Why Karamoja Remains a Hotbed of Corruption as Government Officials Exploit Resources

For a meal karimojong girl granding seeds of wild fruit localy called (Ekoret)in Kaabong (Steven Ariong)
A young child in Karamoja traditionally grinding sorghum for a meal. The poverty in Karamoja is advantageous for some government officials. (Photo by Steven Ariong)
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Moroto, Uganda – Karamoja, a region located in northeastern Uganda, continues to be a fertile ground where government officials appointed to manage projects exploit resources at their discretion.

This publication takes you back 10 years when billions of money sent by the central government to improve the lives of the people in Karamoja ended up in individual pockets.

The first corruption saga occurred when Dr. Specioza Wandera Kazibwe was the vice president. During her tenure, billions of shillings were mismanaged under ghost dams that never existed, and the implicated officials are still at liberty.

The second corruption saga involves the NUSAF program, where the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd programs failed to create any positive change in the lives of the people in Karamoja.

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The most recent issue is under NUSAF 3, where the government allocated funds to certain individuals to produce vegetables in the region. However, nothing substantial is visible on the ground, and the money was misappropriated, leaving the culprits unpunished.

Last year, Shs 39 billion was approved by parliament to rescue Karamoja from hunger. The funds were channeled to the Office of the Prime Minister, but the Karimojong continued to suffer without food.

Another Shs 35 billion was allocated for a disarmament exercise in Karamoja, but sources in the security forces claim they are working under harsh conditions, sometimes without water and food, indicating that the funds have not reached the forces on the ground.

Recently, the Office of the Prime Minister launched the distribution of goats for reformed cattle rustlers under the directive from President Museveni. However, many reformed youth have not received goats, and even those who did lost the goats within three weeks due to poor breeding.

The iron sheets saga followed, where the Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Ms. Mary Goreti Kitutu, allegedly diverted iron sheets meant for distribution to the people of Karamoja. The minister, currently under investigation, distributed the iron sheets to her political mobilizers and relatives, leading to the arrest of her mother, brother, and nephew.

These are just a few incidents, but many cases of fund mismanagement by other officials have left Karamoja in the same poverty level despite the government pouring money into the region. This money ends up being kicked around like a ball, with officials passing it back and forth without benefiting the local community.

It’s important to note that government agencies do not consult the locals on which projects would work best for them; instead, they impose projects on them.

Matthew Mudong, one of the elders, stated that there is no government where people have misappropriated money more than the current NRM government. “President Museveni is wasting his time talking about fighting corruption because the people who make reports for him are corrupt,” he said.

Andrew Lemukol, another resident, expressed skepticism about Minister Kitutu facing consequences. “What I have learned with this government is that when you steal public money, there’s no problem; the government will not pursue you so much. But when you express interest in contesting to become a president, that’s when you will see the roughness of this government,” he said.

According to Lemukol, corruption in Uganda can only be dealt with when the government starts holding those responsible for stealing public resources accountable, even suggesting the use of firing squads for those involved in corruption. “When you execute a few like Minister Kitutu, who has been caught with evidence of stealing, the rest will fear and stop it,” he said.

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