Uganda Presidency Buying Votes As Election Approaches

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Heading into Friday's presidential election in Uganda, dictator Yoweri Museveni has apparently designated his brother,
Gen. Salim Saleh, as his consigliere, or "briber in chief."

Gen. Museveni seems to have decided; if I can't woo the voters, let me just buy them. Gen. Saleh, according to local media reports in Uganda has been traveling the country and unloading money on potential voters and opposition regional party leaders, to switch sides, around the East African country. Museveni himself has been photographed by local newspapers doling out "brown envelopes" filled with cash during his own campaign tours.

The blatant arrogance of this corruption is another affirmation of what U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier, wrote to his bosses at the State Department about, according to cables leaked by WikiLeaks and published by the U.K's The Guardian newspaper.

Lanier wrote that even junior officials in Gen. Museveni's own ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party were "critical of Museveni's unwillingness to hold senior NRM leaders - such as Security Minister (Amama) Mbabazi, Foreign Minister (Sam) Kutesa, and Trade Minister (Kahinda) Otafiire among others - accountable for corruption allegations." What's more, Lanier wrote, "The NRM's near total accumulation of power has led to poor governance, corruption, and rising ethnic tensions, a combination that threatens Ugandan 'democracy' and stability."

In another memo Lanier wrote that he had received credible information that Mbabazi and Energy minister Hilary Onek, had been bribed by a foreign oil company and that the money spirited to a secret account.

Now Museveni's brother, Gen. Saleh is inviting more Ugandans to partake in the corrupt practise. According to a local newspaper account, Gen. Saleh bribed Mubarak Kirunda, who leads the Forum For Democratic Change (FDC) opposition party's efforts in the industrial city of Jinja, with $10,000 to switch his allegiance to Museveni's NRM party, and also to mobilize voters in the important region of Busoga, to support Museveni.

Readers' surveys in botth The Daily Monitor, the country's independent newspaper, and The New Vision, the government paper, show the FDC's leader Dr. Kizza Besigye beating Gen. Museveni on Friday.

In addition to the $10,000 inducement, Gen. Saleh had also reportedly agreed to introduce Kirunda to his brother, the Don himself, Gen. Museveni. When news of the bribe was reported in Uganda's Daily Monitor, Gen. Saleh called the newspaper to declare that Kirunda was mistaken, and that the $10,000 was in fact a payment for a legitimate business deal that the
two individuals had been negotiating. Kirunda sticks by his story.

In an interesting twist, Gen. Saleh has demanded that his $10,000 be returned. In an even more interesting twist, Kirunda has asked Gen. Saleh to produce a receipt or any documentation with his signature.

Gen. Saleh who enjoys sibling immunity, is no stranger to big time corruption. A United Nations Security Council report implicated him and other senior Uganda military officers in the loot of Congo's riches during Uganda's occupation of the country. Perhaps not surprisingly, both the other senior Uganda officers implicated by the U.N., Brigadier Noble Mayombo and Gen. James Kazini both suffered mysterious deaths in Uganda.

Yet the desperate ploy by Gen. Saleh on behalf of his brother is an indication that the U.S.-backed dictator, Gen. Museveni, is not all that confident about his chances at the polls come Friday. Perhaps the two sibling generals smell something funny in the winds blowing in from Cairo?

The orgy of bribery also speaks loudly as to how Gen. Museveni has so totally corrupted Uganda. He has created a rich elite in Uganda --including his close relatives and senior party officials-- while the majority of Ugandans suffer from poverty, decaying infrastructure, schools, and hospitals. The Daily Monitor reported recently that patients rushed to Kampala's Mulago Hospital with injuries, including broken bones from accidents sometimes wait for up to five months to get x-rayed. Some patients reportedly demand that they be discharged so they can go and die at home.

So what is Gen. Museveni's priority even after 25 years in office? To improve the hospitals and the roads and the schools? Hardly--it's to win at all cost even if it means bribing the entire country.

Ugandans hold their head up high and pocket the money, which is rightly theirs through embezzled funds anyway. Come Friday, they should do the right thing and vote for the candidate of their own choice.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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