Richard Ssewakiryanga is Executive Director of the Uganda National NGO Forum, part of a coalition of non-governmental organisations that have been calling for action against corruption.

But today, he is worried that he could be next target of a sweeping move by donors against Uganda, over concern that money meant for the deprived is being swindled by government officials.

“Even us in civil society, getting financial support now is becoming difficult, our donors think all money sent to Uganda is misused,” Ssewakiryanga said.

Sewakiryanga’s concern follows the news that Britain has joined the growing list of countries that have slammed the aid doors shut on Uganda after the office of the Prime Minister (OPM) failed to account for nearly Shs 50bn.

“Unless the government of Uganda can show that UK taxpayers’ money is going towards helping the poorest people to lift them out of poverty, this aid will remain frozen and we will expect repayment and administrative and criminal sanctions,” a statement announcing the suspension of aid read in part.

In this financial year alone, Britain was supposed to contribute £26.9 million. Over 50% of this money had already been released but the remaining £11.1 million due to be released by the end of March has been suspended. According to the 2012/2013 budget, 31% of Uganda’s budget is funded by development partners; therefore, suspending bilateral aid, has a lot of implications socially, financially and politically.

Ssewakiryanga believes that suspending aid is likely to have a far-reaching impact mainly on people in northern Uganda who have been using the money to rebuild their war-ravaged lives.

“It is like finding a lame person trying to walk and then you remove his clutches. The little money that reached was supporting recovery efforts,” Ssewakiryanga said. Basically this means, that projects like Karamoja Livelihood Programme (KALIP), Agricultural Livelihood Recovery Programme (ALREP), Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF II) are likely to stall. Nearly all sectors like health, education, agriculture, housing, and transport will be affected.

However, Aaron Mukwaya, a lecturer in the department of political science at Makerere University disagrees. “Even if aid tripled, it would not mean anything to the people in the north. That aid has not been reaching them, for them it is the usual suffering,” he argues.

By suspending aid, Mukwaya argues that development partners are telling government that enough is enough to corruption.

“The OPM scandal is not the issue, the issue is there is the super theft in the whole system. What the donors are saying is enough is enough and they have now decided to side with the people and not government” Mukwaya said.

He believes suspension of aid would most likely lead to many people losing their salaries since some civil servants are paid through the donor-funded budget. Politically, Mukwaya says, it is going to be difficult for a government that is used to giving bribes and tokens to ensure compliance to operate. “They [government officials] will begin to steal locally generated revenues,” he reasoned.

“We are likely to see the government become more dictatorial. It has been bribing people, but now there will be no money to offer the tokens. We are likely to see government using ‘naked force’ against its people. We are likely to go the Zimbabwe way,” Mukwaya said.

Government’s take

Ethics Minister Fr Simon Lokodo last Thursday said suspending aid to Uganda was very regrettable. The Ministry of Finance spokesman, Jim Mugunga, told The Observer, that it was still too early to determine the impact of the suspension of aid.

“Donors have just frozen aid to Uganda but they have not suspended it,” he said, adding: “Government does not view the freezing of aid as an act of hostility aimed at crippling government, but they [donors] are just expressing concern over corruption,” Mugunga said.

He says government is proactively engaging with development partners, with a view of strengthening internal control and financial systems, to ensure such financial mismanagement does not happen again.

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+4 #1 Mzungu1 2012-11-21 00:51
The root cause of corruption has to be addressed. Tribalism, Big Man Presidencies, and the zero-sum game attached to gaining the Presidency in Ugandan politics.

Get rid of the centrality of power in the President, and the subsequent benefit to the associated tribe and insiders, and the countries rewources won't be horded by a few. If the money was destined for certain areas in the west, would these funds been pilfered?

As a developed world taxpayer, I am increasingly more interested in my domestic disadvantaged citizens than I am in Ugandan disadvantaged. We are undergoing service cuts and tax increases in the European cultured developed world, and the need is growing at home. It's your country and your problem... fix it.
+1 #2 Betty Long Cap 2012-11-21 01:37
Quoting Mzungu1:
It's your country and your problem... fix it.

Fair warning, Mzungul.
+1 #3 kalifani 2012-11-21 06:41
That shows how a federal political system is beneficial.The north would have had direct control of this aid money under a federal government and each penny would be tracked on the ground.

Helpless citizens will continue to suffer and beg under the current centralized authoritarian system patronized by one person.
0 #4 Patrick 2012-11-21 08:03
It is true that the people of Northern Uganda whose unending suffering was to be ameliorated by the funding from the friendly governments need this money in order to achieve a minimum level of recovery. But it is also true that the money was not being used for the intended purposes.

Rather than continuing to pour scarce clean water in that basket, suspend the release of funds until we are sure that capacity to manage and use the money constructively is in place.
0 #5 Kamusime.A 2012-11-21 22:17
Ssewakiryanga be truthfull,you are just looking for your own survival,you are not very different from the government,how dare you mention that we people from north will miss out on this yet we have never received anything other than the dust from the cars that these goons bought from this fund.
0 #6 Ngunze Ntambi 2012-11-22 09:42
I really think Mr. Ssewakiryanga is a M7 apologist. Just forget about AID and let M7's nakedness be revealed kabisa. The Bible is very clear, by their fruits, we shall know them. Those who used to argue that M7 is clean, it is the people around him can now go to the gutter.

His wife is a frequent flier to Karamoja, if she cut out her flights to the area, and that money was put to roads, Karamoja would have a super highway. She flies to the area to distribute mattresses and basins! Take that!

Teach people how to make money and they will buy themselves mattresses and basins. Really for M7 and group to chew off 97% of the aid money and only 3% trickles down,is like saying when one puts on a condom the condom too enjoys the act since it is involved in the whole act.

Let the condom know it is being used and not a beneficiary. In the same way bwana Ssewakiryanga, people in the north, Karamoja have been condomised for long. It is time for the users to go live and contract the syphilis.

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