The Observer (Kampala)

18 December 2012

Uganda: Police, Lawmakers Battle for Control of Nebanda Probe

Special sitting to pay tribute to the late Butaleja Woman MP - Cerinah Nebanda brew storm after MPs learnt of the arrest of an Independent ... ( Resource: Session Turns Stormy Over Late Uganda Legislator

The police, the family and political friends of Cerinah Nebanda (read MPs) are resolutely trying to answer an important but tricky question: what killed the youthful Butaleja woman MP?

But the dogged fight over who should firmly run the investigation speaks about the level of suspicion between the police and President Museveni's government on the one hand, and the MPs and Nebanda's family on the other. The arrest of the independent pathologist, Dr Sylvester Onzivua at Entebbe International airport on Tuesday deepened that fight and cast a dark cloud over the investigation.

Dr Onzivua, who was hired by Parliament to do an independent forensic investigation, was arrested en route to South Africa, where he was supposed to take some samples for further tests. Police Spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba accused Onzivua of having obtained the samples without the knowledge of the police, and of trying to 'smuggle' the samples out of the country without following the right procedure.

"On Monday, the 17th of December, 2012, police discovered that certain samples from the body of the deceased had been irregularly obtained by individuals not involved in the police investigation, and without knowledge of the police," a police statement reads in part.

Dr Onzivua, the statement said, was in police custody, to assist in determining why he violated the laid-down procedures and regulations.

Dr Onzivua, who is a civil servant, is also accused of not seeking clearance to travel out of the country, "and neither had he obtained the authority required to export the samples out of the country."

This rope-pulling between the police and MPs over the investigation appears to have compounded the mystery surrounding Nebanda's death. On Sunday during a vigil at Nebanda's home in Entebbe, Kale Kayihura, the Inspector General of Police, struggled to clarify earlier police reports that the deceased could have died of a drug overdose- as reported in the Sunday papers.

On Sunday, Kinkiizi East MP Dr Chris Baryomunsi, a parliamentary commissioner and medical practitioner, who represented Parliament at the postmortem examination, said the MP could not have died of drug abuse or natural causes like heart attack, blood pressure and blood clot.

On Monday, Kayihura issued a statement, warning people against making reckless utterances about Nebanda's death.

"We wish to advise such people that there are laws that protect police investigations and we shall not hesitate to take action against anybody violating these laws," the statement read in part.

Monday meeting

Before Onzivua's arrest, senior police officers, pathologists and MPs met on Monday to chart a way forward for the investigation in the office of the executive director of Mulago hospital. According to our sources, the tense meeting which started at 6pm and ended at midnight was attended by Grace Akullo, the director of the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate (CIID), a one Ambrose, an aide to Kayihura, pathologists Prof Henry Wabinga and Onzivua.

It was also attended by MPs Dr Chris Baryomunsi and Dr Medard Bitekyerezo, among others. At the meeting, police accused the MPs of interfering with their work by conducting a parallel investigation into Nebanda's death. Akullo wanted to know why they were not sharing their findings with police; wondering at one point what would happen if their findings are at variance.

Baryomunsi told Akullo that it had been agreed from the start that Parliament and police would work together for the sake of transparency. The legislator reportedly told Akullo that the public suspected foul play in Nebanda's death and had little confidence in police doing a thorough job.

Baryomunsi said by coming on board, Parliament wanted to ensure that the cause of Nebanda's death is fully known and not hidden from the public. Akullo then complained that Dr Onzivua, who had been hired by Parliament, had not sought permission from Mulago hospital before he could carry out the investigation.

It was agreed that Onzivua continues with his line of investigation on condition that he shares his findings with the police before releasing them to the public. Sources told us that prior to this meeting, President Museveni had called Kayihura asking him why he was allowing politicians to interfere with police work.

We have also been told that Museveni called Baryomunsi, on Sunday evening, demanding to know why he was releasing postmortem results. Visiting Nebanda's home in Entebbe, Museveni assured mourners that the MP's death would be investigated and results released.

He cautioned "politicians" not to interfere. But Museveni and the police's insistence on controlling the investigation has raised further suspicion, with some wondering what the state is so afraid of. At one time, a police officer is reported to have asked the MPs what would happen if their parallel investigation threw up findings different from the police's.

In life, Nebanda caused many a storm when she spoke; her death, too, has caused quite a storm. The MP will, however, be laid to rest on Friday at 2pm in Butaleja district.

Ads by Google

Copyright © 2012 The Observer. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.