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Namujju: Peeling back mask on embattled MP

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Ms Cissy Namujju

When police detectives this week descended on the home of Cissy Namujju Dionizia, the beleaguered Lwengo District Woman Representative, journalists—who were kept at more than an arm’s length—had to work hard to get a close-up of her home in the leafy neighbourhood of Kigo-Munyonyo on Entebbe Road. The three imposing buildings inside the lawmaker’s main compound sent tongues wagging.

The police was doing detective work after it turned out that Ms Namujju is allegedly part of a racket that connives with technocrats in the Finance ministry to alter budgets after receiving kickbacks. President Museveni lifted the lid on the racket when he said thus during last week’s State-of-the-Nation Address: “Officials in the Ministry of Finance…arrange with accounting officers of ministries who come to Parliament to work with certain people there to provide certain funds provided you take a share. I didn’t believe this, but now I have proof.”

That proof compelled the police to swing into action this week. The uncomfortable glare of the spotlight this week descended on Ms Namujju and fellow lawmakers Yusuf Mutembeli (Bunyole East), and Paul Akamba (Busiki County). The lawmakers were arrested and interrogated for days by police detectives.

This culminated in one of Ms Namujju’s assets ending up on the front page of the country’s dailies for the second time in as many years. The first time was in April of 2023 when the 46-year-old lawmaker’s Toyota Land Cruiser V8 graced the front page of a local tabloid, much to the dismay of Ibrahim Kitatta. Consequently, the Lwengo District chairperson called out the district’s woman representative for her “opulence, wealth, and extravagance.”

In fact, Mr Kitatta likened Ms Namujju to Marie Antoinette, the wife of the French King Louis XVI, who in a show of detachment from reality told ravenous peasants who wanted bread to “eat cake.” Ms Namujju, who at first glance does not radiate wealth, received support from fellow lawmaker David Kabanda. The Kasambya County  MP, who is best known for his robust support for Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s presidential bid, said Ms Namujju was at liberty to parade her car since “God had lifted her.”

Nonentity no more

Mr Kabanda also disclosed that Ms Namujju was a nobody eight years earlier. Indeed, Ms Namujju was a nonentity in Uganda’s politics before she won the Lwengo DWR race in 2016, at her first time asking. Before finding herself in Parliament, Ms Namujju’s career was traceable to the African  Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), where she worked as “the supervisor” for a year before she joined State House as a lowly NRM political mobiliser.  

It was during the 12 years Ms Namujju spent as a mobiliser attached to the State House, sources say, that she cultivated connections with the downtrodden in Lwengo. This ultimately made her impregnable. At least, politically.

“If you are talking about mobilising, she was a good mobiliser. One who can connect easily with a common person because she is also from that background,” said a source, who has known Ms Namujju for years.  To understand Ms Namujju, our source said, you have to look at the politics of the current Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja.  

“They are cut from the same cloth. They are good at connecting with ordinary folks yet at the same time they are ambitious,” our source explained.

Streetwise politician

Ms Namujju’s hold onto Lwengo politics, where she won two terms owes to her out-and-out dominance of precincts populated by Banyarwanda, who normally vote for the NRM. This, we understand, makes up for the losses she sustains in parts of the district that are dominated by Baganda, who vote for the Opposition.

Ms Namujju is described in many quarters as streetwise. While Mr Mutembeli and Mr Akamba have never been in a court dock, such an experience is hardly novel to Ms Namujju. In 2017, after replacing Gertrude Nakabira Lubega, the first Lwengo DWR, Ms Namujju found herself in the witness dock. This was after Martin Sserwanga, a voter, challenged her election victory on grounds that her academic papers were work of fraud.

In the witness dock, Ms Namujju was cross-examined by Sserwanga’s lawyer—Asuman Basalirwa. During this cross-examination, Ms Namujju struggled to answer basic questions. She had no idea about the difference between a noun and a verb. She also could not define pollination, crop rotation or indeed what a map is.

The goal of Mr Sserwanga’s case was straightforward—to show that Ms Namujju did not pass her Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE). The lawmaker claims she wrote her final papers at Kyazanga Primary School in Lwengo District before joining secondary school.  

Police returns Busiki County MP Paul Akamba (in suit) to Kira Police Divisional Headquarters after conducting a search at his home on June 11. He is accused for conniving with  Ms Cissy Namujju.  Photo | Frank Buguma

Although Ms Namujju claimed she had done her O- and A-Levels  at Modern Secondary School, the owner of the school—Sarah Nkonge Muwonge—would in a dramatic turn of events challenge her hold onto the seat in 2021. Court records show that Mr Sserwanga insisted she failed both O- and A-Levels.  

Academic asterisk

At O-Level, court records show that Ms Namujju got 8 in English, X in CRE, 7 in History, 9 in Geography, 8 in Political Education, 8 in Mathematics, 9 in  Biology, 6 in Art, and 9 in Commerce. Out of the 9 subjects, she got 49 aggregates, yielding a fourth grade. At A-Level, court records show that Ms Namujju failed General Paper, History, and Economics. She got Os in CRE and Art.

Citing the Uganda National Examination Board (Uneb) regulations 2012-2016, which stipulated that only Division One to Four candidates qualify to get an O-Level certificate, Justice Margret Tibulya, who has since been promoted to the Court of Appeal, ruled that Ms Namujju had passed her O-Level. 

Though there are doubts about Ms Namujju’s intellectual ability, Justice Tibulya ruled that she had also passed her A-Level. 

“Under the Examinations Regulations and Syllabus for the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education, a candidate, who scores at least a subsidiary pass in a subject offered at a principal level is entitled to a certificate,” the judge noted, adding, “Since the candidate in this case passed with a Grade ‘O’ in CRE, she satisfied the requirements for the issuance of an A-Level certificate. The A-Level certificate in issue, therefore, passes the criteria of grades.” Ms Namujju’s Achilles heel, the judge said, was the alterations found on her documents that ranged from baptism cards to academic papers. Her Baptism card had ‘Gusaba Dionizia’ whilst the P7, O and A-level certificates she presented for nomination for the Lwengo District Woman MP seat had ‘Namujju Dionizia’ as her name. 

Ms Namujju, who is a member of the parliamentary Physical Infrastructure Committee, said the name ‘Gusaba’ was given to her by her mother. She went on to disclose that the name ‘Namujju’ was given to her by her father. When her mother died in 1983, Ms Namujju abandoned the name ‘Gusaba’ and started school aged nine as ‘Namujju Dionizia.’ 

“The name change could only be done after full compliance since it is also a matter of law. One cannot change names she does not have. In order for her to have legally changed her name, she had to formally register as Gusaba Dionizia so that she first owned the name as a matter of law, then (formally again) changed to Namujju Dionizia. Her purported change of names to Namujju Dionozia in such a casual manner was of no legal consequence,” Justice Tibulya said, adding that she is satisfied that the allegation that the P7, O- and A-level certificates in Namujju Dionozia’s name do not belong to the lawmaker had been proved with “a high degree of preponderance.”

Questionable

The issue of changing names, Justice Tibulya said, became more questionable when Ms Namujju tried to change her identity by adding a third name—Cissy. Geoffrey Kandeebe, her lawyer, argued that his client “did not need the deed poll since she was not changing her name.”

Justice Tibulya disagreed, reasoning thus: “My view is that she needed it … since she was actually changing her name. Moreover, the deed poll cannot be wished away through mere submission of counsel since it was made and is on the court record.”

Still, on the issue of the suspicious academic documents, the judge said Mr Sserwanga had adduced the evidence through Edward Mulumba, who said in 2011, Ms Namujju informed the voters that she was an engineer and that she even issued posters which bore the abbreviation ‘ENG’,  under her name.

Although Ms Namujju denied knowing the poster, Justice Tibulya said she conceived that it belonged to the lawmaker and it bore the name ‘Namujju Cissy Dionizia.’ This fact raises questions, Justice Tibulya said, as to when she in fact legally adopted the names of ‘Namujju Cissy Dionizia’ given that the Statutory Declaration was made in 2015. 

“Further scrutiny of the poster shows that she described herself as an engineer. It brings into question why she did not maintain the same description in 2016 and leads to only one conclusion that she is not what she purports to be,” the judge ruled, adding, “This evidence taken together with that of her baptism by the name of ‘Gusaba Dionizia’ makes it likely that the documents she presented are not her documents.” 

Upon appeal, three justices led by then Deputy Chief Justice Kavuma overturned Justice Tibulya’s judgment. They held that the passport photos on both Namujju’s O-Level and A-Level certificates bore a striking resemblance to the lawmaker and that, that was enough to prove that she was qualified to be a lawmaker.

In 2017, Ms Namujju was criminally charged at the Masaka Chief Magistrates Court for forging the same academic papers. The case wasn’t pursued to its logical conclusion after the DPP lost interest in the case having taken it over from private prosecution.