How ‘forged letter’ drew Speaker Among out of the devil’s workshop

The Speaker of Parliament Anita Among. PHOTO/X

Summary:

  • Speaker Anita Among has experienced a significant shift in public perception, evolving from being viewed as arrogant to garnering admiration for her embrace of democratic principles and accountability.

Just this month, it looked like Speaker Anita Among was dead up for censure but a chess grandmaster does not just give up his Queen to the Bishop of Canterbury like that when there are four pawns

Prof Barnabas Nawangwe must have slapped himself hard and pulled a strand of hair from his upper lip just to feel the pain and confirm that he was not in a trance. The Makerere University vice chancellor had just found himself under a bus with Speaker Anita Among behind the wheels.

Nawangwe had treated himself to an overzealous dosage of a directive to probe into how the School of Law had examined its Fresh men with a spellbinding satirical essay about the Speaker and her Parliament business.

But Ms Among instead defended Makerere lecturers’ academic freedom, emphasising the importance of free expression and public scrutiny for a strong, representative legislature. “Let the children learn,” she had said.

Ugandans are trying to absorb what they are seeing of Speaker Among. Just last week, she was being seen as the Goddess of Arrogance. Her tongue sliced through anything and even if she did not ask for it, there would be pallbearers at the ready to forcefully bury her critics in the cemetery of impunity.

Probably that is where the Makerere professor was coming from. Now, under the bus, Nawangwe can also watch in shock as Ms Among sends her predecessor all the birthday flowers and virtual cakes.

Like Nawangwe, Ms Mariam Wangadya arrived in Parliament on Thursday believing she was there to nail Robert Kyagulanyi and his National Unity Platform red ants on the cross. But she left the Speaker’s Chambers reeling.

And that is why it does not auger well for Mathias Mpuuga and his service awards Aweris after after a belated censure motion dropped on their lapels while the person who had dragged them into it all appears to minding real democratic business now. There is no sign that Among is about to tell the Ssekikubos and Opendis to stop attacking “my MPs”.

But how did Anita Annet Among get reborn to an extent that even her critics are finding it hard to throw barbs anymore?

It all goes back to that “forged letter”

When the letter was leaked, this writer did verify with State House officials in two ways that it was legit. Directly with one official via WhatsApp and through a staffer who confirmed with a senior official. But it was stamped “forged” many hours later.

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In between those many hours, a meeting at State House Nakasero had settled a lot, from the that letter to the National Budget Corrigenda and how public officials conducted business to fixing the mess and working on redemption for the good of the NRM party.

The extra Shs14 trillion could as well be considered to have been smuggled in. The corrigenda flouted Schedule 3 of the Public Finance Management Act, 2015, which requires the Finance Minister to state the Total Budget (ceiling) and source of revenue – how it would be financed. This had been sealed way earlier.

The new Shs72 trillion Budget was destined for a smooth approval, after all, a strong statement had been sent to the UK government that “they cannot falsely accuse any of our people and we just let it pass”.

While the well-documented AAA has gotten a breeze of fresh air and could do with a fourth A – Anita Annet Among Afresh – for those who value the ideals of democracy and long for accountable leadership that has been a thing of Egyptian riddles in Uganda, the downturn is not looking good for some.

But we can save that for last

For now, a reminder that just three weeks ago, the nation was treated to a catalogue of “bum-shafters” narrative in the wake of sanctions against the Speaker.

She said: “I’m carrying a cross for 48 million Ugandans because of the Anti-Homosexuality Act we passed in 2023. We will not allow ‘bum-shafters’ in our country and they should respect our cultures.”

Offended by the insinuation that Ms Among was being witch-hunted for the Anti-Homosexuality Act that was passed under her watch in May last year, the UK government passed word to the higher-ups that they would add more fire to the sanctions and also make public revelations if the insults continued.

There were brakes but not the screeching kind. But thanks to the “forged letter” and the meeting that sources said had a doctor present to attend to pressure and fainting, those who have lived long enough between March 17, 2024 and May 24, 2024, have seen a change from the “old women of Kamuli after my seat” to the flowers.

On Friday, Ms Among said she joined fellow citizens in extending heartfelt birthday wishes to “our esteemed Speaker Emeritus, Rt. Hon.

Rebecca Kadaga”.

To make the newfound or rather AAA & A count, the original post on X, formerly Twitter, that as accompanied with an “informal” picture of Ms Kadaga was promptly pulled down and replaced with a more official portrait of the Kamuli strongwoman in Speaker’s robe and wigs.

“Your unwavering dedication and profound leadership have laid a robust foundation for our legislative progress,” Ms Among said in unflattering terms.

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“May your special day be filled with joy, and may the coming year bring you continued happiness, fulfilment, and recognition for your invaluable contributions to our nation. Long Live Mama Waife!”

That is the beauty of politics. No permanent enemies. But Ms Among is not politicking, she has been humbled and like many see, it is good. If she continues this way into the 2026 elections, even those who were calling for her head on the guillotine will be lining up to vote for her.

So good has she turned out to be that when Uganda Human Rights Commission’s Mariam Wangadya wheeled her team to Parliament on Thursday, she expected benediction against NUP threats and a pat on the back for carrying the badge branded with widespread criticism frustrating human rights in the country.

Instead, the Speaker left no doubt about democracy and rule of law. “I encouraged the commission to welcome public scrutiny and use the feedback to enhance the quality of services provided to citizens. Holding public office requires accountability, and public feedback is essential in maintaining this trust,” she said.

She also told Ms Wangadya that UHRC should be the bridge between the Opposition and the government. Mr Wangadya has probably been trying to patch calls through to Number One to ask for how to deal with the unexpected twist.

But the worse victim of the new AAA has been Prof Nawangwe and Makerere. At first, the post on X looked like fake news curated from Makerere Kavule or another parody for the matter.

But then Mr Joseph Sabiiti, the Speaker’s publicist, shared a link. It was real. And those yet to click that the wheels are moving fast, must learn.

“I hold the view that this is a free society in which freedom of expression is guaranteed and sacrosanct, including academic freedom protected under Article 29(1)(b). As Parliament, we unreservedly submit to public scrutiny, which we believe is the pillar upon which a strong, representative legislature is founded.

“I, therefore, find no fault in the exam set for the students and I believe our duty will be to give the students unbiased context on what exactly happened during the sitting in issue, so that, as academicians, they form their own opinion on the conduct of public affairs and how they will improve them when it is their turn to be in charge of the management of our society.”

The worst are the Mpuugas in the service award

Before the letter was declared “forged”, there were already talks that censure of the Speaker was appearing on Patel’s parlour with Odd 1.12 in favour and a whopping odd 19.86 against. But Patel can now forget cashing in on bettors.

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However, that does not mean there might not be censure in the current Parliament. When Mathias Mpuuga sat in that meeting chaired by Speaker Among and attended by Solomon Silwany (Bukooli, NRM), Esther Afoyochan (Zombo Woman, NRM), and Prossy Mbabazi (Rubanda Woman, NRM), it looked like if the sword fell, they would all be wounded.

It just looked like. Theodore Ssekikubo and Sarah Opendi have hardly muttered Among’s name in their censure scripts.

And when reports filter in that legislators with ties to People’s League of Uganda were pushing themselves in the queue for who should append their signature first, it becomes a question of where the censure motion is originating from.

For starters, Tororo Woman MP Sarah Opendi, a former minister, would never come out so strongly against three NRM legislators unless she was speaking the language of long-horned cows. That language was there for all to see in the “forged letter”. In case you ignored it just because it was denied after 12 hours, pull it out and internalise with its content.

The “forged letter” was calling for heads to roll on the chopping board. The tone that likened the award to the Swine – for once without saying so – gave it away.

“A total of Shs1,700,000,000 (One billion, seven hundred million) was shared between Hon Mathias Mpuuga and the three NRM-nominated Commissioners…. when we were fighting Obote and Amin, we used to call it primitive accumulation of wealth,” the ‘forged letter’ said.

With the UK sanctions that threaten to cripple some operations of Parliament, a sacrifice had to be made. A chess grandmaster does not just give up his Queen to the Bishop of Canterbury like that when there are four pawns – including one who thought he was actually a Rook.

The new AAA&A has to close her eyes and forget that meeting of March 6, 2022. If she offered something – including a commitment to change her ways – what can the pawns facing censure offer?

Like a lawyer enthused, the new Speaker Among is a breeze of fresh air for democracy and rule of law. At least while it lasts.

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