 to forgive him because he was misled by Kyagulanyi!

It's people like Balamu who are appointed as a minister not on merits or needed but due to the aforesaid reasons. It's people like Segona who is an MP, not because he is there to serve the people but just to make the number, then pass the go and collect taxpayers money.

It is M7's huge govt that's full of greedy people like Balamu and segpna! If the government were to be cut in half, from the RDs, ministries and MPs, then there's no need for EFRIS.
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