Does this headline ring a bell in your memory? It might
Twelve years ago, in June 2005, Vol. 4. No. 54, the now-defunct Message Weekly newspaper carried a similar headline; “Muntu: Uganda in the grip of Mafia.” In it, this column defined and laid out the operations of the Ugandan Mafia as the former army commander, Maj. Gen. MugishaMuntu, had seen it and feared.
Last week, both President YoweriMuseveni and the Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura, belatedly confirmed and uttered that this hydra functions in the State House and the banking system, respectively, obviously among other institutions. In an interesting sense, this admission was Museveni’s Christmas and the New Year message and gift to Ugandans.
This was not the case 12 years ago. The Editor of the Message, the late SalimBiryetega, was summoned to Okello House (State House), by a senior presidential advisor, over the story and pressed that the Islamic Call Society, the publishers of the Message Weekly, must give a certain amount of money to the advisor so that she would travel all over the country to “correct” the image created among the people – about the import of the story.
The Libyan director of the Call Society gave the money; it is anybody’s guess that the advisor addressed any rally anywhere in the country about Muntu’sobservation. This was merely part of the Mafia’s operations, using blackmail and extortion.
And the column had narrated the historical progression of the Mafia from its origins from Sicily in Italy to the La Cosa Nostra (Our Headache), in the United States. Two figures have come to symbolize the effectiveness of the American Mafia: the latest strong boss, John Gotti, who is serving a life sentence for a variety of crimes; but more importantly, the late former boss in the 1960s, Charles a.k.a ‘Lucky’ Luciano.
Luciano is credited for having created a system out of the chaotic criminal strong-arm stuff organization.At one point he stated: “I learned that you need just as good a brain to make a crooked million as an honest million. These days, you apply for a license to steal from the public.” And then, this column at the time had added a rider; “And instead of a license, it is advantageous to get a government, first.”
The Ugandan headache thatMuntu was talking about at that time, is now what Museveni and Kayihura, are talking about. But even before now, other public figures; such as former vice president, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya, and former presidential press secretary, Tamale Mirundi, kept on harping about it, apparently to no avail.
At the time he was fired, the latter was constantly on the airwaves insinuating that he had been in mortal danger at his post by people who wanted to see him off it.
If Lucky Luciano created an organization out of the Mafia, the people who are in charge have never had character changes, merely donning a veneer of sophistication. Thus the column in the Message observed that the Uganda Mafia are:
“A hotchpotch description of the people involved is an amazing and frightening categorization of mental deviants, disruptive upstarts, unsavoury characters and sex perverts. There are kleptomaniacs, wizards, opium smokers and liars.
“Others are: extortionists, blackmailers, thieves, murderers, rustlers, robbers, forgers and money launderers. You also find sodomists, nymphomaniacs, rapists and philanderers.
These dregs-of-society attributes, of course, cut across some of these fellows, such that it is possible for one of these fellows to be nearly all of these.” It did not come as a surprise a short while ago when FDC leader, former presidential aspirant and Bush War hero, Dr. KizzaBesigye, admitted that his bush war colleagues were robbers.
Clearly, therefore, one of the problems in the high echelons of power has been identified; and as such the people who are practicing these criminal activities in institutions of government are easy to spot.
It thus behooves the people in the power structures to take administrative action to root the evil out the socio-economic and political fabric of the country. Merely going to the press and airing it will not help because the people affected do not care about talking about their reputations, especially if they are not specifically cited and are left untouched.