Poison : Is this Uganda’s new political weapon?

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Dec 24th, 2012

Last Saturday came the breaking news that outspoken Woman Member of Parliament Cerinah Nebanda had passed away.

Since the Butaleja District Woman MP was an outspoken critic of her own party, the NRM, and no accident was mentioned as the cause of her death, questions started being raised immediately. Whatever weaknesses Ugandan society might have, over the last 20 years, the number of suspicious deaths of high-profile political officials and military officers have sown the seeds of a “suspect-first-and-believe-later” attitude in the country.

From the first high-profile murder under the NRM period of the former Energy minister Andrew Kayiira, to the death of Major-General Fred Rwigyema, Lt. Gen. John Garang, former Attorney General Francis Ayume, Brig. Gad Wilson Toko, Major-General James Kazini, Brig. Noble Mayombo, the July 11, 2010 Kampala bomb blasts, Lt. Col. Jet Mwebaze, Amon Bazira, the Kanungu massacre of March 2000, Prof. Dan Mudoola, Brenda Karamuze, Robinah Kiyingi, one only has to listen in to what people discuss at health clubs, in bars, pork joints and in offices to realise that Uganda is now driven by the presumption of foul play and suspicious murder. Sure enough, the death of Nebanda joined the list of these deaths that the Ugandan public simply refuses to believe are what the official account said they were.

Excessive drinking?
When Mayombo died, the first claims were that he had died of excessive drinking. When Nebanda died, the Inspector-General of Police, Lt. Gen. Kale Kayihura, alluded to her possibly having been using illegal narcotic drugs.

Adam Kalungi, said to have been her boyfriend, was the first suspect and the story line at first held well. However, as soon as word went out that a pathologist, Dr Sylvestre Onzivua, who had been contracted by Parliament and Nebanda’s family to carry out an investigation separately from the government – itself a sign of suspicion by the family and Parliament – was stopped at Entebbe International Airport from boarding a flight to South Africa, even the most gullible and politically indifferent Ugandans became alert, alarmed and suspicious.

All these conflicting statements and surely the illegal and unfair arrest of Dr Onzivua were taking place in full view of the public, the media, foreign diplomats and the professional civil service. A statement by the police on Tuesday gave the impression that Dr Onzivua had tried to suggle the samples to South Africa, and yet NRM MP and medical doctor Chris Baryomunsi said he had been given full clearance.

The government claims that Dr Onzivua broke the law and two days later another part of the same government asserts that the pathologist had been granted full, official permission by Parliament, the police and the Nebanda family to take the samples to South Africa.

Dr Onzivua is the same experienced pathologist that the Democratic Party recently contracted to find the remains of the DP leader, Benedicto Kiwanuka, who died mysteriously in 1972. In the meantime, the family of the late Rev. James Rwabwoni expressed astonishment upon hearing President Yoweri Museveni claim on Monday, December 16, at Nebanda’s family home that the report on the death of Brig. Mayombo had been given to the Rwabwoni family.

Mr Charles Mwanguhya-Mpagi, host of the KFM Hot Seat show, said on air on Wednesday that he had spoken to all of the 11 of Brig. Mayombo siblings, who said they have never seen that report.
On Monday, President Museveni warned that anyone spreading rumours that the government had killed Nebanda would be arrested. (But then, that’s the same warning he issued in May 2007 after the death of Brig. Mayombo, when a nationwide rumour spread that he had been poisoned by the government.)

Whom do you arrest when a rumour like this spreads down to, and are believed, even in remote villages? The more people you arrest over the rumour that Nebanda was poisoned by the government, the more the public will believe the rumour.

Bukenya drops bomb
The statement to the Monitor Publication Managing Director Conrad Nkutu in May 2006 by the then Vice-President Gilbert Bukenya that Uganda today is being run by a “mafia” government has become one of the most frequently quoted of any in the last 20 years and every such incident like the suspicious death of Nebanda reinforces Mr Bukenya’s claim even more in the eyes of the general public.

Police had to deploy heavily in Nebanda’s rural Butaleja constituency on Wednesday, December 19, to protect the homes of NRM politicians and officials. When matters get to this, it is evident that a sitting government is in deep crisis.

If this young MP and member of the NRM party can meet her death this way and the political party she served treats her death this way, then the NRM MPs have a lot to think about.
If you are an MP, do you eat any more at hotels? If you decide to, do you eat a meal placed before you or do you rather eat from the safer and general buffet?

Do you use the utensils provided?
On May 20, 2007, Daily Monitor Investigations Editor Chris Obore wrote in a news story reporting that poison had been imported to poison Members of Parliament. There is already a widespread rumour in Kampala that the ailing Makindye West MP, the outspoken Hussein Kyanjo, was poisoned and earlier rumours that an ailment that afflicted Mukono MP Betty Nambooze, when she was flown to South Africa, was poison.

In December 2005, officials of the newly formed party, the FDC, claimed they had received reports that president Kizza Besigye, who at the time was in Luzira Upper Prison, was the target of a plot to kill him by a spray poison administered in his cell. Read More

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