The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Nebanda - Cocaine, Heroin, Cited in UK Forensic Report

After blocking an independent pathologist from travelling to South Africa to conduct tests into the death of MP Cerinah Nebanda, the government at the weekend released its own report of tests done in the United Kingdom.

And these preliminary results suggest that Butaleja Woman MP took drugs cocaine and heroin that could have killed her.

"The fact that some of these toxins/drugs were detected in the stomach contents is an indication that they may have been taken orally prior to death," said Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the director general of Health Services on Saturday.

Speaking at the Uganda Media Centre, Aceng was quoting an autopsy and toxicology report from a United Kingdom private firm, ROAR Forensics, which was peppered with scientific jargon. Aceng said they were still awaiting samples flown to Israel before they could release a final report into what killed the youthful MP.

She was flanked by Robinah Kirinya, a senior officer at the directorate of the Government Analytical Laboratory.

"Chronic use of cocaine is associated with cardio-toxicity especially heart rhythm disturbances, which cannot be seen at autopsy with the naked eye," the report said.

The report also found traces of chloroquine, dextromethorphan, morphine and codeine in the samples. Morphine and codeine are narcotic pain relievers used to treat moderate to severe pain, while dextromethorphan is a drug used to treat cough.

"The detection of the products and their breakdown substances in the blood and urine indicates they were absorbed in the bloodstream to various body organs and eventually excreted in the urine.

Dr Aceng said the UK toxicology findings draw parallels with the postmortem findings carried out earlier on at Mulago hospital.

"The observed pulmonary edema and congestion, patchy consolidation of the lungs, dull pancreas, [and] hyperemic stomach at post mortem may have an explained link to the toxicology findings," she said.

The Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate boss, Grace Akullo, said amongst the items found at the house of Nebanda's boyfriend, Adam Suleiman Kalungi were milk, red wine and white wine.

"He [Kalungi] tried to treat her before she was rushed to the clinic where they put her on drip," said Akullo.

However, the family has already rejected the theory, claiming Nebanda never indulged in drugs and alcohol. It also refused to be part of the government-sanctioned UK probe after a pathologist privately hired by the family and Parliament; Dr Sylvester Onzivua was arrested and detained with samples shortly before boarding a flight to South Africa where he was supposed to carry out an independent probe.

Speaking to The Observer on Saturday, Dr Onzivua was reluctant to comment on the government report.

"Though the UK forensic firms are very credible, what we wanted was to conduct an independent inquiry and compare results with those of government."

Kinkiizi East MP Dr Chris Baryomunsi told The Observer on phone: "Well, for us [Parliament], we have formally withdrawn from the investigation. However, we shall consult and see what to say about these new findings."

Baryomunsi is amongst the MPs with a medical background that observed a postmortem carried out at Mulago hospital, which the lawmaker claims initially ruled out the use of drugs as the cause of death.

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