If we stop stealing $3b a year EU won’t lecture us over ‘a mere’ $2b

Sunday October 09 2022

Ugandans are very angry at the Europeans. So angry that even children had to put their books aside to go and demonstrate at the European Union offices in Kampala. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA


Ugandans are very angry at the Europeans. So angry that even children had to put their books aside to go and demonstrate at the European Union offices in Kampala.

The angry children carried placards and chanted slogans to remind the EU diplomats that Uganda is an independent country and giving it grants in millions of euros doesn’t mean it should be treated like a European colony.

It started with a resolution in the European Parliament calling for a halt on the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, hailed by ourselves as the longest heated oil pipeline in the world, which is to be constructed from Lake Albert at the DR Congo border in western Uganda all the way to the Indian Ocean at Tanga in Tanzania.

The European parliamentarians are concerned about those old things we have heard of for decades — like human rights and environment abuses. Anyway, the government is firm that the pipeline shall be constructed, come rain, come shine.

For now, politicians and other leaders continue to “blast” and “lambast” those European busybodies who are forgetting “to mind their business” telling us about our environment, yet they have been extracting — unhindered — fossil fuels all over the world for a century. Anyway, if they thought we were a pushover, they are going to see what real African men are made of.

Are you wondering where these meddling Europeans get the audacity to lecture us about our internal affairs of human rights and environment? It’s because of their money, which they give us in form of grants, and they can also influence our lenders. For a decade or two, we had stopped worrying about their lectures after we discovered new friends in China, who do not ask us about the way we do our private things.


The Europeans are like the mean rich boy or girl in high school who lent you a pair of shoes for the school dance and chose to remind you to dance carefully lest you damage “my shoes”! The mean soul would say this at that critical point when your dancing partner was really admiring your dance strokes, thereby ruining your chances of having a meaningful follow-up conversation after the song.

But now we are in a difficult position. While the friendly Chinese are not interested in our private affairs before lending us money, they lend like commercial banks, because they actually lend through commercial banks. Their terms and interest rates are commercial and the consequences of default are not that sufferable at all.

However, we do not have to suffer this humiliation forever. There is a way out. What these people lend us as a country could be “a mere” $2 billion a year. But our Inspector-General of Government says that some $3 billion is stolen from our common pool every year. So, if we set our policemen and detectives to work and catch the people who steal the money and take it from them, we can actually give ourselves more than the foreigners lend us, right?

Okay, maybe it is not easy to squeeze all the money from them. Suppose we install serious internal audit measures and prevent the theft of $3 billion every year, we can deploy it to do those things for which we borrow. In that case we don’t even have to spend money prosecuting people, looking for the money they stole, which could already have been spent or hidden in other countries. We just stop the theft and see how the Europeans will find the voice to lecture us, and how the Chinese will charge us high interest on their loans.

Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail: [email protected]