East Africa

Ugandan Speaker Oulanyah buried, father says he was poisoned


Summary

  • Oulanyah died on March 20 at Medical Centre in Seattle, US, where he had been rushed for specialised treatment for cancer.
  • Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng said Oulanyah’s death was due to failure of his liver, kidney and heart resulting from cancer, and bacterial and viral infections.
  • But, speaking to mourners, Oulanyah’s father Nathan Okori repeated his earlier assertions that his son had been poisoned.
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By NELSON NATURINDA


Uganda’s Speaker Jacob Oulanyah was buried Friday evening at his ancestral home in Lalogi, Omoro district, about 400km north of Kampala, in a ceremony attended by thousands of mourners and dignitaries from the country’s political, social and business circles.

The day-long event, presided over by the archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Mr Steven Kaziimba Mugalu, included a 17-gun salute as Oulanyah’s body was lowered into his grave.

President Yoweri Museveni, who did not attend the funeral because he was in Nairobi for the official reception of DR Congo into the East African Community, was represented by Vice President Jessica Alupo.

Oulanyah died on March 20 at Medical Centre in Seattle, US, where he had been rushed for specialised treatment for cancer.

Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng said Oulanyah’s death was due to failure of his liver, kidney and heart resulting from cancer, and bacterial and viral infections. She said these were accelerated by the fact that he had no spleen which was removed in 1990 after Oulanyah was injured during a scuffle with security forces while he was still a student at Makerere University.

Speaking to mourners, Oulanyah’s father Nathan Okori repeated his earlier assertions that his son had been poisoned.

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Speaking in his native Acholi language and translated by opposition politician and Democratic Party president Norbert Mao, Mr Okori said, “I am not mourning in vain. I want to state clearly, Jacob was poisoned. He told me. The poison affected his health so badly that by the time they flew him out for the country for treatment, he was not in position to recover. He was too weak.”

Media had earlier reported that Mr Okori was not going to speak at the funeral, citing ill health.

“Mzee is right now too weak, he can’t walk easily and can’t speak easily due to the bereavement. This, to us, is understandable because he needs more comfort than being exposed to emotional speeches,” said Ms Santa Alum Ogwang, a family member.

However, social media carried messages that the national organising committee was trying to block him from speaking because it feared he would repeat the poison claims.

Former UN undersecretary, Olala Otunnu, on Wednesday morning said Mr Okori should be allowed to speak, calling upon Acholi people to desist from speculating on what killed their son and instead leave such matters to the speaker’s family.

“Words came straight from the mouth of the deceased’s father, Mr Okori, who said many times that his son had told him that he was poisoned, allegedly resulting in his death. But it is disastrous for some of us to start carrying the same message without evidence,” Mr Otunnu told the Daily Monitor.

Oulanyah’s brother Francis Emuna had earlier set the wheel rolling when he said he had been blocked from travelling with Oulanyah to the US, where he hoped he would need organ donation.

“I was supposed to go for bone marrow transfusion, but I was stopped by some people. Maybe I would have helped my brother. That person who stopped me, you have seen what has happened here,” he said.

Claims of poisoning have been common in Uganda, especially among the politicians.

When former defence permanent secretary Brig Noble Mayombo died in May 2007, claims of poisoning led to investigations. The results, however, did not show that he was poisoned.

When Cerinah Nebanda, an MP from eastern Uganda, died in 2013, there was a fracas as some legislators insisted on investigations into suspected poisoning. This was, however, prematurely stopped.

Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze also claims to have been poisoned when she was arrested and imprisoned by the regime.

Former bush war hero and close confidant of President Yoweri Museveni, Gen David Sejusa, years ago claimed there was such a scare of poisoning in the system that some officials had resorted to carrying their own food when attending events.

Earlier, when Mr Okori’s claims of Oulanyah’s poisoning were widely shared on social media, President Museveni reacted by ordering police to arrest anyone spreading the “rumour”.

The public then stopped openly discussing the claims – that is, until Mr Okori repeated the claims at his son’s burial.

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