Last year, I was assigned by my editor to attend a ceremony where the government Ombudsman was releasing a perception survey which was carried out after an investigation into prevalence and incidences of corruption and administrative injustice in the public service.
Although the survey showed the Police, Judiciary, Uganda Revenue Authority, Umeme- the power utility firm- and the public service pension office as the most corrupt government departments, it blamed the youth for doing nothing to fight graft.
Uganda’s vulnerability to corruption stems from systemic faults in governance. Continued initiatives to strengthen legal frame work, national enforcement agencies and national anti-corruption strategies are needed to effectively curb corruption in the country. Although government initiatives such as the Anti-Corruption Court, the Inspectorate of government and the office of the Auditor General have, in varying degrees, positively contributed to Uganda’s fight against corruption, the full effectiveness of these initiatives is impeded by several challenges.
Uganda may share the story of corruption with many countries but its young population is unique in the world today. Over 67% of its population are under the age of 35. A further 48 % are under the age of 18. In the next 15 years to come, most institutions will be manned by people under the age of 50.
The question that seemed important to me was, how in a country with such pervasive youthfulness and pervasive corruption- can the future leaders fight that evil called corruption? Certainly, it was not a question of lack of institutions. Alongside the Ombudsman were several laws and institutions designed to fight corruption.
Despite of all these measures, however, the vice seems to be flourishing and not diminishing. The World Bank country managers said this month that graft in Uganda was endemic, and a confidential World Bank report said government audits read like a case of “Ali Baba and the Forty thieves”.
So how could today’s innocents prevent being sucked into the circle of Ali Baba? Will the forty thieves become forty million thieves? Who are they stealing from if not themselves? And if institutions failed, our role models failed, where will change come from? How do you save a generation from going bad? That’s the question.
In the fight against corruption everywhere, there can be no victory without courageous individuals standing up, speaking out, taking risks, and alerting the wider society that something wrong is taking place. Such courageous individuals are to be found amongst the youth. This can only be successfully if youth organizations form a symbiotic relationship with the media and use the power of the Internet to spread the anti-corruption gospel. The youth can rise up to demand the necessary legal and structural reforms that are vital in fighting corruption.
The youth should rise up and work with the civil society and religious groups to raise awareness about corruption and participate in the design and implementation of anti-corruption strategies. The youth should understand that they are unstoppable force in any country, whatever the stage of its democracy. Their effectiveness in exposing corruption is only one of the many things that they can achieve together. They must believe in their respective strengths, and in their combined partnership strength, and persevere in their efforts to achieve a better world, generally, and especially one that is free of corruption.