The Observer (Kampala)

20 December 2012

Uganda: Pathologist Finally Freed

Photo: New Vision
Nebanda Cerinah Ariouru.

Dr Sylvester Onzivu, the private pathologist hired by Parliament to conduct an independent investigation into the death of MP Cerinah Nebanda, was released today, more than 48 hours after his arrest at Entebbe airport.

Onzivua had been arrested as he tried to fly to South Africa for what were expected to be conclusive tests on the fallen MP's body samples. However, hours before his release from the Special Investigations Unit in Kireka on Thursday, Onzivua in an interview with The Observer described his arrest and detention as an attack on his profession.

"It is like charging a fish with swimming in water. I didn't do anything wrong," he said outside his cell soon after playing a game of Sudoku.

Flanked by relatives, the relatively upbeat Onzivua, clad in green slippers, maintained his innocence as he held onto a pack of newspapers.

"I took the samples in accordance with the Inquests Act which says that a medical person can use his discretion. It doesn't say one must use the police," he said. "The police don't know the law. It is an abuse of my rights."

He added that his continued stay in Kireka was also unconstitutional since the 48 hours within which he would have been arraigned before a court of law had elapsed. And he revealed that it is not the first time that he has taken samples outside the country. In 2008, he was contracted by the police to take samples to find out whether it was Fr Anthony Kiiza, a catholic priest from Kamwenge district, who had been reported missing.

"I followed the same procedure. The letter had been written by the CID Director." He later confirmed that samples belonged to Fr Kiiza."

Whereas Onzivua is angry at his arrest, he says he is a man at peace because he knows he is innocent.

"I am just resting," he answered when asked by one of his visitors, who he later identified as one of his postgraduate students. "I am very peaceful because I was doing my job. We took an oath and allegiance for the dead and living. We are forensic pathologists. We are the voice of the dead," he said.

But Internal Affairs Minister Hilary Onek told journalists at the Uganda Media Centre that Onzivua stole the samples from the postmortem room during extraction. He said Onzivua was part of the postmortem team headed by Professor Wabingwa together with Dr Byaruhanga and Dr Kalungi.

Onek says the government pathologist Dr Byaruhanga informed police "that a mortuary attendant and a one detective Sergeant Aluma saw Onzivua taking some samples out of the mortuary."

"That's when Sergeant Aluma asked Dr Onzivua where he was taking the other samples; he replied that he was taking them to their pathology department for internal study and use. This was a strange revelation to the police and raised more suspicion. The behaviour of Onzivua became highly suspicious," Onek said.

Onek said when asked during a meeting on Monday with the director of Mulago hospital and the CIID deputy director of investigations, Onzivua said he had taken the samples on the orders of MPs Chris Baryomunsi and Sam Lyomoki.

"He refused to hand over and declare to the meeting the whereabouts of the samples. He instead told the meeting to contact the MPs. This was strange for him to have worked on the instructions of third parties who were mere observers. Automatically, this made Onzivua and his instructors serious suspects," Onek said.

Onek said Onzivua ignored all police warnings and went ahead to try to smuggle out the samples to South Africa. He added that the police had also summoned Lyomoki and Baryomunsi for questioning. Onzivua, however, told The Observer in a separate interview that he was shocked by his arrest at the airport.

"I was stopped just after I had handed in my boarding pass. The CID boss for Entebbe police station came and intercepted me, saying I had issues to settle," he recalled. "He grabbed all my bags and phones and arrested me kangaroo style. They searched my bag before driving me to Wandegeya (Government Analytical Laboratory)."

He said at the government lab, the samples of Nebanda's organs were forcefully removed from him. "I told them they were destroying the evidence. I told them I wouldn't be party to compromising the samples."

Last evening, the Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah received Dr Onzivua at Parliament.

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