Living inside out – the only way to end corruption in Uganda
Recently, Uganda has been plagued yet again, with negative publicity about the level of corruption taking place in the highest political arenas, and other governmental offices.
Much has been written about corruption, attempting to understand and tackle the causes of this very damaging phenomenon. But all the reasons put forward have not in my opinion, uncovered the real and only source of corruption.
I quote one writer, in a Ugandan paper, who said “For ordinary citizens, the debate on corruption – as expected – has been driven by the desire to punish the named and shamed. It has shed little light on the crux of the matter, that is, that these scandals demonstrate the collapse of the government’s financial management system”. There are three points I want to expand on, from this short piece. Firstly, a name and shame stance does little to help people reform. It only tackles the end product of a corrupted mind, who might lay low for a while, after being named (and possibly shamed, but if arrogance prevails, it will not even induce shame!); secondly, punishment does not necessarily help people reform from the inside-out either, i.e. knowing right from wrong, and in addition may lead people to vouch to themselves, that ‘next time’, they won’t get caught! The third point is about ‘corruption demonstrating the collapse of financial management system’. This collapse of management is not the reason why there is corruption. It is the collapse of innate integrity in the minds of the people who manage the finances that is the root of corruption, and nothing else!
The real reason, or cause of anything happening in our individuals lives, and in the physical world at large is the minds of human beings. Behaviour follows an impulse of the mind, in other words our thoughts. And if anything at all does not function in a perfect way, our minds are the cause of it, and not governments (consisting of people – understand minds), laws (devised by and supposedly respected by people), the economy (kept alive by people) or other people (also ruled by their minds).
I have to admit, that however much I love Uganda and its people, I dislike immensely to see how corrupt most minds can be in this beautiful country. I may have been a more obvious victim of corruption, being a mzungu, and appearing innocent to the Ugandan ways! But Mr Mutenza from the Promota ( Ugandan through and through) recounted his own story of being recently a victim of corruption, which led to him having to pay thousands of dollars to various people in order to recover his land which a soldier has forcefully taken, and correct a wrong which he had been a victim of in the first place. And he experienced this corruption at several very high judicial levels. Mr Mutenza told me how he would have preferred by far to invest this money in projects that would have helped the poorest in Uganda. He was not happy that this ill gotten money was lining the pockets of already well-off officials. But had he not paid the money, he would have been unable to proceed with his own affairs. And even though some friends of his in high official positions tried to help him, the corrupted minds claiming the bribes refused outright to abandon their ploy of a quick, unlawful gain!
When people in the West witness such behaviour, they stop and rethink about their willingness to part with their money, money which they would like to see invested for the entire growth and wellbeing of the country, not just to make a few fat cats, fatter!! We sadly had such a case, where a wealthy business man in the UK, witnessing such corruption, cut off all ties with Uganda, loathed to have his money mismanaged and abused. This was an immense loss for the poor people and the children he wanted to help. Many lives lost out long term because of the short-sighted, corrupted minds he initially dealt with.
The end of corruption can very easily take place, if reformation happens at the source of the problem, namely people’s minds. In another article, the writer admitted that ‘civil society organizations have launched a plan that will sensitise the public about the dangers of corruption through newsletters, radios and outreach programmes’. This, in my opinion, is a wonderful step in the right direction, but, these organisations must deliver the right message to help people reform from the inside- out! To encourage people to respect the laws, to make them see the damage corruption creates is part of this vital message, of course. But it is deep in the human mind and psyche that the message needs to be driven to, absorbed, thought about, understood and then integrated into people’s every day behaviour. And a corruption-free mind needs to be fostered from very early on in life, starting in the family unit. A young child learns from his environment, copies what he sees, believes that what he sees done by others is the way life is lived. If the family unit, then the educational system are themselves not corruption-free, this child stands little chance of differentiating between what is right and acceptable and what is wrong and damaging to himself and others.
So to eradicate corruption, we must firstly uproot all propensities to lie, deceive, cheat and highjack, as well as banish other lowly habits out of the family unit. It is nearly impossible to uproot the nefarious weeds of corruption out of a mind that has accepted it as the norm, and has been using it in his/ her life for years, not even stopping once to wonder if it is the right way to function in life, because nearly everyone else does the same.
Whilst uprooting the weeds at family levels, and also promoting a corruption-free mind via the educational channels (let this ‘weeding’ be an integral part of the curriculum!), the whole nation needs also powerful role models, and these are the ones who are currently showing very poor records of integrity and honesty, namely, leaders in governments and officials in high and low positions, in many different organisations across society.
If the people decrying the high levels of corruption in any way fail themselves to ‘walk the talk’ of putting an end to corruption, they might as well keep on plotting on how to make the next millions disappear into secret bank accounts, because their voice will not carry the weight and conviction of honesty and integrity, and people can see through such flimsy and empty behaviours.
A corrupted mind is a mind that feels separate from other minds, i.e. other people. It is a mind that does not know that all lives are intrinsically linked, and that if we steal from another, we really steal from ourselves! If we cheat another, we short-change ourselves, and dig our own ruts of endless miseries. We all fall under the universal law of ‘cause and effect’. Therefore, what we plant in the world, namely the effects of our behaviour (good or bad), will result in a guaranteed crop of the same qualities, but with added interest. If we plant seeds of corruption, the crops of everyone’s efforts will be blighted, not only for the ones indulging in corruption. The corrupted mind will get the biggest return on his planting though, and many wonder why they may suddenly face the loss of their high positions, why their health has taken a turn for the worse, why their crops have failed, and their cows are losing weight or have run away!
People must reform their minds first, and know, without a shadow of a doubt that corruption is an unacceptable behaviour for any human being to indulge in, full stop. People must embrace this truth with a passion and foster an immense dislike for it, knowing that corruption hurts everyone, especially the perpetrators. And the ones who embrace this truth must teach it to others and help them understand that there is a much better and nobler way to conduct themselves.
I would like to see an anti-corruption program put in place by the ones in the highest political and judicial positions, and I would like to see these people themselves regularly talk about the needs for all of us to reform our minds. A reformed mind will automatically shun corruption. Naming, shaming and punishment would not not even be mentioned as ways to tackle the problem, as there would be no one to name, shame and punish!
Feature Editor of the Promota magazine