New Vision (Kampala)

20 December 2012

Uganda: Poisonous Local Gin Kills 11

Four more people have died after consuming the potent local gin bringing the total number of the deceased to 11. The four are said to have consumed the gin from one of the bars in Bukoto, a Kampala suburb.

The deceased were identified as Perez Mukowe, 35, and 60-year old Paul Mukasa residents of Kasende and UCB zones respectively in Bukoto.

The others were Livingstone Ssekadde, 32, a father of four and 48-year old Wesonga Mukhwasi who died at his home in Kyebando, a city suburb after reportedly guzzling the poisonous waragi.

Kira Road Police Crime investigation boss, Davis Grace Pande, confirmed the deaths saying police on Wednesday took the bodies of the deceased to Mulago national referral hospital for post mortem.

According to neighbors of Mukowe, he died after consuming the potent gin at a bar in Bukoto trading center.

Sources reveal that Mukasa passed away earlier on Tuesday at around 11:00 am at Naguru Hospital in Kampala where he had sought treatment for severe vomiting and general body weakness.

The four men reportedly complained of general body weakness, fever, head ache and blurred vision during day and night. They also developed respiratory problem and could not breathe properly.

Subsequently Police swung into action and raided the bar in Bukoto alleged to be selling the poisonous booze seizing three jerry cans of it for inquiries.

Henry Byarugaba, the owner of the bar where the victims allegedly consumed the potent gin was also arrested.

Byarugaba conceded selling the waragi saying he had bought it from the main supplier in Kiwuunya, Nakulabye in Kampala that is suspected to be the sole source of the deadly gin.

However Byarugaba was released on police bond in tandem with the 48-hour policy of releasing suspects if there are not produced in court for prosecution.

"We have released him because we have not yet established if the alcohol is the real cause of the mysterious deaths. He will continue to report to police as investigations into the matter intensify.

By the time Police went to pick Mukasa's body to be taken to Hospital for post-mortem, his relatives were about to bury it for fear of being subjected to Police probe.

However Police released the bodies of the deceased to their relatives for burial after post mortem. They were laid to rest at their ancestral homes.

Pande said the bar will be closed if investigations attribute the deaths of the victims to the gin.

The death of Mukowe, Mukasa, Wesonga and Ssekadde brings the number of people who have succumbed to the lethal gin to eleven in just two-and-a-half weeks.

The other victims who died after consuming the waragi packaged in jerry cans and polythene bags included Isaac Morris Mucinguzi, William Mpembe, Joyce Kageya, one Male and Micheal Taban.

The other one victim from Katanga is unknown. Last week Police closed the bar in Kiwunya to forestall any further deaths perpetuated by the gin but could not confiscate the alcohol that had already been sold to retailers.

Police suspected that the gin could be behind the deaths. Three jerry can of the gin were also seized and handed over to government chemists for tests.

Officers suspect that the potent gin may be containing methanol, a deadly chemical that kills once consumed.

Methanol causes general body weakness, drowsiness, severe headache, vomiting, blurred vision and eventually coma.

However the real causes of the deaths will remain a mystery until the government chemists and Uganda National Bureau of standards release results of tests conducted on the sample of the gin obtained from Kiwuunya a-week-and-a-half ago.

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