How a Ugandan judge cracked a billion-dollar corruption ring

A Ugandan woman judge who has fought large-scale corruption head-on was one of the inspirational stories of this year's ABLI – the African Biblical Leadership Initiative.

Lady Justice Bamugemereire was a judge in the anti-corruption division of the High Court in Uganda. Her commission uncovered a $2.5bn racket to syphon money away from a major roadbuilding project.

She told her story to African Christian leaders who had gathered in Cameroon for this year's ABLI Forum, an initiative of Bible Society.

Lady Justice Bamugemereire.Andrew Boyd/Bible Society

'Africa loses billions of dollars annually through corruption.

'I uncovered the fact that some unscrupulous Ugandans, including politicians and engineers, had misappropriated close to $1.5bn dollars over seven years. There was corruption, collusion and syndicated crime.'

Bamugemereire's commission investigated land acquisitions for roads. It found a group of highly educated young men and women had abused their positions.

'These elite professionals had seen a blank cheque and had used it. Our "road experts" had syphoned off billions of Ugandan shillings to construct thousands of kilometres of paved roads. Instead, they had constructed a paltry 1,500 kilometres of poor-quality roads.

'They illegally gave away government forests and wetlands. They deprived people along the road corridors of money, while others got millions.

'They did everything they could to get at the Commission's report, they bribed people and hacked into our computers but I managed to keep it securely.'

Most of those people lost their jobs as a result of the investigation.

'When I submitted the report to the president, he asked me if I served a higher power, because we had exhibited a rare courage and commitment. Before I could answer, he said, "I know, you serve your God."

'By the grace of God, people accept the fact that I am a Christian and we pray every day. I love to pray. There is power in prayer.'

Bamugemereire has presided over many other cases of government officials who have abused their authority.

Her favourite verse, she said, was Joshua 1:8 'This Book of the Law must not depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night so that you may act carefully according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way successful, and you will be wise.'