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Ugandan minister to spend Easter in jail over iron roofing sheets scandal

By AFP

A court in Uganda on Thursday charged a government minister and her brother with defrauding the state in a rare case of a high-ranking public official facing prosecution for corruption.

The minister, Mary Goretti Kitutu and her brother appeared before the Anti-Corruption Court accused of stealing iron roofing sheets earmarked for housing in the country’s poorest region.

The siblings were charged “with two counts (of) causing loss to the government and conspiracy to defraud,” the Director of Public Prosecutions, Jane Frances Abodo said.

They were taken into custody and will appear again before court on April 12, she said.

The sheets of corrugated iron roofing were earmarked for low-cost housing in Karamoja, an underdeveloped and lawless region in northwest Uganda bordering Kenya and South Sudan.

Kitutu is the minister responsible for Karamoja and its development.

The scandal caused significant public outcry even in a country where government corruption is endemic.

It is rare for such a senior official to face prosecution for graft and Kitutu is the highest-profile government figure hauled before the corruption court in years.

The last instance was in 2007 when two government ministers, Jim Muhwezi and Mike Mukula, were charged with embezzling millions of dollars of aid money.

Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine said the charges against Kitutu were “a smokescreen” and accused the government of long-ruling President Yoweri Museveni of far worse.

“The whole of Museveni’s cabinet, including himself, are supposed to be in prison over corruption,” said Wine, a musician turned presidential contender whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi.

“We can’t celebrate a charge on iron sheets when billions of dollars are embezzled by government officials.”

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