Home » How UK’s sanctions will  bite Among, ex-ministers 

How UK’s sanctions will  bite Among, ex-ministers 

Speaker of Parliament Anita Among, and former Karamoja Affairs ministers Goretti Kitutu and Agness Nandutu have been banned from visiting or living in the United Kingdom (UK).
Any of their finances and assets in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, or any overseas British territory, are immediately frozen.

In addition, UK individuals and businesses are prohibited from dealing with finances or other resources in which any of the trio has stake while existing authorisation for any of them to transit through, visit or stay in the UK is revoked.  
The UK Deputy Foreign Minister Andrew Mitchell announced the penalties yesterday, marking the first time ever that London applies its Global Anti-Corruption Sanctions to Ugandan officials.
Parliament Spokesman Chris Obore faulted 10 Downing Street for being gullible to online smear campaigns by haters of the Speaker, citing homosexuals, whom he said are aggrieved by the Legislature’s enactment, a year ago, of the Anti-Homosexuality Act under Ms Among’s watch.

The legislation spells a raft of punishments for gays and lesbians, including death penalty. 
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), however, in its statement noted that its decision targeted “… individuals involved in corruption in Uganda”. 
“The actions of these individuals, in taking from taking aid from those who need it most, and keeping the proceeds, is corruption at its worst and has no place in society,” Mr Mitchell was quoted to have said.
None of the accused, including three ministers indicted for loss of government property and conspiracy to defraud, has been convicted by a court of law.  
The government procured the iron sheets as a sweetener to attract warriors in Karamoja home, and away from gun violence, but the line ministers domiciled under the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) allegedly took thousands of the roofing materials for themselves and donated others to bigwigs, among them ministers and Members of Parliament.

Speaker Among, who was named among recipients bought replaced iron sheets which her aides delivered to the OPM stores in Namanve, outside Kampala, in April 2023.
Two months later, Uganda’s Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Ms Jane Frances Abodo, announced that her office had dropped cases against Speaker Among and a dozen others, despite the political executives acknowledging receipt of the iron sheets and replacing them either in kind or in cash. 

Mr Mitchell said the sanctions were sending a “clear message to those who think benefitting at the expense of others is acceptable”. 
“Corruption has consequences and you will be held responsible,” he noted.
The British government adopted the Sanctions regime in April 2021, after leaving the European Union (EU), where its implementation of United Nations and multilateral sanctions predicated on the European Communities Act, 1972. 

Mr Mitchell, a long-serving British politician, said they punished the top Ugandan politicians for their role in the alleged theft and or diversion of more than 10,000 iron sheets that the Uganda government procured for vulnerable Karimojong.
Dr Kitutu and Ms Nandutu were indicted in August 2023 with, among others, loss of public property and conspiracy to defraud and President Museveni dropped them from Cabinet in March.

As the appointing authority, the President is not required to give reasons for hiring or firing ministers, but he at the commencement on his orders of the investigations into the iron sheet scandal early last year warned of prosecution and “political action” against those found culpable.

The ex-Karamoja Affairs ministers alongside Mr Amos Lugoloobi, who retained his State minister for Planning portfolio in the Cabinet reshuffle a month ago despite being charged over the iron sheets, remain the only senior politicians being prosecuted.

Parliament’s Obore last evening seized on the contradictions to argue that it was unjustified for London to punish Speaker Among after Uganda’s top prosecutor preferred no charge against her and others at the end of police inquiries.  
“It is unfortunate,” he said of the UK government decision, “because they have proven to be either gullible to believe in social media propaganda or they have confirmed their latent anger over the anti-homosexuality law which [Uganda’s] Parliament passed [in May 2023].”
Drawing on Uganda’s colonial history, Mr Obore said Uganda is no longer a British protectorate to await orders from Buckingham Palace in London. 

“The action of UK could imply that [it is an] active participant in Uganda’s local politics, thus, targeting high-ranking national leaders at the urging of their (foreign) agents,” he wrote in reply to our inquiries.
He added: “Uganda has regulatory, investigatory and disciplinary institutions that deal with corruption and none of them has found the Speaker culpable; therefore, the corruption allegations are as political and vendetta-driven as they come.”

The latest travel ban on Among to a western country is the second, with roughly a year following the United States government’s revocation of her visa in the run-up to Uganda’s enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in May 2023. 
Washington separately also took Uganda off the beneficiary list of its preferential quota-and tax-free trade agreement, the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA). 

The US Ambassador to Uganda, Mr William Popp, yesterday reiterated an earlier announcement that President Joe Biden’s administration will not terminate funding to Uganda’s health sector, particularly for life-saving anti-retroviral drugs, despite its objection to the anti-gay law.    
The assurances followed public instructions by the Health ministry to all health practitioners in Uganda not to discriminate against healthcare seekers. 

In a statement issued after yesterday’s interview with this publication, Mr Obore noted that UK Deputy Foreign Secretary had publicly criticised Speaker Among for presiding over the House during the enactment of the anti-gay law and his claims to sanction her for purported culpability in the iron sheet saga, were made up to conceal London’s revenge over the legislation.

He said the UK government provided no evidence that Ms Among personally benefitted from the iron sheets and that the consignment she received, which she replaced in inkind in April 2023, was donated to “public schools”. 

“It is important that foreign partners, including the United Kingdom, respect the sovereignty of Uganda, and avoid the temptation to meddle into our local politics, including arm-twisting decision-makers to align with their value system, especially on homosexuality,” he noted.

News of the sanctions found Ms Among presiding over a Parliament sitting, and she said nothing about it — at least publicly. 
Ex-ministers Kitutu and Nandutu were reported unsure if commenting on the sanctions could be considered sub judice in light of their ongoing prosecution.  

Over the 36 months since UK’s adoption of the Sanctions Act, London has under the law punished 42 individuals and entities in order to combat corruption across the world, according to FCDO. 
Those sanctioned for “serious corruption” have included nationals of South Sudan, South Africa, Russia, Venezuela, Lebanon, Moldova and Bulgaria.

According to Mr Mitchell, persons targeted for sanction are those who facilitate, profit from or try to cover up serious corruption, as well as making efforts to prevent authorities from carrying out justice for these actions.