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Set a thief to catch a thief: M7’s curious choice for anti-revenue fraud watchdog

 David Kalemera

David Kalemera

In a move that can only be described as a master class in irony, President Yoweri Museveni has tapped David Kalemera, a man recently convicted of tax fraud and corruption, to lead Uganda’s new State House Revenue Intelligence and Strategic Unit.

This newly minted “anti-corruption” body is tasked with investigating tax evasion and other financial misdeeds - a role that one might argue Kalemera is uniquely unqualified for, having been found guilty of exploiting those very same systems for personal gain.

The mental gymnastics required to justify this appointment are dizzying. Does the president truly believe that a convicted fraudster is the ideal candidate to root out corruption? Is this some sort of twisted “set a thief to catch a thief” philosophy?

Or is it simply a naked attempt to consolidate power and install a pliant crony at the head of a key oversight body? Apparently, Uganda is so thoroughly devoid of qualified, ethical individuals that the only person fit to lead this new anti-corruption unit is one who has already been convicted of the very crimes he is now tasked with investigating.

One shudders to think of the skill set Kalemera must possess that renders him so invaluable that the rule of law must be cast aside. This move is a troubling indication of the priorities of the Museveni regime.

Rather than strengthening independent institutions and the rule of law, the president seems intent on creating a parallel system of patronage and personal loyalty, where those who have proven their willingness to subvert the system are rewarded with positions of power.

The demoralizing effect this must have on Uganda’s beleaguered judiciary, which has fought tirelessly against the cancer of corruption, is incalculable.

How can the people of Uganda have faith in a system where the very laws meant to uphold integrity are so casually disregarded by those at the highest levels of government?

In the end, this latest gambit is less about fighting corruption than it is about concentrating control. By appointing a convicted criminal to lead the charge against financial misdeeds, President Museveni has sent a clear message: in his Uganda, the rules apply to everyone except those loyal to the regime. A sad day indeed for the people of this proud nation.

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