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Govt, UK officials meet over Among sanctions

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Speaker Anita Among

Two meetings held between top Ugandan officials and British diplomats in Kampala have yielded no information on Speaker of Parliament Anita Among’s alleged property and bank account[s] in the United Kingdom that formed the basis for the sanctions including travel ban and asset freezes.

On April 30, the UK government, in a first, invoked the Global Anti-Corruption sanctions regime on Ms Among, the Bukedea Woman MP, as well as two former Karamoja ministers—Mary Goretti Kitutu and Agnes Nandutu—following their involvement in the iron sheets (mabaati) theft scandal.

The three were sanctioned alongside 42 other individuals from Bulgaria, Kosovo, Colombia, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Zimbabwe, Israel, Lebanon, Honduras, Equatorial Guinea, and Guatemala.
“Specifically, Among, whilst Speaker of Parliament of Uganda and Member of Parliament for Bukedea District, is or has been responsible for or engaged in serious corruption,” reads in part the consolidated list of financial sanctions targets in the UK by the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation.

Speaker Among has described the sanctions as “politically motivated” over her stance on homosexuality, especially the Anti-Homosexuality law and vowed not to back down.
Following President Museveni’s May 11 letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Jeje Odongo, instructing him to engage UK authorities on the same, Sunday Monitor understands there have been back-and-forth engagements on the matter.

Mr Museveni wrote that: “I have received a letter from Dr Patricia Achan Okiria, Deputy Inspector General of Government, of May 9, 2024 informing me that the Rt Hon Anita Annet Among never revealed that she had a house in the United Kingdom. Rt Hon Anita Among has told me that she does not own a house or houses in the UK.”

The letter adds: “Therefore, working with the Attorney-General, write an appropriate letter to the relevant authorities in the UK to demand the source of their information. They cannot falsely accuse any of our people and we just let it pass.”
Accordingly, highly placed diplomatic sources told Monitor that Minister Odongo last week convened a closed-door meeting attended by Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka and the British High Commissioner Kate Airey.

During the meeting, sources indicated, Ms Airey was asked to present evidence, which formed the basis of the sanctions on Uganda’s third most important citizen by the National Order of Precedence. Ms Airey declined to do so. The meeting, diplomatic sources added, did not resolve anything but agreed “to de-escalate” the sanctions conversation.

Nothing tangible
Mr Vincent Bagiire, the Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Affairs ministry, confirmed the meeting to this publication on Tuesday saying: “They did not conclude the meeting and will meet again this Friday.”
In response to our inquiries on the follow-up [Friday] meeting, Mr Bagiire said: “For now, no evidence has been provided. But we continue to engage.”

Diplomatic sources, however, told Monitor that it was “highly unlikely” the UK government will reveal anything to Ugandan authorities nor walk back the decision to sanction Ms Among. In that event, the House Speaker will remain entangled in unilateral coercive measures, a form of economic sanctions taken by one state to compel a change in the policy of another state.
In a separate response to our inquiries, the British High Commission in Kampala maintained that all “media requests on this subject are being handled by our central communications team” of the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London.

The UN defines unilateral coercive measures as a form of economic sanctions taken by one state to compel a change in the policy of another state. These include trade sanctions in the form of embargoes and the interruption of financial and investment flows between sender and target countries.
The tools, alongside travel ban, are mostly employed by Washington and its key ally across the Atlantic, EU in Brussels, and the UK in response to egregious human rights violations, governance deficits, and economic crimes on rogue governments and individuals around the world.

Several developing and poor countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America have been affected by these measures. Usually, when sanctioned by one power, oftentimes the others follow suit.
During a May 10 meeting between President Museveni and the US Ambassador William Popp at State House, Entebbe, diplomatic sources told this publication that the matter of Speaker Among’s sanctions came up briefly. Mr Museveni, we understand, wanted to know whether the House Speaker is also on Washington’s blacklist. There was no direct response from the US diplomats.

Asked whether Washington has since slapped sanctions on Ms Among, the US embassy public affairs counselor, Ms Ellen Masi said: “We do not have any announcements about sanctions at this time.”
During the State House meeting, highly placed sources intimated that President Museveni and Ambassador Popp had robust a conversation on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, with the former taking exception to being lectured on who to deal with.  

Ms Among was adversely cited in a social media exhibition of alleged corruption in Parliament.
She was one of many public officials who received iron sheets that the government had bought for Karamoja sub-region. Ms Among denies any wrongdoing and has not been charged by local courts.