By Ronald Musoke
Although, Mike Mukula, the Soroti Municipality MP’s conviction and sentence on Jan. 18 has been hailed by government as a step forward in the fight against corruption, his sentence has equally sparked off debate among Ugandans.
Mukula was last Friday (Jan. 18) found guilty by the Anti-Corruption Court for embezzling the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) funds totaling to Ushs 210m in 2005.
While talking to The New Vision on Jan.21, Simon Lokodo, the ethics minister said Mukula’s conviction should serve as a lesson to Ugandans to shun corruption.
“Hoping that the trial was well-handled, the sentence is a great step in the fight against corruption. It is a signal to the public, especially those who handle public funds that they should desist from misusing them,” Lokodo is quoted in The New Vision.
However, just like many other members of the Ugandan public have been saying on FM radio stations since Mukula was sent to Luzira, Cissy Kagaba, the Chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU) has added her voice insisting that Ugandans still need to see justice.
In the Mukula case, Kagaba says, three other people who were accused alongside him were exonerated because the witnesses brought by prosecution were found wanting and the judge’s hands were tied since the evidence was weak.
“Our money was not returned. We still want to see justice done,” she says.
Kagaba said sentencing Mukula when he is out of office meant nothing.
“The stronger case would be if Mukula was still holding public office since this would send a strong message to public officials,” Kagaba told The Independent.
Kagaba further noted that if justice must be served; let it be served to all the guilty.
“The government reports produced implicated so many senior government officials but what Ugandans have seen is selective prosecution of these officials.”
“The government selectively taking on these officials does not send a very good message,” Kagaba said.
Lokodo, however, said that despite the Ugandans’ opinions about the judiciary, he trusted it.
“I have heard some people complain that Mukula’s sentence was unfair since the ruling did not apply to his co-accused in addition to him returning the money. I reserve my comment on that. But in any case, I trust the justice system,” he said.
The minister noted that the major challenges in fighting corruption in Uganda are technicalities during the prosecution of suspects.