8 January 2013

Uganda: Lawmakers Punch Holes in Kalungi Confession

Last Saturday, Adam Suleiman Kalungi, the self-professed boyfriend of the late Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda, who watched her die, nearly three weeks ago, made a powerful confession that not only shed light on her mysterious death that sparked an outpouring of grief and rage but also confirmed the official autopsy report findings that linked her death to a drugs overdose.

Kalungi, who was arrested in Mombasa, Kenya last Friday, told a news conference at the Special Investigations Unit in Kireka on Saturday that Nebanda used cocaine and heroin together. He said on the fateful day, Nebanda had switched to heroin and ingested it the wrong way by sniffing it.

Heroin is taken in tablet or injectable form. The confession has since stirred controversy and misgivings from family and friends. The mother of Nebanda rejected the confession outright at the weekend.

"That is just planned and I suspect they have been holding him somewhere and they just brought him out when Parliament put pressure on them. Can you imagine Police calling a press conference for a suspect? Why don't they call a press conference for me? I give them my evidence and they throw it in the basket," Alice Namulwa said.

Bunyole West MP, Jacob Wangolo, who shared a parliamentary office with Nebanda, said the fallen MP never showed any signs of using illegal substances.

"From the time I met Nebanda in 2010, I have never noticed any changes in her life," said Wangolo, a laid-back NRM lawmaker. "I knew her very well, and like you know, we used to share this office. And you know that someone who takes cocaine has ability to change. Cocaine is not a simple thing...The way I know cocaine, I am not aware of that from that girl. But that is history," Wangolo said.

Wangolo also revealed that Kalungi came to Nebanda's office twice, last November, and Nebanda never introduced him as her boyfriend. Wangolo also revealed that sometime in November, a story appeared in a local tabloid indicating that Nebanda and her lover had been involved in an accident at Lugogo by-pass.

"After that story appeared, the Parliamentary Commission called her in a meeting that was also attended by the government Chief Whip, Kasule Lumumba, where Nebanda said that she was not involved in any accident as the tabloid had reported," Wangolo revealed, adding: "the Parliamentary Commission was worried, and they advised her to be careful. But Nebanda simply said that she doesn't care."

MPs remain divided on whether to believe Kalungi's confession or not. Some argue that the Police's method of work--parading the suspect before the media for questioning before he was taken to court--only created more suspicion, and that the inconsistencies in his statement point to what Aswa MP, Ronald Reagan Okumu, called "a poorly- coached witness".

"The confession of Kalungi doesn't tally with what the mother said," Okumu said.

Ntejeru South MP, Patrick Nsanja, does not believe Kalungi, either.

"Kalungi said that he bought rice and beans from Chicken Tonight, a line he tries to connect to what the parliamentary doctors told us that rice particles were found in her body. But he waters down his own confession when he says that on his way home, he found Cerinah had already sniffed heroin -meaning she never ate the food," Nsanja said.

Yet to MPs like Peter Ogwang (Eastern Youth MP), the confession is solid and the Police action of parading the witness before the media was done in good faith because this is "a public matter".

What MPs say

Muhammad Nsereko (NRM-Kampala Central) -I am not interested in knowing whatever Kalungi is saying.

Theodore Ssekikubo (NRM-Lwemiyaga) - The confession of Kalungi is not adding up. It is a hoax. And whoever is telling him to give that confession is not right. You cannot say that the deceased died of drugs. I think there is a missing gap about his journey from Mombasa. You cannot travel on the road from there within three hours and reach Kampala.

Twa Twa Mutwalante (NRM-Iki Iki)-When she was here she was sober and I didn't see her being intoxicated. Why are they allowing the media to interview the suspect? I think this was improper.

Barnabas Tinkasiimire (NRM-Buyaga West)-I absolutely disagree with him. A person who was taking drugs in a period he is claiming should have manifested the effect of drugs. We knew about the boyfriend and she told us she had chucked that man. This is a makeup and theatrical. The questions are stage-managed... I think he was coached to say whatever he is saying. I think everything is botched.

Jack Sabiiti (FDC-Rukiga)-The fact that the executive interfered with investigations by other interested parties (family and Parliament) makes the investigations suspect. The state is trying to cover up whatever took place. Parliament [wondered] why this person was not being pursued; instead they were pursuing innocent MPs. They are using this innocent young man to cover up.

Hanifah Kawooya (NRM-Sembabule Woman)-This is a matter being investigated by the Police; so, when I make any comment to the media it will be more like leading a contrary investigation which would be prejudicial.

James Kakooza (NRM-Kabula)-It is difficult for someone whom you have not stayed with for a long time to know what they do in private. I do not know what they wanted to achieve by allowing the media to interview a suspect... But I think the approach has not been right; that is why there is a ping pong.

Wilfred Niwagaba (NRM-Ndorwa East)-Any reasonable Ugandan will know that whatever he is saying is prearranged. The story he is saying is what government wants him to say.

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