New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Chief Justice to Name Nebanda Death Inquest

The Government has written to the Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki to set up an inquest into the sudden death of Butaleja Woman Member of Parliament, Cerinah Nebanda.

Attorney General Peter Nyombi told Newvision on phone yesterday (Sunday) that Government through the Ministry of Internal Affairs had written to Odoki to appoint a senior judicial officer to carry out the probe.

"We have agreed that judiciary carries out the inquest because we don't want to get involved and be accused of influencing the probe. This is why the ministry of internal affairs has written to the chief justice, requesting him to appoint, in his wisdom, a senior judicial officer to do that," Nyombi said.

He however did not mention when the probe would start but said, they are still waiting for a reply from the Chief Justice.

When contacted, Odoki, confirmed the existence of the communication but said he is yet to decide on the officer or the team.

"I am yet to know what and who to carry out the inquest. But soon you will know what is going to happen. We will look at what the law says," Justice Odoki said.

An inquest is a judicial inquiry particularly one held to determine the cause and circumstances of a person's death.

Conducted by a judge, jury, or government official, an inquest may or may not require an autopsy carried out by a coroner or medical examiner. Generally, inquests are only conducted upon deaths which are suspicious. It is provided for under Uganda's laws, though it has not been too common.

Nyombi dismissed reports that Government is acting under pressure from MPs.

"It is not that we are setting this inquest because MPs have asked us to do so. Even before they requested us, we had already taken steps to set up an inquest," he said.

Nebanda, one of the vocal legislators of the current Ninth Parliament died mysteriously on December14, sparking off controversy that has resulted in the arrest of a number of individuals and MPs.

While the medical reports so far released indicate that Nebanda could have died of drugs, Nebanda's family, some MPs and other individuals insist that she could have died of poison.

Five MPs have been asked to report to the Police for questioning over comments they allegedly made, alleging that the Government could have had a hand in the death.

Not satisfied with the government investigations on the actual cause of death, some section of MPs including the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga demanded that an inquest under the Inquest Act be instituted so as to obtain credible results in the eyes of the general public and all concerned.

Addressing the Press last week, President Yoweri Museveni blasted individuals who suggested that the government had a hand in Nebanda's death.

He agreed with the proposal to open an inquest to establish the actual cause of the legislator's death. But Museveni maintained that "one factor that is uncontestable is that Nebanda, knowingly or unknowingly, was in the wrong company of either drug suppliers or users."

In the statement issued last week, ULS president James Mukasa Sebugenyi, said there was need for an inquest to restore public confidence in the investigation process conducted by the police.

"A public inquest into the cause of her death under the Inquests Act CAP 11 Laws of Uganda by reputable, independent and professional coroners that are acceptable to the family, Parliament and all parties concerned is advisable to obtain credible results in the eyes of the general public and all concerned," Sebugenyi said.

Sebugenyi said people suspected of any wrong doing in Nebanda's death must be subjected to an investigation process that is in accordance with the law.

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