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Corruption in Parliament: When silence makes noise


Corruption in Parliament: When silence makes noise

Parliament, the institution which Speaker Anita Among presides has come under unfavourable light due to alleged corruption

Allegations of high level corruption and plunder by the leadership of Uganda’s Parliament that has emerged following the online #UgandaParliamentExhibition continues to stir social discomfort across sections of Uganda’s society.

Speaker Anita Annet Among, the Bukedea Woman Member of Parliament, is the woman in the eye of the storm. She has come under the public spotlight for orchestrating and overseeing a looting scheme that has diverted billions of taxpayers’ money into her own pocket, and she hasn’t denied it yet. But she’s not alone, almost all the MPs, through silence as well as accepting kickbacks to pass supplementary budgets, are guilty as charged.

It has emerged through the allegations that Speaker Among recruited the former Leader of Opposition Mathias Mpuuga, and the Members of the Parliamentary Commission (the administrative arm of Parliament) and several junior staff into her looting scheme.

Among the many accusations of abuse of office is that the Speaker of Parliament used junior staff to divert public funds to the tune of UGX 460 million, reportedly for corporate social responsibility purposes.

The Spokesperson of Parliament Chris Obore confirmed that Parliament has been depositing money on staff’s personal accounts to run Corporate Social Responsibility errands for Speaker Among.

“Parliament is a public entity which carries out Corporate Social Responsibility and this money was channeled to individual accounts to cater for these CSRs” Obore is quoted to have said during a recent public engagement on social media platform X spaces.

The exact amount of taxpayers’ money that has gone down the drain since the start of her tenure in March 2022, is not yet known but possibly runs into hundreds of billions of Shillings.

Speaker Among has so far kept silent about the accusations, forcing some to conclude that she’s guilty while others have posted that the silence is a sign of a culture of impunity among Ugandan politicians.

Despite growing public anger and frustration at the apparent mismanagement of affairs in Parliament, the President, whose party – NRM – wields overwhelming majority in the legislature, has so far ignored the scandal as probably a mere storm in a teacup.

President Museveni has not once come out to address the nation on a grave matter of national importance and what the government he heads plans to do to remedy the situation and restore public confidence in the second arm of government.

The President’s conspicuous silence on the matter has triggered a lot of noise and angry reactions from the public. Some are even theorising that the way the regime is handling the matter fits its template of simply letting the noise-to-pass.

Unable to risk the wrath of security agencies by staging banned public protests, many angry Ugandans have taken their noise and frustrations online.

They are demanding for answers, they want action taken on those projected to be behind the thuggery.

Dr. Fredrick Golooba-Mutebi, an academic, wondered “Not even a whimper from NRA/PRA veterans about informing flowing from #UgandaParliamentExhibition

He added: “Where are the men and women who spent 5 years in the bush? Where are the External Wing of the time? Why are they silent?”

Uganda’s Winnie Byanyima, who currently serves in the prestigious position of UNAIDS Executive Director, also sounded baffled when she wondered why Speaker Among has refused to address the barrage of allegations.

Another David Kavuma posted on social platform X sayig: “This situation is a tragedy for our nation. I express my gratitude to all the brave individuals who have shared this information of corruption in parliament with the public. The crucial question now is what will happen to those involved in corruption. Will the state have the political will to uphold accountability, even among their top NRM officials? Do the voters in Uganda possess the capacity to prioritize long-term reform and address the issue of wasteful spending over short-term bribes?”

He added: “This dilemma is one that all of us in Uganda must confront. While history may record that we received the information, the key question remains: will it also reflect that we took decisive action? #UgandaParliamentExhibition”

But silence, particularly from the top leadership, about the Parliament corruption scandal has been described as part of a pattern of self preservation and a culture that ignores public discontent on financial mismanagement of taxpayers money.

Prof. Jimmy Spire Ssentongo, one of the architects of the #UgandaParliamentExhibition and previous other online exhibitions, has argued that the leadership cannot possibly touch the corrupt because they fear to expose themselves as well.

Prof. Ssentongo, posted on his X platform saying that: “The self-constructed dilemma with NRM now regarding corruption is that very few people can raise a finger against the other. Each has their own skeletons in the cupboard that they fear will be pulled out once they stand up to condemn the other. The only safe thing for them is to focus on opposition or other pet topics. They can only talk about it in safe, very generic terms, but their pretences are tested by giving them a concrete case to handle, to prove their commitment against corruption. Then they resort to tongues, diversion, deflection, and vagueness.

Prof. Ssentongo adds that: “Their silence about the scandals of their people in Parliament shouldn’t surprise us. Who is left with moral authority to condemn corruption! This is the reason why those plundering are doing it with untold impunity, knowing how safe they are.

Prof. Ssentongo further argues that: “It has also become Mr Museveni’s political management style – call it Management by Distributing Skeletons (MDS). That is, letting everyone become dirty so that he has them in his palm. They are secretly investigated and their files kept, and they are made to know that their file is somewhere.”

This way, they will defend his hold onto power to the last dot of their energy. Not just because they benefit from his stay, but also due to the fact that their fate is intricately tied up with his. They know that prison is just a transition away. Also, even if they disagree with him, their skeletons can’t allow them to say a thing.”

But even as the current scandal has generated a lot of anti-NRM sentiments, some believe that the critical moment for a mass uprising has yet to come.



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