31 December 2012

Uganda: Doctor Apologizes Over Nebanda Saga

THE head of the Mulago National Referral Hospital's forensic unit, Dr Sylvester Onzivua, caught up in the Cerinah Nebanda death post-mortem row, has expressed regrets about his involvement, saying he never knew it would kick up a storm.

In a brief interview yesterday, Dr Onzivua apologized to President Museveni and bereaved family saying it had not occurred to him that his actions would cause controversy and agony to, particularly to the deceased MP's family.

"I am very sorry to the President for being dragged into this. There may have been some technical errors that were made and as head of the forensic unit, I take responsibility. I am also sorry for the stress caused to the bereaved family," Onzivua said.

The pathologist, who over many years has handled several critical cases for the government and the police such as the forensic examination into the death of Joseph Behakanira and that of Father Anthony Kiiza, said he was convinced that many people who got involved in the Nebanda death investigation acted in good faith.

"Unfortunately it has come to this," said Onzivua who is also at the centre of investigations into the causes of the nodding disease which has afflicted Northern Uganda said.

The doctor was on Friday charged in court with abuse of office and conspiracy to commit a felony. He was arrested at Entebbe Airport as he was trying to fly out with body samples of Cerinah Nebanda, the Butaleja district woman MP who died under unclear circumstances.

Dr Onzivua yesterday maintained that his decision to take samples to South Africa for a forensic examination was well intentioned.

"My going to South Africa was not to produce any parallel report on the investigations but was intended to enhance our ongoing investigations," Onzivua said.

Onzivua who was part of the bigger team that took part in the postmortem exercise headed by Prof. Henry Wabinga, said the general consensus within the members from the start was to come out with one report.

Onzivua who was facilitated by Parliament to fly the samples to South Africa, however took personal responsibility for the decision.

"The decision to take the sample to South Africa was mine, because the MPs never knew anything about pathology and facilities that provide those services. I am the one who advised and they accepted to facilitate me. I take full responsibility for that," Onzivua said.

He was arrested at about the same time with two other MPs Dr. Chris Baryomunsi (Kinkizi West) and Mohammed Nsereko (Kampala Central) following the controversy that unraveled over the MP's death. Several other MPs are also wanted by the police over utterances made in connection with the MP's death. Onzivua was charged in Kampala alongside Baryomunsi and granted bail, while Nsereko was charged in Tororo, eastern Uganda and remanded to prison until tomorrow.

Nebanda, 24, passed away at Mukwaya General Clinic in Nsambya, on December 14, at about 9:00pm shortly after unknown people dropped her at the facility and then vanished.

Her death has been shrouded in controversy, heightened by the release of a death report by the government at weekend linking her death to alcohol and narcotic drugs.

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