Akamba: Politician prone to courting controversies

Busiki MP Paul Akamba in the dock at Anti-Corruption Court on June 21, 2024. PHOTO/ ISAAC KASAMANI 

What you need to know:

  • The Busiki MP was violently rearrested after being released on bail, with speculated reasons including alleged financial misconduct.

The ululations that greeted his release on bail quickly turned into wails as plain-clothed gun-wielding personnel pounced on June 14 and violently rearrested Paul Akamba within the precincts of the Anti-Corruption Court in Kololo.

The Busiki County lawmaker had previously been arrested along with his counterparts Cissy Namujju (Lwengo District Woman) and Yusuf Mutembuli (Bunyole East).  The three had been arraigned before the Anti-Corruption Court on charges of soliciting on May 13, an undue advantage of 20 percent of the anticipated budget of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) for the Financial Year 2024/2025 from the Commission’s chairperson, Ms Mariam Wangadya.

Whereas his co-accused had been denied bail because they did not have substantial sureties, Chief Magistrate Joan Aciro had granted Mr Akamba bail after he fulfilled the bail conditions and requirements. This included a cash bail of Shs13 million and a deposition of his passport with the court.

Invasions of court premises are not a new occurrence. They have been recurring since November 2005 when the so-called Black Mambas surrounded the High Court premises where a bail application for Dr Kizza Besigye and 14 suspected rebels of the shadowy People’s Redemption Army (PRA) was being heard.

Similarly, violent arrests of persons granted bail are not new. On March 1, 2007, the infamous Black Mamba raided the High Court in Kampala and rearrested suspected PRA rebels who had been granted bail 15 months after they had been charged with treason.
Such rearrests have been repeated over suspected rebels of the Allied Democratic Front, suspects in the murder of former Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Andrew Felix Kaweesi, and most recently, the 2021 rearrest of lawmakers Muhammad Ssegirinya (Kawempe North) and Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West).

However, in all those cases, it was at least known that the affected persons either belonged to the political Opposition or were believed to be opposed to the government.
“The only difference [compared to previous violent rearrests] is that this time it is happening to an NRM person, but for us we have seen it all. That is a daily routine,” says the Bugiri Municipality lawmaker, Mr Asuman Basalirwa.
Mr Basalirwa, who is also the president of the Justice Forum Party or Jeema, is Mr Akamba’s lawyer. So what could Mr Akamba have done to be the first NRM-leaning person to be violently arrested?

Pale NRM colours
The folk in Mr Akamba’s home district of Namutumba suggest that he is not a “true” NRM person. Mr Khalid Lukwire Bandese, a senior mobiliser of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) in Namutumba, says Mr Akamba joined FDC on June 21, 2009, and served as its secretary general  in  Namutumba.

“Akamba was purely FDC and I still have his forms and particulars when he joined FDC. His registration card number is 541988 and registration form number is 751059,” Bandese says, adding that Mr Akamba crossed to the NRM in 2015 because he wanted to become a lawmaker. Whereas he lost the party primaries, he still went on to beat the incumbent and flag bearer, Mr Wilson Isiko Mpongo, in the 2016 General Election.
The tale of losing primaries, but going on to defeat the flag bearer was repeated during the last round of elections when he beat Dr Fred Kasiisa to the seat.

Kadaga’s ally? 
Once inside the 10th Parliament, Mr Akamba quickly became one of the blue-eyed boys of then House Speaker Rebecca Kadaga. Ms Kadaga was the chief guest at a thanksgiving he organised at Kigalama Primary School in 2016 to celebrate his victory. He represented Ms Kadaga at the 2019 Basoga Twegaite Convention in New Jersey, USA and often ran errands for her.

It was, therefore, no surprise that he was on Ms Kadaga’s side when she fell out with junior Lands Minister, Ms Persis Namuganza, over the Kyabazingaship in Busoga, even though Ms Namuganza is also from Namutumba. It had been thought that this would cost him in the 2021 General Election, but it did not. Members of Ms Kadaga’s clan, the Baise Igaga, who are quite a sizeable number, heeded her call to vote him. 
However, sources close to Akamba have since indicated that he is no longer close to Ms Kadaga.

MPs Yusuf Mutembuli of Bunyole East (L), Paul Akamba of Busiki County (C) and District Woman MP for Lwengo, Cissy Namujju (R) appear before the Chief Magistrate at the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala on June 12. PHOTO/ ISAAC KASAMANI

“Recently, Ms Kadaga came to Busiki North Constituency to launch a youth group, but it was only Ms [Mariam] Naigaga who went to welcome her, while Akamba kept away from the function, saying he was in his constituency busy monitoring roadworks,” a source intimated to us.
It is now being suggested that by turning against Ms Kadaga, Mr Akamba has written his political epitaph in Busiki, and will need extra efforts to reclaim the seat in 2026. His current woes make the possibility of defeat even bigger.

Conflicting accounts
Observers, however, strongly doubt that he was subjected to such a violent arrest on account of his “dilute” NRM credentials. There are conflicting schools of thought in Parliament. Some lawmakers, who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity, said Mr Akamba’s woes might be linked to the debate and eventual passing by Parliament of the Petroleum Supply (Amendment) Bill, 2023. 

The Bill, which was passed last November, gave the Uganda National Oil Company (Unoc) exclusive rights to import and supply petroleum products destined for the market in Uganda.
Mr Akamba was opposed to the Bill and presented a minority report in which he argued that the former was creating a monopoly, which would be detrimental to the country’s economy.
“Past experiences of monopolies including Umeme, the Enrico agreement, the iron ore agreement, Dura cement agreement, have cost the country money and set a bad precedent for monopolies in Uganda,” Mr Akamba told Parliament.

Our sources further reveal that it is believed that the decision to present a minority report was driven by other factors and forces, something which could have angered the powers that be. Could he have in the process stepped on the toes of a few powerful people? No one offered anything concrete to either affirm or dismiss this line of thought. 

Others have linked Mr Akamba’s violent arrest to the theft of money meant to compensate cooperatives for losses incurred during the liberation wars of 1978-1979 and 1980-1986. A report of the sectoral committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry on the inquiry into the governance and value for money for the budgetary appropriations to cooperatives linked Mr Akamba to the receipt, in two separate transactions, of Shs361 million. Could he have been a conduit who did not deliver and is now paying for it?
“I would not know about that. What I know about are the charges that have been brought up against him and for which I am representing him,” says Mr Basalirwa.

Falling on own sword
Whatever the case is, should it turn out that Mr Akamba demanded a bribe from UHRC, he would have fallen on his own sword.  During the campaigns ahead of the 2016 General Election, he rode on a ticket of being clean. He urged the electorate to ditch Mr Mpongo for himself on the grounds that his opponent belonged to the “mafia.”

“You cannot accept it. It is ill-gotten money which cannot be offered in church,” he would tell Christians and the clergy.
His latest woes, however, only seem to reaffirm the view that he is prone to courting and dancing with controversy. From accusing the then Minister of Internal Affairs, Gen Jeje Odongo, of abuse of office in the arrest of a Turkish businessman, Mr Aziz Du-man, to torpedoing planned efforts to investigate the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) amid claims that his signature had been forged, to the futile attempt to table a private members Bill, the Patient’s Rights and Responsibilities Bill, 2017 amid protests from government, right through to seeking to abolish the institution of criminal proceedings by private persons, it is easy to see why Mr Akamba is prone to dancing with controversy. 

Background
Initial Arrest: Paul Akamba, along with Cissy Namujju and Yusuf Mutembuli, was arrested on May 13, on charges of soliciting an undue advantage of 20 percent of the anticipated budget of the Uganda Human Rights Commission for the Financial Year 2024/2025 from the Commission’s chairperson, Ms Mariam Wangadya.

Bail and rearrest:Despite his co-accused being denied bail for lack of substantial sureties, Akamba was granted bail after fulfilling the conditions, including paying a cash bail of Shs13 million and depositing his passport with the court. However, he was violently rearrested on June 14 within the precincts of the Anti-Corruption Court in Kololo, Kampala, by plain-clothed, gun-wielding personnel.

Political History: Akamba shifted from FDC to the NRM.
Opposition to Petroleum Supply (Amendment) Bill, 2023: Akamba opposed this Bill, arguing it created a detrimental monopoly.
Financial Misconduct Allegations: There are allegations of Akamba’s involvement in the theft of money meant to compensate cooperatives for losses during the liberation wars, with claims he received Shs361 million in two separate transactions.