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Accused of Rights Abuses, Corruption, Ugandan Parliament Speaker Misleads on US Travel Ban


Uganda's Speaker Anita Annet Among leads the session during the debate over the anti-Homosexuality bill.
March 21, 2023. (REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa)
Uganda's Speaker Anita Annet Among leads the session during the debate over the anti-Homosexuality bill. March 21, 2023. (REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa)
Anita Among

Anita Among

Ugandan Parliament Speaker.

“I am among the first speakers to be banned from traveling to the Western countries because I do not believe in homosexuality,” she said.

Source: Uganda Parliament ,12, 2024
Misleading
Accused of Rights Abuses, Corruption, Ugandan Parliament Speaker Misleads on US Travel Ban.
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In an online protest campaign run under the hashtag #UgandaParliamentExhibition, Ugandans accused Anita Among, speaker of Uganda’s National Assembly, of embezzling millions in public funds.

Protest organizers shared documents leaked to journalists and human rights activists by members of parliament. The leak incudes official documents from the internal financial intelligence agency and expose the rot in parliament and other government institutions in Uganda, the activists say.

One of the campaign organizers, Jimmy Ssentongo, said in a post on X that Among used private bank accounts to divert enormous amounts of government funds between April 2023 and January 2024.

On March 15, lawmakers at the Ugandan parliament put other house businesses aside to discuss the online protest.

Representative Theodore Ssekikubo told Among: “...this house has been engulfed in unprecedented abuse, honorable speaker. You say we debate other things on papers when the credibility of this house is under challenge.

‘’We are having a major problem,” Ssekikubo added. “We cannot sit here as if nothing wrong has happened.”

Among dismissed allegations as rumors and used derogatory language to claim the accusations against her came in retaliation for her opposition to homosexuality, telling fellow lawmakers: “...respond to you on hearsay? On things you have cooked on social media because I have said no to bum shafting? I will not.”

On March 12, during the opening of the 86th executive committee meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in Entebbe, Uganda, Among said Western sanctions imposed against her are in retaliation for her opposition to homosexuality.

“I am among the first speakers to be banned from traveling to the Western countries because I do not believe in homosexuality,” she said.

That is misleading.

The Ugandan government’s anti-homosexuality law, ratified May 2, 2023, and arguably the harshest in the world, allows the death penalty as punishment for certain same-sex acts.

Calling the law “wrong,” President Joe Biden implored Ugandan lawmakers to repeal it “immediately.”

“No one should have to live in constant fear for their life or being subjected to violence and discrimination,” Biden said in a statement on May 29, 2023.

Speaker Among was one of the lawmakers who championed the legislation.

Ugandan lawmakers stand as they pass the anti-Homosexuality Bill at a session inside the Parliament building in Kampala, Uganda May 2, 2023. (REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa)
Ugandan lawmakers stand as they pass the anti-Homosexuality Bill at a session inside the Parliament building in Kampala, Uganda May 2, 2023. (REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa)

On May 30, 2023, the U.S. and the U.K. canceled Among’s visas.

But Among is not the only member of the Ugandan political establishment to be denied entry by the United States and Britain.

In 2021, the United States imposed travel restrictions on Ugandan officials “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda.”

Last December, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. was expanding these sanctions onto current and former Ugandan officials involved in “...policies or actions aimed at repressing members of marginalized or vulnerable populations including environmental activists, human rights defenders, journalists, LGBTQI+ persons, and civil society organizers.”

Among is not the only Ugandan MP accused of corruption through the #UgandaParliamentExhibition on X, and other social media networks.

On March 18, Britain-based human rights group OpenDemocracy called Speaker Among one of “five [individuals] to have been named in an alleged corruption exposé by a group of journalists and activists since February.”

The journalists “allege that Among oversaw the distribution of more than $438,155 in 2022 as ‘service awards for parliamentary commissioners,’ who oversee spending and salaries in Parliament.”

OpenDemocracy also says Among “directed staff members to withdraw huge amounts of public money through private accounts.”

During a March 7 discussion on X spaces, Chris Obore, the director of communications and public affairs for the Ugandan Parliament, without evidence, accused the U.S. embassy in Kampala, Uganda, of sponsoring the ongoing online anti-corruption campaign.

Representative Ssentongo, one of the campaign organizers, challenged Obore to back his allegations with evidence: “

But when you start saying ‘oh, the Americans’ — here are Ugandans who have started the Ugandan parliament exhibition... the names you have been seeing are of Ugandans, I am not seeing the Americans here.

Obore is among those implicated in the corruption scandal, according to documents released by journalist Agather Atuhaire, who is also involved in the #UgandaParliamentExhibition campaign.

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