Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Corruption: The most established peagant on Uganda's "moral" contest

As records keep being made and broken in the battle of who the smartest corrupt civil servant is, Ugandans ought to look at the lighter side of this corruption pageant. Initially tales of corruption scandals took the ordinary Ugandan with shock, anger and bitterness but thanks to the dynamics of the day, surprise is no more. Ugandans have learnt not just to live with corruption but to envy the gurus of corruption as well. It is not uncommon to find Ugandans labelling corrupt people as “sharp” and those who are unable to outwit the system as “fala”. While all this labelling goes on, civil servants are locked in different races and various leagues trying to out-do eachother. In this contest, the size of the "loot" determines the "glory" at stake. Depending on which championship you win or lose, you will either become a "sharp" guy or a "falla."
What is the moral of this labelling? The optimism that Ugandans had two decades ago, regarding socio-economic progress has been dashed by the inherent inequalities of the system. The bulk of Ugandans are desperately poor, jobless and desperate, while the few are making strides at an alarming pace often bruising the toes of the less fortunate. The end result is an ever widening social divide which has left the underprivileged yearning for opportunities to “eat” as well. The end result....two desperate classes...one desperate to extend their dominance in eating and determining who takes what where and for how long and the other to get to the eating table.
When one visits the numerous bufundas where ordinary folks gather to wash away their stress and vent their frustrations, talk of Jamwa Chandi being a sharp young man and the Amamas tying to eat in order to catch up with their junior colleagues who have out-eaten them in earlier deals predominates. In the eyes of many ordinary Ugandans, corruption is a means to an end...a bus that can surely get one out of the path of the dreaded elephant...poverty. In anycase, not all that is immoral is bad after all, and corruption can be functionally positive in the eyes of many in the pearl of Africa.

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