BY VENENSCIAS KIIZA
Secrets why President Museveni moved Col Edith Nakalema from the helm of State House Anti-Corruption Unit and sent her on a one-year training at the newly established National Defence College in Jinja District have emerged. Whereas she could not be reached for a comment, sources close to her confirmed this development. Sources further told us that she is yet to meet the president and brief him about the progress she had made and as well to get guidance on whom she should hand over office to. To some analysts, the move is a blow to the fight against corruption given that she had cut a figure of a combatant who was ready to touch the untouchables as far as thieving in government offices and parastatals was concerned; and went ahead to demystify big fish syndrome in Uganda. However, to some Ugandans, the move has been interpreted as a knifing given that she had just returned from a course, three years ago. They say she has literally been put on Katebe. Col Nakalema, then Lt.Col, who was handpicked by President Museveni in December 2018 to head SHACU, had just completed a higher command and staff course at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, in Watchfield, Oxfordshire, UK. In April, this year she was promoted Colonel. Insiders also say that maybe in the course of her duties she could have made a mistake somewhere or her juniors and the appointing authority decided to put her aside and review her modus operandi. Others say it could have been the work of the ‘untouchables’ or mafia who maybe thought she had made life difficult for them.
However, other military sources we talked to over this story said, given that the National Defence College in Jinja District has just been newly established, it needed powerful, experienced and well-grounded pioneer students who may inspire others to join in the future both from Uganda, East Africa, Africa and the whole world at large, and Nakalema is one of them.
According to sources, several high-ranking officers above the rank of Colonel have been considered and these include among others Defence Ministry spokesperson Brig Flavia Byekwaso and Brig Peter Chandia, the acting Commander of Special Forces Command.
Military sources say this is one of the courses every army officer including some Generals dream of attending. “For us in the military we just envy her [Col.Nakalema]. She has kept on attracting the eye of the commander in chief and the sky’s the limit for her. To us in the military it is like a promotion for her…,” a military source told this newspaper.
We have also learnt that because of the many successes Col Nakalema had registered at SHACU in just three years, some other investigative bodies like IGG, Auditor General, Police’s CID had reportedly become uncomfortable and thought she was outshining them. Sources say, the president may have listened and taken note of these sentiments and now wants to strengthen them and the first step was to remove anti-corruption tsar Nakalema whose presence threatened everyone.
It should be recalled that a few days ago, the constitutional court was asked to check on powers of Col. Edith Nakalema’s State House Anti-Corruption unit or disband it completely. The petition has been filed by KCCA councilor-Jeremiah Keeyo Mwanje, Law Development Center (LDC) student-Justus Akampurira, Thomas Bagonza also a student of law and businessman Darius Muteesa.
Through their lawyers of Kigenyi-Opira and Company Advocates, the petitioners want court to declare that the creation and activities of SHAU are illegal, inconsistent with paragraphs 11(i) and v (i) of the National Objectives and Directive principles of the State Policy and articles 1,20,23,27,28,44, and 99(3) of the constitution.
They further want the court to declare that SHAHU is not constitutionally empowered to investigate, arrest and detain any suspect. They reason such powers were given to Uganda police through the Criminal Investigation Department or the office of the Inspector General of Government. They also want the court to declare that SHAU is not constitutionally empowered to probe, arrest, and detain suspects since they are not stipulated in the laws of Uganda. They seek a court declaration that all investigations, arrests, detentions made by SHAU are illegal and in contravention with the constitution. The petitioners also want the court to disband SHAU with immediate effect because President Yoweri Museveni didn’t follow the laws when he was establishing the unit in 2018. They want the 1st Respondent, the Attorney General, be ordered to release all detainees arrested and in custody on orders of SHAU. Court has also been asked to make a permanent injunction restraining SHAU from carrying on with its functions. “Col.Nakalema activities and those generally of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit have extended to granting something akin to police bond in instances where she sees fit to do so and where her investigations are still being carried on,” the affidavit filed in court reads, stressing that SHAU’s actions contravenes the doctrine of presumption of innocence and kills their reputation in the public. The affidavit further adds that SHAU uses public servants like army officers, lawyers and other security detectives to execute which contravenes the law. They also accuse Col Nakalema of illegally using government funds through the State house to run the activities of the agency which they say is illegal.
In a brief seen by this newspaper, the unit underscored the need to improve service delivery as the core obligation of different public organisations.
“It has been established that better accountability improves service delivery. Accountability among public officers in Uganda is of great concern,” reads the brief.
It was also indicated that in absence of a watchdog entity, some public servants use their positions of authority to satisfy their selfish interests.
“Some public officers use their positions to manipulate power and abuse authority for personal benefit. Public officers must be accountable to people, serve them with integrity, responsibility, transparency, loyalty and efficiency and act with patriotism and justice,” the brief adds.
Since its inception, SH-ACU has been able to recover a total of Ush.300 billion taxpayers’ through prosecutions, and other measures used to compel corrupt officials to refund embezzled public funds.
Due to its relentless efforts, the unit has managed to get a total of 326 people arraigned in courts of law, to answer corruption related charges. Of these, 40 people have been convicted and sentenced.
In the presentation, it was indicated that the unit has investigated different public servants for graft, including members of parliament, accounting officers, security personnel’s, directors of several government agencies and commissions.
This is done to ensure that there is proper accountability in their operations.
The unit has been able to obtain data and crucial information, leading to investigation and prosecution of corrupt officials, through engaging the public and instituting toll free lines for people to alert it, incase of any suspicious activity by any public official. It has also been done through effective collaboration with other anti-corruption agencies like the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and rapid or timely response.
SHACU, according to the brief, has also worked around the clock, to ensure the safe return of about 600 Ugandans stranded after being trafficked to Arab countries.
It has also conclusively investigated about 10,000 cases and interdicted 200 government workers from public offices.
On the other side of the coin, the unit has faced cut-throat challenges like failure by members of the public to appear and witness in court.
The complex nature of corruption cases has also been challenging and this has necessitated more need for forensic training. It has also battled challenges of impersonation, smear campaigns and character assassinations.
SH-ACU has enjoyed a competitive and strategic advantage, over internal and external forces that are all out to fail its operations.
These include; enabling guidance from the top leadership, strong partnerships with different entities like the Police Force, the Inspector General of Government (IGG), and different government ministries like health. It has also capitalized on healthy and productive collaboration with the media, who expose corrupt officials, hence providing the unit with vital information necessary in carrying out its operations.
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