Many years ago, in the 1990s, I was a small boy that carried aspirations of becoming a Roman Catholic priest. I had crossed paths with priests and they had become part of my circles in one way or another. I always believed that the most intelligent people in this world were the priests and this led me on to a knowledge-hunting expedition each time I had the chance to interact with the priest outside Church. One such priest that I interacted a lot with was Rev. Fr. Steve Collins, a veteran Scot priest that resided at Lourdel House in Nsambya. By 1997, he celebrated 50 years of priesthood, having spent over 40 of those years in the pearl of Africa.
Fr. Collins once gave me a 20-minute lecture on corruption. His words are still fresh in my memory, as if told to me yesterday. I will reproduce them below
“Leonard, never support corruption in all its forms. Corruption is more dangerous than HIV/AIDS. Corruption is more deadly than Cancer. Cancer is now the leading threat to life in the Developed world.
When a country accepts corruption to thrive, it will eat it to the marrow. Corruption eats up the moral fibre of that society in the same way Cancer and HIV/AIDS eat up a person. First, you can think its only the man collecting taxes in the market that just wants to survive because his salary is small, then you extend the same reason to the traffic policeman and you extrapolate it further to the lowly-paid nurse in public hospital and to the teacher. At this point Corruption has made an entry into the critical organs of the state.
When corruption enters the health-care system, it increases deaths of important and aged personalities who may take long to realise that corruption could have afforded them timely health-care. When it enters the education system, it has now matured to the level of a cancer that starts eating up the blood stream or nervous system. All products of that education will be corrupt! It will only take another 20 years for corruption to eat up the entire society and nobody will be safe in that country. Even the beneficiaries of corruption will no longer be safe.
At that point, the criminal justice system will be so rotten that criminals will be untouchable, but will not even spare their Godfathers. The education system will be rotten to the marrow. The taxes collected from the citizens will be stolen and nobody will be bothered. The health-care system will cater for the highest bidder. The poor will be poorer, but they too will have corrupted minds. There will be a new class of rich men and women as a result of corruption. Hard-work will be despised. The confidence in the banking system will be no more. The media will no longer be reliable. The Church will be ripe for another reformation and many false religions and cults will spring up. Prayers and blessings will be traded for money. Parents will be buying babies instead of producing them. People will no longer tell their true age. People will change names anyhow. There will be no sense of belonging and no sense of pride in tribe, faith nor country.
Leonard, pray that your good country Uganda never gets to this level of corruption.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, by 1997-1998, when murmurs of a Minister stealing billions of UPE funds with impunity progressed to the corridors and floor of Parliament, we had officially began the journey of accepting corruption in the Education sector. This was happening after the dismissal of Ongom from UNEB because of rampant Exam malpractice and the practice of coaching and holiday teaching were taking root in schools. This time coincided with chilling stories of obscene sums stolen from the ‘privatisation’ gamble by Government. We also had the ADF rebels in Kasese. Then there was the never-dying story of Maj. Gen. David Tinyefunza trying to exit the military because of revealing to Parliament that the war in Northern Uganda was not ending because corrupt commanders were profiteering from it.
Am afraid that 20 years after I heard those words of Fr. Collins, we seem to have reached that obscene level of corruption. The corrupt system in the country has now entrenched itself in all sectors especially the critical ones. The Justice, Law and Order sector is guilty of stinking corruption that on one day a known murderer is working with Police to fight crime and on another day, he is back at his vice. The corruption has turned the criminal justice system into some sort of criminal injustice system, which the criminals are not even scared of.
Ladies and Gentlemen, corruption has allowed the criminals to go about their business unhindered and it is the real reason behind the assassinations. Surveillance Cameras, tough-talking IGP and President, Condemnation of the murders from the elite members of Parliament and judicial officers will not stop these assassinations at all. The only way to guarantee the security of lives and property is to deal with the vice of corruption that has eaten up our society.
May God help us!
Egesa Ronald Leonard”