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Who is after Speaker Anita Among?

Speaker Anita Among

Speaker Anita Among

The speaker of parliament, Annet Anita Among, is currently one of the most criticized public officials in Uganda, according to traditional and social media users.

On X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, TikTok, and WhatsApp—the four most popular social media channels in Uganda—Among’s name consistently trends, often negatively. Posts on her own social media channels also receive predominantly negative comments.

The scrutiny intensified over two months ago when parliament was thrust into the spotlight by anti-corruption activists led by Makerere University lecturer Jimmy Spire Ssentongo. During the exhibition, startling allegations were made against Among, including claims of her withdrawing billions of shillings using parliamentary staff for her activities, many of which remain undisclosed, and receiving allowances for unmade trips.

But why is Among portrayed this way, and who is behind it? In multiple interviews conducted by this writer, those close to Among believe that these are not just innocent exposés but are part of a calculated character assassination campaign by her detractors, particularly within the ruling National Resistance Movement, who have enlisted allies within the opposition.

The goal, they claim, is not only to prevent Among from completing her current term as speaker but also to thwart any chance of her securing a second term.

NRM POLITICS

“I don’t know whether Spire knew exactly what he was doing by participating in this campaign. This has nothing to do with corruption; it’s NRM politics,” said an MP who, like many others contributing to this story, was granted anonymity to speak freely.

“Let me tell you, the information about Among that has been exposed is only accessible to these NRM people. They are leaking it to tarnish her image so that when they decide to push her out, no one will sympathize with her,” added another MP close to Among.

In fact, to lend credibility to this viewpoint, in a recent interview with this newspaper, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the MP for Kira Municipality and former Chief Opposition Whip, questioned the focus of the exhibitors. He wondered why, if the exhibition was truly about showcasing how public resources are managed, the financial records of the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa were not also displayed.

“If the exhibitors had displayed the travel records of every MP and the public had singled out Ssemujju, it would be fair. But because the exhibitors are being fed by the state, they are targeting specific individuals while ignoring others. I have not seen the deputy speaker, who actually travels more than the speaker, being showcased. He also has a budget for donations; how does he withdraw that money?” Ssemujju, who himself was criticized for allegedly ‘over traveling’ at the taxpayers’ expense, remarked at the time. Regarding the deputy speaker, three sources told us that Among and her close confidants strongly believe that Tayebwa is behind the negative press she receives.

Interviewed for a comment, Spire was very emphatic.

“I wouldn’t care if the person others are fighting is also stealing from me. I see that as deflection. You don’t engage in all that they have been doing and then start playing the victim. The more important question is whether the allegations against her (Among) and other parliament officials are true. Why don’t they want that to be discussed? My concern as a taxpayer is focused on that. The rest is their business.”


“It’s actually insulting for them to call it blind, as though taxpayers have no stake. What matters to them are their political stakes and benefits. It’s quite insulting to say we’re blindly exposing them,” Spire added.

Agather Atuhaire, another key player in the parliamentary exhibition, said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think this nonsense deserves my response. People should learn to interrogate the issues and facts presented, not engage in pettiness.”

Another Among confidant claimed that “Many of the people who attack the speaker online are also Tayebwa’s people. He is impatient to take over.”

This belief that Tayebwa is vying for her position has recently led to a deterioration in the relationship between the two.

“Do you still see them come holding hands like they used to? If you remember, they would co-chair the House together—one leading the first hours and the other finishing. But now, it’s been over a month since Tayebwa last chaired the House,” an MP who asked to remain anonymous told us.

Besides Tayebwa, another MP suggested that the mafiosi, complained about by almost all former powerful figures in the NRM and government, is targeting Among. This MP believes that historically, anyone who has accumulated power, wealth, and the ear of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has been a target of the mafia.

The country has witnessed numerous supremacy battles among Museveni’s aides. For example, there was the conflict between Col Elly Kayanja, head of Operation Wembley—a commando unit established by President Museveni to crack down on violent criminals—and Brigadier Henry Tumukunde, head of the Internal Security Organization (ISO), who held almost identical roles.

Their rivalry for supremacy often led to collisions. Similarly, there was a dispute between Brigadier Jim Muhwezi and his former deputy John Kazoora over the management of the Internal Security Organization. The country also recalls how Amama Mbabazi, once a powerful figure due to his proximity to Museveni, was widely resented within the NRM and government.

This hostility paralleled the treatment of Gilbert Bukenya, the former vice president, who was once hinted by Museveni as his potential successor. At the height of his power, Bukenya faced corruption charges related to organizing the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala in 2007.

Perhaps the most dramatic fall involved Gen Edward Kale Kayihura, who, as the inspector general of police, extended his influence far beyond police duties, becoming a political enforcer for Museveni. With considerable power and resources, Kayihura also made enemies who eventually contributed to his downfall.

Until last year, he faced charges for misusing government stores and extraditing asylum seekers back to Rwanda. The MP who suggests that what is happening to Among is nothing but a mafiosi hit job said he wouldn’t be surprised if she ended up in prison.

“Every day that passes, Museveni becomes more vulnerable due to old age. People are positioning themselves for the next government, seeing individuals like Among as expendable. So, they continue to bring out material against her, ensuring that when they finally move against her, no one will lament her departure,” said the MP.

However, Chris Obore, parliament’s director for Communication, believes that those opposing his boss are political agitators from outside rather than within the NRM.

“Her loyalty to President Museveni is drawing sustained attacks from regime change activists and their sponsors who aim to disrupt government operations by striking at loyalists and creating tension,” Obore stated.

“They’ve found that President Museveni is seasoned in assessment and judgment. The regime change crusaders are attempting to exploit NRM internal contradictions to provoke a crisis, but the president’s approach keeps disillusioning them, leading to their desperation to heckle at any opportunity,” he explained.

Among herself has previously stated that she is indifferent to opinions other than those of Museveni. She believes her position owes more to the president than to her electorate, the MPs. Although she primarily seeks to please Museveni, some of his lieutenants still view Among as an accidental occupant of her position.

“She sneaked into that position. I know there are many who can’t fathom that an outsider like her has taken such a coveted role,” an aide to the president commented.

Among arms detractors

Having “sneaked” into the speaker’s seat, Among’s supporters and detractors alike acknowledge that her actions have exacerbated her situation. They argue that the accusations against her, which are similar to those faced by other NRM and government officials, are disproportionately severe.

“Tell me who is clean in Museveni’s circle? Who doesn’t own a house or a bank account abroad? Why is it an issue with her, and not with others?” an MP asked rhetorically.

The answer, according to Dr Yusuf Serunkuma, a political pundit, lies in Among’s behavior.

“Many officials in Museveni’s government are corrupt, which even he admits; but the difference is they don’t flaunt their gains. Among, on the other hand, you’ve seen the massive house like a hotel she opened in her village with a big party. You’ve seen how she travels with two Mercedes. With such displays, she naturally attracts attacks from all directions,” Serunkuma explained.

His views align somewhat with those of David Lewis Rubongoya, the secretary general of the National Unity Platform, Uganda’s largest opposition party in parliament.

“The way she ousted Francis Zaake from the parliamentary commissioner role; mention her on social media and you risk arrest. She has stifled many MPs in parliament, dictates terms to the new Leader of Opposition about their staff. I don’t think we have ever had anyone like Anita Among; she combines a sick level of impunity with incompetence, and that’s why she draws so much ire,” Rubongoya stated.

Among and her supporters contend that the sanctions imposed against her—allegedly for misappropriating iron sheets intended for the people of Karamoja and owning a house and bank account in the United Kingdom, as mentioned in a recent letter from President Yoweri Museveni—were not due to corruption.

Instead, they argue, these sanctions were linked to her role in passing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, now an Act. They believe the UK chose to frame the sanctions around corruption because this justification would be more widely accepted by the Ugandan public.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act enjoys broad support across Uganda’s political spectrum, and any sanctions against the speaker based on this law would be highly unpopular, her supporters say. Asuman Basalirwa, the MP for Bugiri municipality and sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality private member’s bill that has since become law, also admits that the sanctions against Among stemmed from her firm stance on the legislation.

“These sanctions are not about iron sheets but, rather, the homosexuality law. I think the ministers, Agnes Nandutu and Mary Gorreti Kitutu, were just sacrificial lambs,” said Basalirwa.

However, even some supporters acknowledge that the speaker’s conduct provided her detractors with ammunition to target her.

“Regarding the homosexuality issue, the 9th Parliament under Rebecca Kadaga as speaker also passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act [which was later annulled by the court]. Why wasn’t Kadaga sanctioned? The answer is simple; Kadaga was more cautious in her conduct. She was also more popular with the public; so, there were fewer people pushing for sanctions against her,” an MP explained.

Despite this and a recent letter calling for her investigation, Among still retains President Museveni’s confidence. In fact, Ssemujju, while speaking on the Saturday political talk show on Capital radio, noted that the letter was not as detrimental as some think.

“If Museveni wants to know anything about Among, he doesn’t need to write to the IGG. That letter was primarily to show the British that he is taking action,” Ssemujju commented.

bakerbatte@gmail.com

Comments   

+1 #1 jose 2024-05-15 07:51
The sanctions are not about houses and bank accts in UK, the issue of houses and bank accts came when she bragged that she doesnt even have a small cat in UK.

Thats how the accts were unearthed to disprove and show her that people know about her and what she owns here and abroad
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0 #2 Lakwena 2024-05-15 08:58
In other words, "Pride comes before the fall" as a result, the Rise and Fall of Among has come too soon.
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0 #3 Lakwena 2024-05-15 09:30
And when "Great Friends become Great Enemies" Hell breaks loose and Heaven retreats.

In other words, isn't Among and Tayeebwa buddies from FDC, but now at each others neck, tussling it out inside the NRM Arena?
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0 #4 Akot 2024-05-15 12:43
jose,
Lakwena,

Thanks.

As long as Rwandese Museveni owns Uganda & tax money, contrls every institution, nothing will change & Ugandans will fight one another for posts, blame one another for!

As Ugandans prefer Museveni by ensuring they are powerless tribally divided ruled without common goal around just ONE Common National Leader, Museveni is assured of lifetime rule & his son will replace him!

Museveni will rule with or without fake presidential election, but why do powerless tribally divided ruled Ugandans go for the fake elections to officialise, legalise, constitutionalise his ownership of their land?

Why is Museveni protected on all sides by Ugandans at war with one another as if Uganda began with the migrant & will be no more without him?
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+2 #5 Lysol 2024-05-16 07:01
One Mwenda like one Spire work for the corrupt killer regime. They cannot fool all of us.
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+1 #6 kabayekka 2024-05-17 08:16
Certainly it is the electorate of the women constituency of Bukedea that must be after their long serving Member of Parliament, especially for the vulnerable African female, if the Uganda national democratic elections are free and fair.

But if Madame Anita Among is only grateful to President M7 and his political party for having put her in such a prominent political position, it shows well that elections in this country are not free and fair.

For the Kingdom state of Buganda to continue indefinitely to participate in such unfair elections is unfortunate indeed. It does not look admirable within the international community.
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