A joint investigative report by Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and Democracy in Africa (DIA) has unearthed widespread corruption and capture of the state in Uganda by mafia networks that work in their own interest, rather than that of the public.
The report on Corruption, Clientelism, Criminality and the Subversion of Democracy in Africa shows a disturbing web of influence exerted to government institutions by a powerful family of President Yoweri Museveni chums.
The report does not provide proof of criminal wrongdoing by President Museveni himself. But it presents more than enough evidence to suggest that his wealthy benefactors— showing that Uganda’s shadow state is run by an axis of President Museveni’s family and the country’s “military aristocracy”, along with a select number of interlocutors in the business community.
The report also pins President Museveni on repeatedly issuing tax waivers to his family members and other business allies in return for financial contributions to his election campaign “war chest”, denying the Treasury hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, and reducing the funds available for health and education.
Using evidence from new interviews, data collection, and network mapping, a team of 10 researchers have revealed the extent to which political and economic decisions in African democracies are shaped by individuals or groups that are often unelected and work to subvert the formal institutions of the state to push their own interests and agendas.
Together, the reports demonstrate that in many – but not all – African countries some of the most important political and economic decisions are not taken by individuals accountable to citizens, but by networks comprising insiders in the executive, political fixers, the president’s family, judges, businessmen, senior civil servants, military leaders, and international financiers, among others.
In a number of cases, these networks traverse national borders, either through deep ties to international companies or through integration into transnational organized criminal networks, so that significant resources are taken out of the country.
According to Professor H. Kwasi Prempeh, Executive Director of CDD-Ghana, “Rather than a government of the people, by the people and for the people, democracy in Africa, including the legitimacy it confers on governments appears captured to serve interests other than the people’s, thus leaving many people increasingly questioning democracy’s relevance. The future of democracy in Africa depends on our ability to reverse this picture.”
On his part, Nic Cheeseman, Professor of Democracy at The University of Birmingham said, “the growth of shadow states – powerful networks of unelected individuals that use their access to the government to pursue their own interests at the expense of the public – represents the most significant political challenge facing African countries today and is the root cause of the democratic backsliding that we have seen in many states over the last ten years”.
John Githongo, a noted Kenyan anti-corruption campaigner was also of the view that “these reports represent the most comprehensive and insightful analysis of the way that democracy and economic and subverted in Africa is available to date. They reveal that shadow states and democracy capture are the root causes of corruption, inequality, and development failure.”
The countries covered in this project include Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.