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Speaker Among blames Anti-Gay law for attacks in wake of parliament cash bonanza

Speaker of Parliament, Rt Hon Anita Among chairing the house on Friday, March 15, 2024 (Photo/Parliament Media)

Kampala, (UG):- The Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament, Rt Hon Anita Among on Friday blamed the country’s anti-homosexuality law for being the reason behind the intense public scrutiny implicating her in an alleged multi-billion corruption scandal at Parliament.

Speaking for the first time after almost three weeks since the revelations unearthed on social during the #Uganda ParliamentExhibition campaign, Ms Among vowed claimed she is being targeted by LGBTQ funders for her role in the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act last year.

“I will never, and I am saying never, give you an answer on hearsay; on rumour mongering. We are not going to run this House on rumour-mongering… Me? To answer you on hearsay on things that you have cooked on social media because I have said no bum-shafting (a crude reference to homosexual/anal sex which is illegal in Uganda)? I will not!” Ms Among vowed during the Friday plenary sitting.

The Speaker then proceeded to summarily shut down any further discussion of the matter and suddenly adjourned the House to March 28.

The adjournment, which came within hours of the House being recalled from an equally unexpected adjournment on March 6, appeared as if Ms Among was going back on an earlier commitment that discussions would resume after ministerial policy statements, the main business of the day, had been tabled.

In heated exchanges, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP), Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, who raised the matter, dismissed Ms Among’s position as escapist

“Stop hiding under the Anti-Homosexuality [Act]. Are you saying that Ugandans who are demanding for accountability are homosexuals? Don’t hide away from accountability issues because otherwise then you look like you are guilty,” Mr Ssenyonyi charged as the Parliament chamber went deathly quiet.

“When you make a commitment that after we have laid the ministerial policy statements then we are going to move to that other issue and you turn out to be a liar…”

Revelations on X under the hashtag #Uganda ParliamentExhibition have featured a trove of leaked documents attributed to the Parliamentary Commission, the government payment system and the Financial Intelligence Authority, as well as anonymous testimonies by members of the public with knowledge of the inner workings of the House.

Authorities at Parliament have come under the spotlight as a result, forced to field uncomfortable questions about lavish and questionable expenditure, travel allowances which do not seem to match dates of purported trips, irregular recruitment of staff and possible underhand dealings in contract awards, among others.

At the heart of scandal is the Speaker who is facing intense public scrutiny partly on account of the billions of shillings reportedly allocated to her in travel expenses between July 2023 and January 2024.

Other allegations include the depositing of even more billions in the private bank accounts of junior Parliament staff for Ms Among’s so-called community outreaches, contrary to standing orders issued to avert corruption.

Allegations around irregular employee recruitment and ghost staff, some highlighted by the Auditor General in his latest annual report, have also featured prominently.

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Ms Among’s reaction comes two days after Mr Ssenyonyi, and Lwemiyaga MP, Theodore Ssekikubo, had earlier in the week demanded that she reconvene the House which was rather abruptly adjourned on March 6 by her deputy, Mr Thomas Tayebwa.

Mr Ssenyonyi maintained the House could not continue with normal business without addressing the allegations brought against it.

“There has been a deafening silence from this institution [which] has not come out comprehensively, unequivocally to explain itself regarding issues which are raised by the people,” he said

An attempt by Ms Jesca Ababiku, (Adjumani Woman MP) to dismiss the LoP’s concerns as media hearsay was swiftly cut off by Mr Ssekikubo, who vigorously opposed the Speaker’s proposal that the matter be referred to the Parliamentary Commission – which is coincidentally chaired by the Speaker.

“This House has been engulfed in totally unprecedented abuse! You say [that] we debate other things; we lay the paper when the credibility of this is under challenge. We are having a big problem. We cannot sit here as if nothing wrong has happened. I was amazed that in your communication you did not make mention of the grave allegations against the institution of Parliament where I belong as a member,” Mr Ssekikubo thundered.

“Can we have a clarification about the allegations in the media so that we take a collective position? So that we clean ourselves first,” he pressed.

“We [exercise our] oversight role on other institutions of government but when it comes to us, we want to hide it under the carpet. It is a shame to this House if we proceed when such allegations are on our heads and we continue here as if it is business as usual. We need answers [about] what happened. What happened?” he added.

Ms Among remained unmoved under all this pressure to account, choosing also not to comment on calls for a forensic audit of Parliament’s books. She insisted the issues can only be looked into by the Parliamentary Commission.

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“We are not going to debate in anticipation [about] issues in the media. We agreed as this House that we should have evidence-based debates. Bring evidence and lay on the table and after you have laid evidence then we debate on it, and I need authenticated [reports]. The LoP wrote a letter to me on the same issue, I replied we will have a commission meeting and… and report back on the findings from the commission,” Ms Among said.

At the end of what was a testy sitting, Mr Ssenyonyi yesterday said he is returning to the drawing board to forge a way forward. He, however, remained tightlipped on the possibility of asking Ms Among, and others implicated to step aside to allow for investigations.

“We are going to insist on demanding answers to these issues because now she has sent us on recess for two weeks. If she thinks that she will buy time and push them under the carpet and so on, it will not work. We will keep stepping up the pressure. Even the two weeks will elapse and we shall be back. We are not going to drop this issue if that is what she thinks is going to happen,” he said.

Credit: Monitor

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