Possible Museveni rival faces Uganda graft charges


A former senior Ugandan official sacked two weeks ago faces corruption charges, court documents show in what analysts said might be a manoeuvre to sideline a potential challenger to long-serving President Yoweri Museveni.

Although the East African nation’s economy has grown strongly over the last decade thanks to market reforms, donors and analysts say graft could dampen the pace and international criticism of Museveni’s 25-year-long rule has increased.

In the charge sheets issued by the government’s inspector general on May 27 and seen by Reuters, former vice president Gilbert Bukenya faces two counts of abuse of office and one of fraudulent practice. He is to appear in court on June 16, Reuters reports.

The charges are related to the alleged misuse of about 500 billion shillings spent to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November 2007.

Bukenya is accused of flouting procurement rules by influencing the award of a contract for the supply of 80 units of police outrider motorcycles and luxury vehicles.

He was sacked by Museveni two weeks ago and replaced with former House speaker Edward Ssekandi.

A government agency in charge of procurement estimates that Uganda loses $100 million annually in procurement-related graft.

Political analyst Nicholas Ssengoba said that a falling-out between Bukenya and Museveni could be behind his prosecution.
“I am inclined to believe this is selective prosecution to settle personal political scores. We all know there are several ministers who were named in the misuse of CHOGM money, why only Bukenya (being charged)?” he told Reuters.
“Museveni’s strategy is to make everyone who is a potential president look dirty so he remains the cleanest and most credible man around.”

Bukenya is widely seen by analysts and the public as a potential successor to Museveni.

Initially hailed by the West as part of a new generation of more democratic African statesmen, Museveni has come under increasing criticism for failing to root out high-level corruption and governing in an increasingly autocratic way.

Museveni has faced a series of anti-government protests in recent weeks, triggered by high fuel and food prices. The demonstrations have been crushed by security forces, drawing international condemnation.