27 December 2012

Uganda: Flashback - Turn of Events At Nebanda's Burial

Drama followed the deceased vocal Butaleja Woman MP, Cerinah Nebanda, to her final send off. Daniel Edyegu brings you a narrative of the events that culminated into the chaos on Sunday.

10:34am: Nebanda's body arrives at Butaleja Boma Grounds escorted by the Police for prayers and public viewing. The prayers are led by Tororo diocese Archbishop Denis Kiwanuka Lote.

Lote stresses that whereas at 24 Nebanda had gone too soon, God's timing differs from that of humans and each person has their own clock.

10:43am: Parliament speaker Rebecca Kadaga arrives at the funeral and Gen. Moses Ali, the third deputy premier arrives at the venue at 11:15am amidst a morning drizzle. Ali, the chief mourner and government representative, is ushered to his seat next to Kadaga.

12:12pm: After prayers, mourners are invited to lay wreaths starting with the bereaved family, Ali, Kadaga, legislators, district councillors and then the general public.

12:46pm: Abdu Mudeya, the LCI chairperson Nanyolo cell, Butaleja town council welcomes mourners and opens the floor for speeches. However, his speech acts as a matchstick that strikes the agenda for subsequent speakers and ignites the crowd.

"We sent you our daughter (MP Nebanda) to the House alive. Now you have brought her back a corpse. Now that all the leaders of Government business are here, we need an explanation to her death."

The crowd rises in an uproar.

12:58am: The family of the deceased is invited to give speeches and Yohanna Hirya, the grandfather to the late MP, steps forth. Hirya gives a moving speech that leaves mourners saddened.

"Because Nebanda was single, she faced a lot of opposition during campaigns as most people tasked her to show them the husband.

I stood in as her 'husband', as allowed in our Bunyoli tradition. Who else is going to take care of me? Is it you (mourners and guests) here staring at me?"

1:24pm: Alice Namulwa, The mother of the deceased gives her speech dismissing the Government report that indicated that Nebanda died of drug abuse including cocaine, heroine and alcohol.

"I have known my daughter and she was like a personal friend to me. When the Police claimed she had died of drug abuse, I thought to myself, maybe she takes drugs behind my back for fear of being reprimanded.

So I asked her colleagues who used to hangout with Nebanda and all of them said they had never seen her taking alcohol or drugs.

Nebanda told me she will die for this nation and she has accomplished that contract. We (family) don't need more trauma with fake reports (autopsy)."

2:06pm: MP Emmanuel Dombo invites three legislators who did the investigations into Nebanda's death to tell the mourners what exactly happened. Dr. Chris Baryomunsi (Kinkizi East) steps forward and calls Dr. Sam Lyomoki to summarise what they compiled in their report.

"By the time we sent the samples that were confiscated at Entebbe airport for tests in South Africa, we had already accomplished 90% of the autopsy and had ruled out drug abuse as the cause of Nebanda's death.

"We knew she had died of poison but we wanted to find out the exact poison that was used. Drug addicts have their symptoms such as hallucinations and mood swings. We never saw any in Nebanda while alive."

"Besides, somebody taking drugs usually has piercings on the skin to administer the drugs. We never saw those on Nebanda's skin during the laboratory tests apart from that for the cannula (used during first aid at the clinic). So this report (UK autopsy) is definitely fake."

"The Government is now accusing us of having a hand in the killing yet our crime in this saga is the search for the truth. We were commissioned by Parliament to do this task."

2:30pm: Capt. Mike Mukula, the Soroti municipality MP in his capacity as NRM vice-chairperson eastern region, gives a speech heaping praises on Nebanda as a fighter who never laid down her guns until a task was accomplished.

"The people of Butaleja gave us a fighter. Her death is a big blow to the nation as a whole. If you are to vote in the next elections, give us another person of Nebanda's calibre."

However, midway Mukula's speech, commotion breaks out as the crowd starts pelting the Police with stones and NRM party cards.

Even before the funeral started, word had been doing rounds that some members of the NRM party were planning to return their NRM party cards in protest of Nebanda's death.

Security together with legislators and local leaders calm down the mourners and the ceremony moves on.

2:55pm: Perhaps smelling a rat, Dombo invites Ali to deliver his speech. "The chief guest is moving somewhere else and the weather is already bad. It's not good for a plane (chopper) to fly at night. Let's allow him to deliver his speech so he can travel back early," Dombo said attracting boos from the crowd.

"Speaker, speaker..." the crowd choruses, demanding Kadaga to speak before Ali (as chief mourner) closes the ceremony.

However, Dombo sticks to his guns. Ali rises to his feet and calls for the microphone to be brought to him at the tent. But MPs, seated with Ali start taunting Ali.

"You go to the open ground, the people want to see the person speaking. These are our voters," the MPs say.

Ali ignores the voices and starts his speech.

"I'm not going to give speeches here but I'm going to read the President's (Museveni's) speech. The booing intensifies. MPs and ministers walk over to Ali to advise him on the next course of action."

3:10pm: Dombo invites Rebecca Kadaga to make her speech and the crowd temporarily quiets. Kadaga starts by praising Nebanda as an articulate woman and delves into the cause of her death.

"I learnt of Nebanda's death during the funeral of my father. So, I tasked MPs to find out the exact cause of her death. Nebanda used to be so close to me and I could assign her tasks on various matters.

I never at any one moment saw her on drugs or alcohol. I'm not content with the Government report," Kadaga says, as the chaos among the crowd builds and gets out of hand.

As the chaos intensifies, security quickly surrounds Ali while a separate team rushes to bring in Ali's official vehicle.

3:16pm: Ali walks to Nebanda's mother, Namulwa, and hands over the President's speech that she tears to pieces and tosses the shreds at the bonnet of the premier's car. Ali is whisked away amidst tight security.

3:33pm: Meanwhile, the body is tucked inside a minibus and escorted to the family home for burial. The crowds follow chanting anti-establishment slogans. Police, standing at the gate, deny the crowds entry into the family home. However, the crowds enter through the openings of the hedge.

5:00pm: Nebanda's body is prayed for, she receives a three-gun salute and is buried.

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