A former vice president of Uganda was yesterday charged with corruption-related offences, a move government critics say is meant to eliminate him as a political threat to veteran leader President Yoweri Museveni.
Gilbert Bukenya, who was sacked by Museveni last month in a cabinet reshuffle, was charged with two counts of abuse of office in the anti-graft court. He was freed on a US$20,000 bail and ordered to surrender his passport.
His trial will begin on June 30.
“Those charges are absolutely not true,” he said when asked if he understood the case against him.
Bukenya is widely seen by analysts and the public as a potential successor to Museveni, who has been in power for 25 years and won re-election to a fourth term in a disputed election in February.
He is accused of flouting procurement laws by influencing the award of a contract for the supply of luxury cars and police outrider motorcycles worth 9.4 billion shillings ahead of a 2007 Commonwealth summit.
A report into corruption around the summit by Uganda’s anti-graft office fingered several senior ministers, including newly-appointed Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa.
Bukenya, though, is the only one facing charges.
“The reason Bukenya is being prosecuted is so that any hopes he has of being in the queue to succeed Museveni are totally crushed. Anyone who shows a streak of independence in wanting to succeed Museveni as their own man falls into trouble,” said political analyst Nicholas Ssengoba.
Museveni has come under growing fire for failing to root out high-level corruption and for becoming more autocratic.
Foreign investors and donor countries closely monitor the soon-to-be oil producer’s corruption levels. A government agency estimated Uganda lost US$100 million annually in procurement-related corruption.