New Vision (Kampala)

23 December 2012

Uganda: MP Nebanda's Final 24 Hours Alive

Family of late legislator dismiss government's preliminary autopsy ( Resource: Uganda's Late Legislator's Mother Refutes Report

Hundreds throng Butaleja today to lay Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda to rest. For the family, friends and the country the last 10 days have been the worst. The public has been treated to drama, relied on conspiracy theories to explain the cause of her death.

Her colleagues say they last saw the MP in Parliament on December 13, during President Yoweri Museveni's address to Parliament on the oil debate.

"I did not know she was there until the President mentioned her name. When I turned, I saw her seated in the vacant opposition seats," says Emmanuel Dombo the Bunyole West MP.

During the speech, the President mentioned her name twice. The first time was when he rhetorically asked whether it was true that Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi had taken ENI bribes and she shouted from the background "Yeeeeees". Then Museveni jokingly said:"But my daughter Nebanda, she is like that."

She also complained of lack of drugs in the hospitals in her area and the President promised to travel with her to her constituency, a trip that would never be made.

After the debate, Nabenda addressed the media. Controversy surrounds where she spent that night. One thing is clear though, she was seen driving out of Parliament in her Toyota Progress.

Nebanda was staying in Entebbe with her parents. Occasionally, she spent nights at her boyfriend's place in Buziga, where she met her death.

Morning of her death (Friday):

On Friday morning, Nabenda was seen around Parliament driving her Toyota Progress. Her mother had borrowed her official personalised Land Cruiser.

The Parliament spokesperson, Helen Kawesa, was among those who saw her that Friday morning.

At around 11:00am, she headed to Dombo's office on the fifth floor to pick photos they had taken together during a swearing in ceremony in Butaleja in 2011.

"She came in but instead she met my secretary in the office. We had taken some photos together at one of the functions in Butaleja and she wanted to see them before she could make her orders," Dombo said.

Unfortunately, Dombo had travelled to Butaleja for a series of meetings, including the World AIDS Day celebrations that had been postponed from December 1 to 14.

She left a message with Dombo's secretary asking her to tell him she also wanted them to discuss the status of health services and roads in the district because she was a member of the district committee on the roads.

Some district medical staff had quit following the scrapping of allowances. She wanted them to discuss how best they could get the health ministry to reinstate the allowances. She then made a call to another MP from the same district, Wangolo Jacob and told him she was going to Munyonyo to relax.

Nebanda then left Parliament and nobody knows what transpired thereafter.

At Munyonyo she briefly met her mother in the afternoon and thereafter she stayed behind.

It is not clear which other person she met as the Police is still trying to get her phone printouts to show who she had called as they try to put together the clues.

She drove from Munyonyo to her boyfriend Suleiman Adam Kalungi's pla, who the family claims was linked to her by fellow MP David Bahati. Hon. Bahati has since denied the claims.

Evening in Buziga

Neighbours in Buziga where Nebanda's boyfriend stays say they saw her drive into the compound at around 5:30pm. The compound has two semi-detached houses with eight single bedroom units.

"She drove in alone and parked her Toyota Progress besides her boyfriend's Toyota Rav 4 and then entered the house," says a maid who lives within the same compound.

"She was no stranger here and we knew her as Adam's girlfriend," she adds.

Across the fence is a group of boys who bake bricks, who also claimed that Nebanda was no stranger in the area and would spend some nights there.

The boyfriend Suleiman, was a new resident in the area but one of the boys who knows him describes his as a quiet young man.

"He was my friend and I grew up seeing him at Lubas Road in Jinja. We went to the same school, St. James Jinja and Main Street Primary School, Jinja. I actually know his family," adds the boy.

The boy says at around 5:40pm on the same day, he went to Karungi's house to see him and get a number of another friend.

"When I peeped over the wall I saw a Toyota Progress parked besides his car and feared. Whenever she would come we would not enter the house," says the boy.

The boy said he knew the MP because on the day she bought for Kalungi his sofa sets, he is the one he called to offload them from the truck.

"After offloading the seats, she dropped me at the stage in the same Toyota Progress and drove off," she adds.

Nebanda complains

Nobody knows what transpired in the house but it is reported that at around 6:00pm, the MP made a call from her phone to her mother, complaining of abdominal pains.

Neighbours say they overheard Kalungi making a call to a friend who lives nearby asking him to come urgently.

The life of Cerinah Nebanda: As a child, during her teen days at the beach with a friend right through her time at the university.

After a short time the friend arrived on a bike and the team of three drove out in one car. It is from here that they drove to a nearby clinic to administer first aid to the MP, whose condition had now worsened.

At the clinic they met a nurse who administered first aid to her by putting her on a drip. The clinic then asked the team to go to a bigger health facility and it was here that they decided to drive to Mukwaya General Clinic, where the MP was pronounced dead on arrival.

Panicking, Kalungi picked Nebanda's phone and called her mother telling her to rush to the clinic as her daughter was unconscious.

The mother called her father Fred Mukasa, who was stuck in a traffic jam in Mengo. Mukasa abandoned the car and jumped on a bike and rushed to the clinic but by the time he reached the clinic, Nebanda was dead.

He made calls to several of her friends confirming the MP's death.

"I had just finished attending a function in Butaleja, when I received a call from Mr. Mukasa telling me Cerinah was dead," Dombo says. "I quickly put off the phone and immediately called back. I thought it was a hoax call," he adds.

Dombo called the other MPs but most of them had their phones switched off because they were at Speaker Rebecca Kadaga's father's requiem mass.

Kawesa said they received the news of her death during the funeral service. "It was around 8:00pm when we heard the rumour. And by 9:00pm, it was confirmed she was dead," says Kawesa.

By this time people had flocked the clinic to see the lifeless body of the once vibrant MP lying on a stretcher. Before the results came out, many theories were being advanced on what caused her death.

The controversies led Parliament to block the burial, pending a proper investigation by a selected team, following claims that the first probe had been compromised. The family also refused to keep the body at Mulago Hospital preferring to keep it at the family house in Entebbe after losing trust in the investigators.

Whereas investigators suspected drug and alcohol intoxication from the outset, the family insisted Nebanda took neither drugs nor alcohol. Similar views were expressed by some of her colleagues.

"I offered her wine at one time but she turned the offer down telling me she is a teetotaler," opposition leader Nandala Mafabi told Parliament.

However, Police sources say when they searched the house they recovered two glasses that were being used by the occupants of the house on the fateful day.

They say they recovered two bottles of wine which are in their custody. Is it possible that the MP was drinking in hiding and never wanted the public to know? Was her boyfriend coaching her into the habit and on that day had poured wine in the two glasses to tempt her to drink?

That the MP loved social life is not questionable. Apart from being an able debater, she was also one of the best dancers in Parliament and loved going to the beach.

"Whenever we would organize parties she would dance and we loved seeing her wriggle," says a colleague.

The most memorable of her dances was during the closure of the Inter Parliamentary Union Conference in Kampala last year where the MP exhibited her rare skills.

On Sunday Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, one of the Doctors appointed by Parliament to investigate the cause of her death said that they had found some remains of food in her stomach which strangely smell alcohol.

Pathologist arrested

During the requiem mass at the Christ the King on Tuesday, December 18, Baryomunsi revealed that the Dr. Sylvester Onzivua, a pathologist who had been sanctioned by both Parliament and Hon Nebanda's family to do an independent investigation in South Africa had been arrested at the airport.

The arrest of Dr. Onzivua made family members thinking that somebody was hiding something.

Police, in its initial press release, said they had arrested the doctor as he attempted to smuggle the samples out of the country.

They also claimed that Dr. Onzivua, who is a civil servant, had not been cleared to travel out of the country, and neither had he obtained the authority required to export the samples out of the country.

However, the Director General of Health Services stated she had cleared the doctor to travel. The Police then stated that it was only the Permanent Secretary and Prime Minister who were authorized to clear him for travel abroad.

Police prepared a charge of abuse of office against the doctor and forwarded the file to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) but sources at the DPP say they file was referred back to Police.

Despite Parliament resolving that the doctor be released unconditionally Police stuck on him and only released him after three days following intense pressure from Parliament.

The Government on Thursday issued a statement maintaining that they were treating some of Nebanda's colleagues as suspects.

Going by the manner in which the case was handled, the public remained in a state of uncertainty until the results of toxicological tests were returned from the UK, indicating that the MP indeed died of cocaine toxicity.

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