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Among faces an uncertain future

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Speaker Anita Among chairs a plenary session at Parliament on April 30. The Speaker is in the spotlight following the recent UK’s sanctions against her over corruption.  PHOTO | DAVID LUBOWA. 

For this term and perhaps the next, President Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) had resolved that Jacob Oulanyah would be the House Speaker. Oulanyah had wanted to challenge Rebecca Kadaga for the speakership after the 2016 General Election, but Mr Museveni said his time would come. When Oulanyah’s time came after the 2021 General Election, it was short-lived as he died in the United States where he had gone for cancer treatment. 

It is said Mr Museveni had no clear replacement for Mr Oulanyah in mind, but those within the establishment fronted Mr Jacob Oboth-Oboth, the West Budama lawmaker, who would be appointed junior Defence minister, before fully taking over the docket at the expense of Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja in the recent mini Cabinet reshuffle. 

While those around Museveni were still strategising on how to market Mr Oboth-Oboth’s speakership, Ms Anita Annet Among, who had for months served as deputy Speaker, already made her pitch not only to the ruling NRM party but also Opposition lawmakers.

Although she had easily scooped the position of deputy Speaker having defeated Forum for Democratic Change’s Yusuf Nsibambi (Mawokota South) and Muhammad Nsereko, the Kampala Central lawmaker, Ms Among made clear that her main goal was to be the Speaker. 

“I want to ask the women leaders not to be intimidated by those who want to bring them down. Please stand firm and I can assure you that I am here for 10 years as deputy speaker and 10 as Speaker. We know the people who are doing these things and we are not moved,” Ms Among said at the time when Oulanyah’s health started to fail him. 

While Ms Among planned on becoming a House Speaker in 2031, two things fast-tracked her plans: Oulanyah’s death and the unpreparedness of Mr Oboth-Oboth’s campaigners.   

“We had no time to push for Oboth-Oboth’s speakership and yet Among had already leveraged having campaigned for deputy Speakership,” said one of Oboth-Oboth’s strategists, who preferred anonymity to speak freely. 


President Museveni, sources say, didn’t buy much into Ms Among’s speakership. But having played a telling role in pushing for Oulanyah’s speakership bid against Ms Rebecca Kadaga, who had been deputy Speaker and Speaker for 10 years, the elder statesman didn’t want to get entangled in another speakership battle. 

With that Ms Among clinched the speakership and she has since manoeuvred the waves, citing the support of the President. This rather shaky relationship has been put in doubt following Mr Museveni’s response to the decision by the United Kingdom (UK) to sanction Among, ostensibly for allegedly stealing iron sheets meant for Karamoja, one of Uganda’s impoverished sub-regions. 

“The UK is sending a clear message that benefiting at the expense of others is not acceptable. Corruption has consequences, and those responsible will be held accountable,” said Britain’s deputy Foreign minister Andrew Mitchell. He added: “The actions of these individuals, who took aid meant for those in need and kept the proceeds for themselves, represent the epitome of corruption and have no place in society.”

Members of Parliament during the plenary session chaired by the Speaker, Ms Anita Among, at Parliament on May 16, 2024. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

The sanctions, which were announced by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office against  Speaker Among, Mary Goretti Kitutu and Agness Nandutu, who were both axed from the Cabinet as senior and State minister for Karamoja Affairs, respectively, included travel and asset freezes. 

The freezing of assets means that UK citizens or businesses, including the banks, are forbidden from dealing with the assets of the sanctioned individuals most especially those located in the UK. Speaker Among’s reaction was to claim that she was being targeted by the West for spearheading the passing of the Anti- Homosexuality Act (AHA).

“I’m carrying a cross for 48 million Ugandans because of the Anti-Homosexuality Act we passed in 2023,” Ms Among said during the first plenary session she chaired after being sanctioned.

She added: “All this I know is because of the anti-homosexual law that we passed as Parliament. This is the beginning and I know other things are coming under the pretext of corruption, theft, and others, but we serve a living God. We shall not allow homosexuals to go against our values and cultures.  If they want them, let them go to their countries. The law is there and it will be implemented.”

Springing a surprise

The embattled Speaker also contended that the sanctions were irrelevant since she had no property in the UK. 

“I don’t have any properties in the UK, not even a pussycat,” she said, adding, rather sarcastically, “Go ahead and freeze them, and see if I will complain.” 

Speaker Among dismissed the travel sanctions, contending that she only needs visas to go to her home district, Bukedea, and Buyende, the home district of her husband Moses Magogo. She also faulted Uganda’s Foreign Affairs ministry for not responding to the sanctions before counting on Mr Museveni to respond robustly.

Mr Museveni’s response wasn’t exactly what Ms Among had anticipated. The President disclosed in a dossier that he had been told that contrary to her claims that she has no property in the UK, Ms Among owns houses and bank accounts in the archipelago and has been using the latter to pay school fees for her dependents, who attend UK-based schools.

“Why would a Ugandan leader build or buy houses in [the] UK or anywhere else abroad, when Uganda, the still under-developed country where she would have earned the money, still needs those investments?” Mr Museveni said in a letter to the Foreign Affairs minister Jeje Odongo.

For context, it should be remembered that Mr Museveni called for caution when dealing with corrupt people who invest in Uganda. 

“We are still lucky that our corrupt people are corrupt here. They steal the money and put it here. You see a five-star hotel from corruption. Now if you only concentrate on the lifestyle, then they will take the money out and you will have no evidence here,” Mr Museveni told government ombudsman Beti Kamya, who was planning to do a lifestyle audit on public servants in her efforts to net the corrupt. 

President Museveni said what’s most important, legally, is whether Speaker Among had disclosed this kind of wealth to the government ombudsman through the Leadership Code Act.   

“If she had declared them, then the next issue would be how she got money to build them. If these two are answered correctly and showing no mistakes, the remaining issue would be political, ideological judgement,” Mr Museveni said before he went on to ask for more investigations into Among’s wealth.

He further wrote: “Meanwhile, by the copies of this letter, I request the Inspector General of Government and minister of integrity to inform me if Hon Anita Among declared in her forms of Leadership Code her owning of a house or houses in the UK. The issue of bank accounts I told the High Commissioner may not be a serious issue if she legitimately earned money to support the children who are legitimately, studying there. All concerned to note the contents of this letter and act required.”

Things go south

The letter marked a change in the relationship between Among and Museveni, which for years has been seen as close to the extent many people who wanted to see the President had to go through the Speaker who started her political career in the Opposition with the FDC.   

For the time she has been in politics, Ms Among has become a byword for the term “a go-getter” who does everything within her means to achieve what she set out to do. A few years after coming to Parliament, Speaker Among had managed to forge a personal relationship with Mr Museveni and this has been on the show with the President visiting her constituency to launch a science laboratory at Bukedea Comprehensive School, which was christened Yoweri Museveni. The President also launched the construction of Bukedea Teaching Hospital and opened a new radio station in the same district. 

Aged 50, Ms Among has become the embodiment of the Yellow Girl brigade that fervently defends NRM positions. She was, however, until at least 2016 a member of the FDC. In fact, at one time she held the fort as deputy treasury in charge of fundraising at the party from 2006 to 2015.  

When she held the position, it became apparent that her money purse was bottomless. This prompted divisions within the FDC as some party stalwarts accused her of being an NRM stooge.

Speaker of Parliament Anita Among. On May 4, 2024 she told Parliament that she was not bothered by the sanctions and that she did not own anything in the UK. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

Museveni’s broker

In 2012, Ms Among trounced Proscovia Salaamu Musumba, one of the founder members of the FDC, during primaries for the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala). This victory sparked off a storm after allegations sprung up that she had bribed delegates using money she had got from Hassan Basajjabalaba. Mr Basajjabalaba was at the time the chairperson of the NRM’s Entrepreneur’s League.

Although the FDC’s constitution is clear that one of the ways through which one ceases being a party member is by standing as an independent, it seems not to apply to Ms Among. When Ms Among was elected to the House as an independent, the FDC appointed her as vice chairperson of the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase). One party member pinned this outcome on Mugisha Muntu, the FDC president at the time.

“It’s him who rewarded her that position because they were close and she had given him money during the 2012 FDC presidential elections,” the party member, who is not allowed to speak to the media, said.      

At first, Ms Among took exception to being accused of being an NRM mole. But by 2017 she had turned into Museveni’s broker within the Opposition. In November of 2016, the UPDF raided Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere’s palace killing more than 100 people, and subsequently arrested the Rwenzururu king, leaving political leaders there—who were mainly FDC—angry.  By 2017, Mr Museveni wanted to meet MPs from Kasese. It was Ms Among, who persuaded all FDC lawmakers to meet Mr Museveni at his farm in Kisozi, Gomba.  

“I am a peace lover and being that Winnie [Kiiza, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament] is my friend, it was easy for me to convince her to meet the President. I did it in the interest of peace and security of our country,” Ms Among later told the Observer, adding, not at the prompting of the newspaper, “They didn’t get even a single coin from [Museveni]; Winnie [Kiiza] is not worth that. What if the President also knows that I am worth more than Shs1 billion, how much can he give Winnie?”   

No love lost

Having joined the NRM, Ms Among in recent years has been part of political wrangling with politicians from the ruling party that emerged from the Teso Sub-region. Ms Among has for some time directly or indirectly flexed muscle to show that she is the kingmaker in the sub-region. In doing so, she has ruffled the feathers of other NRM politicians who want to be recognised by Mr Museveni.

Vice President Jessica Alupo has also clashed with Speaker Among, including in the battle of who is the most influential NRM politician in Teso. This was on display in early 2023 when Mike Mukula, who belongs to Among’s camp, accused Ms Alupo of ignoring the main NRM campaign task force during the Soroti East by-election and working in isolation. Mukula not only criticised the vice president for avoiding contacting the NRM regional party chairperson but went as far as to allege that Ms Alupo sometimes worked with the Opposition.

Speaker of Parliament Anita Among (right) receives the bi-annual performance report from the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Ms Beti Kamya, at Parliament on October 20, 2022. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

Although it was claimed that supporters of Museveni’s son—Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who is now seen as the heir apparent to his father’s ‘throne’—had rejected Ms Among and instead supported Oboth-Oboth for the speakership, the former moved swiftly to mend fences. After her homecoming fete, Ms Among hosted Gen Muhoozi in Bukedea.

“For us in Bukedea here, we believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” she purred.

Again, in a bid to woo Gen Muhoozi’s camp, Ms Among recently invited Mr Museveni at the inauguration of her teaching hospital, which has a ward named after Gen Muhoozi, the current Chief of Defence Forces (CDF). One of the hospital wards was also named after Muhoozi’s wife, Charlotte, for good measure. 

With Among facing allegations of wasting parliamentary monies, which were supposedly funnelled through different accounts of parliamentary staff, Mr Museveni appeared to defend her.   

“How can you talk so much about Anita Among? How about those working for foreigners? We are going to expose those traitors,” Mr Museveni said in March this year. 

Fault lines

Yet the first cracks in the Museveni-Among relationship first appeared in 2023 when a female NRM-backed candidate won a violence-laden Bukedea LC5 by-election. It started when Mukula, NRM’s vice chairman of eastern Uganda, fired off a tweet bragging how he had received Sam Oita and Stephen Omagor into the ruling party. Oita, who belonged to the FDC had contested in the Bukedea chairperson race which as per results released by the Electoral Commission (EC) was overwhelmingly won by the ruling party’s Mary Akol.

Amagor, who had wanted to challenge for the seat which became vacant last year upon the death of Moses Olemukan, didn’t make it to the ballot.  

Mr Mukula declared that the defection and the electoral victory were an indication that Bukedea “remains solidly behind NRM.”

Yet a day before Mukula could announce these defections, President Museveni, the chairman of the NRM, wrote a letter to Brig Henry Isoke, the head of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit, asking him to investigate the circumstances under which the Bukedea by-election was done. In a one-page letter, Museveni, although he was initially impressed by the Akol’s victory, which was at 91 percent with an 87 percent turn-up of voters, was deeply perturbed.

Mr Museveni said government officials, he didn’t reveal, had emerged on the night of nomination and invaded Amagor’s house. In the process, they confiscated his academic papers and stole Shs163 million in a bid to stop him from getting nominated. 

“The EC had to extend the nomination days when he appealed,” Mr Museveni said of Amagor. “Even when he went for the nomination, he was attacked at the gate of the Electoral Commission.”  As if that was not enough, Mr Museveni said that he was alarmed that on Election Day, government officials he didn’t mention, invaded polling stations and voted on behalf of the voters. “This sounds like a film,” he said.

A veiled dig

Although she wasn’t physically involved in the election, sources we have spoken to insist that Mr Museveni’s letter was a veiled dig aimed at Ms Among. Those who participated in the by-elections, which were marred with violence, say parliamentary police were deployed in Bukedea, which imputed that Among had a hand.  Mr Museveni’s letter led to the arrest of then Bukedea  Resident District  Commissioner (RDC), William Wilberforce Tukei and Charles Okoth,  the then Bukedea district police commander (DPC).   

The fallout between Mr Museveni and Ms Among was also on the show earlier when the President completely ignored Parliament’s decision to censure Persis Namuganza, the Minister of State for Lands, Housing and Urban Development, after she attacked the person of the Speaker. With Parliament firmly in Among’s grasp, it was easy to censure  Namuganza, as of  356 MPs, who attended plenary, 348  voted to censure the minister who had accused Among of getting involved in a phoney marriage with Magogo. 

Yet Parliament censuring Namuganza didn’t necessarily translate into her losing her docket with the Constitution, saying it’s upon the minister to resign or the President, to throw her out. Ms Namuganza didn’t resign and she scoffed at the censure move. President Museveni has never acted despite being informed of the move by Thomas Tayebwa, the Deputy Speaker, within 24 hours.  Ms Namuganza’s wrangles with Among are reminiscent of the fights she had with Rebecca Kadaga when she was still the all-powerful Speaker.

With the state apparatus deemed to be behind Ms Namuganza, she challenged Kadaga to the position of NRM’s second national vice chairperson. Namuganza accused Kadaga of being untrue to NRM and its chairman Museveni and added that on several occasions, Ms Kadaga sided with the Opposition in Parliament to bring motions that cast the NRM in a bad light.

On the other hand, Ms Kadaga looked at Ms Namuganza as a front of powerful people (mafia) in the NRM who were unhappy with the way she steered Parliament. Although Ms Kadaga eventually won by a landslide, the fact that Ms Namuganza had challenged her without Museveni talking her out of the race was an indicator of how the President had fallen out with Ms Kadaga.

UK message

“The UK is sending a clear message that benefiting at the expense of others is not acceptable. Corruption has consequences, and those responsible will be held accountable,” said Britain’s deputy Foreign minister Andrew Mitchell.

He added: “The actions of these individuals, who took aid meant for those in need and kept the proceeds for themselves, represent the epitome of corruption and have no place in society.”