20 December 2012

Uganda: 'Who Killed My Cerinah?' - Lawmaker's Mother

A sombre mood hung over the Mukasa household in Kitubulu, Entebbe, as small groups of people sat on plastic chairs in different corners of the expansive well-manicured compound.

The sweet innocent voices of children playing occasionally tore through the silent whispers of adults sipping on mugs of steaming hot porridge.

It was 10am on Wednesday and the mourners gathered here, at the home of fallen Butaleja Woman MP, Cerinah Nebanda Arioru's parents, had no idea what the day ahead would bring. Close to midday, the sound of wailing broke up the small discussions going on and people rushed to the sitting room.

Nebanda's body lay in the casket in the middle of the sitting room. Dressed in a golden busuuti, her face had been carefully touched up with heavy make-up, her red lips standing out. Her hair combed back in place. Four policemen stood sentry in the sitting room around the casket. The family says they were sent by President Museveni.

Family portraits on the walls of the room show, among others, a young Nebanda in a red busuuti and a clutch bag, and the MP standing with Mufti Shaban Mubajje.

"Cerinah, give me the strength to fight your death, let me not break down. Cerinah, my flower, who killed you?" Alice Namulwa Mukasa, her mother, cried out, standing over the coffin.

Then, suddenly, she collapsed and relatives ran to her rescue. The policemen stayed put. When she recovered, she moved outside the house where she was swarmed by journalists.

"We want the government to arrest everyone who was with Cerinah and who was involved in killing Cerinah," she said.

"Government should respect the decision by Parliament to carry out a postmortem and work with my family. We now know Cerinah was poisoned but we want to know what kind of poison was used to kill her," Ms Namulwa continued.

The whole day, the family and relatives sat outside chatting, drinking porridge and receiving visitors. Ms Namulwa said they had no idea what to do next as they were still waiting for word from Parliament on how the investigations should proceed. At the top of the hour, a family member rushed to the compound and handed Namulwa a small radio to follow the news bulletin. Indeed, after every news bulletin, they would gather to discuss the developments.

"We are waiting for people who were handling the investigations to come and get another specimen. We don't trust the other specimen," Namulwa said.

The family had also just learnt from the Police chief, Kale Kayihura, that one of them, Ronald Wandera Hashaka, had been invited by the police overnight to join their medical team in the UK, where body samples were taken for further examination. One relative noted that Wandera had informed him he had an appointment with the President who had requested him to escort the samples to London. He reportedly left the country at 3am on Wednesday morning.

"I did not expect him to go without informing the family members. Even Kayihura should have informed us before taking him. I think he just wanted to go on a tour of London because he is not a doctor; neither is he a technical person. What will he tell us when he comes back?" Namulwa asked.

"Whatever comes out of London is not the official position of the family. We want government to hire Scotland Yard to investigate why Cerinah was murdered."

Later, she revealed that her children had informed her that Nebanda was linked to Adam Kalungi, believed to have been Nebanda's boyfriend and top suspect in the investigations, through a Member of Parliament she refused to name. According to Namulwa, this MP linked the two during a retreat of the Budget committee in Kalangala. The MP is said to have assured a worried Nebanda that she was headed for a "good time" on the island.

"This is how she got attached to this Adam who they are saying was her boyfriend. As her mother, I don't know any boyfriend of hers. They are saying that Adam was living in Buziga, but we have found out he was living in Ntinda," Namulwa said.

After the press briefing, most people broke off for lunch, as a group of MPs, including Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, Mariam Nalubega, Theodore Ssekikubo and Vincent Kyamadidi arrived and sat next to Ms Namulwa. She recounted to the MPs how one of their colleagues had linked Nebanda to Kalungi.

"You name him, tell the media. What are you fearing?" Kyamadidi prompted. "There are over 300 MPs in Parliament and everyone will be wondering who it is. It doesn't help to keep quiet and hide that MP."

Bahati named

This emboldened Namulwa to call back the journalists.

"The MP who connected Cerinah to Adam is Bahati," she declared.

"How come he has not come here since that incident? He told her that a friend will receive you in Kalangala, you will not get bored. That is how she met Kalungi. I have told the President that it is Bahati. He called Bahati who said he knows Adam's sister but not Adam," Namulwa said.

Namulwa also revealed that she has been receiving constant calls from either the President or the Police chief, Kayihura. At about 3pm, her husband Fred Mukasa rushes to where she is sitting and hands her a phone. It is Museveni again.

"Yes Your Excellency, I am here at my home in my sorrow, I am not going anywhere. The IGP called me and I said we are preparing a document and will contact him. Ok sir, I wish you a safe journey," Namulwa said to Museveni who was on his way to Rwanda.

Single mother

The sorrow and pain on her face tells of a mother who does not know her next move; whether to bury her daughter and let her rest in peace or wait for investigations to give her an answer. At this time, her mind is made up, she believes her daughter was murdered.

"It is painful to lose a child of Cerinah's age. I had much hope in her and she has left a big gap in the family," Namulwa laments.

Nebanda was the second child of four siblings. Her father died when Namulwa's first two daughters were still very young. As a single mother, she struggled to raise them. She then met and married her second husband with whom she had a boy and another girl. Unfortunately, her second husband also died.

Namulwa resorted to running small businesses, like farming, to raise money to take care of her children. She also works with Kasangati magistrate's court as an accountant. Judging from her expansive home that looks like a small hotel, Namulwa's business ventures have paid off.

"I have been struggling to ensure that my children live a comfortable life. If a child grows up with one parent, they miss a lot of things. I was trying to cover up that gap of father and mother by making sure that they don't lack anything," Namulwa says.

Every child in her home has their own furnished apartment complete with a private bathroom. Nebanda was still living with her parents when she died, and today her room remains locked. Namulwa later met Fred Mukasa, her current husband, who she says has helped her raise the children.

"Cerinah has been stubborn and aggressive. She has been my friend and when she is here, she is Cerinah, her title of MP stops at the gate," Namulwa says. "She would wash the dishes, cook and mop the house like her siblings. One time she wanted to move out and rent her own apartment but she decided to stay to take care of me."

Watching her daughter's body lying still in the sitting room, Namulwa says she handed her jolly daughter to government, which has returned her in a coffin.

"When she wanted to stand at first I was hesitant but I didn't want to suppress her political career. But I wish I had stopped her, if I had known things were going to be like this. I regret that she joined Parliament because I am going to miss her. She has been paying school fees for our relatives and some children in Butaleja," Namulwa says.

Namulwa's prayer is for the country to get to know what killed her daughter.

"If I find out that she was poisoned, we will go to court and prosecute whoever the police have arrested. We suspect somebody used Adam. I will not rest until I get justice for my daughter."

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