Ok, I have been sitting here and wondering. The rest of us have been glowing after seeing an official deemed corrupt being sent to the cooler. In a country where we were convinced corruption had become a part of life, to see a culprit whisked to jail offered some fresh air.
But just what could be going on in the mind of the culprit? From Justice Katutsi’s ruling, it is obvious that part of Cheeye’s 10-year jail term could have sprung from his arrogant attitude during the trial. Katutsi talked of a man, who neither showed remorse nor guilt. A man who exuded arrogance and cared less about the wretched of the earth, the sufferers of HIV/Aids from whom he was stealing.
So, what could have given Cheeye this clout even if it became increasingly clear that evidence of his culpability was growing by the minute? Why did man, who knew that his own officers were exposing evidence of outright theft, still have the knack to carry himself about with a swagger?
Three things are clear; Cheeye knew he was part of a system that had embraced graft, he also knew punishment in this country only comes when sanctioned by the President and it had something to do with his character.
It is the truth universally acknowledged that coruption in Uganda has come to stay. Every day one flips through the papers, there is evidence of an official nibbling at public funds. We have grown to relate politicians to theft, civil servants to bribery, roads to potholes, etc. This state of affairs was not lost on Cheeye. He knew that theft has become a part of our social fabric. And in any case, it was a paltry Shs120 million, considering that we rub shoulders with zillionaire thieves on our streets daily.
Cheeye’s arrogance, hence could have been borne from this fact.
We also have known that to get punished for stealing public funds in this country, the President must have sanctioned the punishment. The Temangalo debacle is evidence of this. There might not have been theft of money but blatant disregard of procurement procedure was visible even to the blind. And yet, like a newspaper page, the matter was folded the moment the President made it clear that he did not want the it pursued further.
Cheeye, I am convinced, still knew he had the President’s ear. He had afterall been the President’s economic intelligence ear for a while. Bursting deals like the NSSF Nsimbe housing project that sent Mpumas, Mugoyas and Bakokos packing. Cheeye took every chance to let anyone who cared to listen how he had the President’s hotline. A story is told of how the government under pressure from donors, sought to have some people sacrificed over the Global Fund theft. Cheeye was confroted by a league of policemen; he drew a gun and told them off, reminding them that he talked directly to the President. It took another call from Museveni, a squad from ISO, to get him to court.
Anyone with this clout and “connections” could afford Cheeye’s arrogance.
As a friend has also observed, Cheeye was an accident in waiting. Tales of him outrightly buying sluts on the streets are public secrets. Whispers do the rounds of how he would buy the women, take them to lodges and when done with sex, push objects into their “secret” parts. One time, a slut had to escape through a window if at all. That he exuded arrogance and lack of remorse, this could have been the root.
But as Cheeye sits in whatever cell in Luzira, can we say the time to shake the status quo has begun? Or was he a mere sacrificial lamb??