The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Mukwaya Hospital Staff Recount Nebanda Death

Nearly three weeks ago, Mukwaya General hospital in Nsambya was hardly known beyond its Ggaba road location.

But events of the night of December 14 have thrust the facility into the spotlight. This is where Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda was pronounced dead soon after she was rushed there for emergency treatment. Staff have described to us the pandemonium that followed the realisation that the patient who had just been declared dead was not only a Member of Parliament but a very vocal one.

Suddenly, Mukwaya General hospital was a hive of activity as Police detectives, MPs and relatives of the deceased continued to pour in. According to a staff member who did not want to be named, at about 7p. on a Friday, two young men rushed into the hospital lobby. They sped past the reception into the emergency room where they picked a stretcher.

They were panicking and sweating. They looked worried and confused. It appeared unusual to the hospital staff that outsiders could run into the facility and find a stretcher themselves. Usually in an emergency case, a patient's attendant runs over to the reception and asks for help. But these two men walked out of the emergency room with a stretcher and ran back out to their car - a white Toyota Progrès.

They then struggled to bring in a patient who was unknown to the hospital medical staff. The patient seemed heavy and the two men were later joined by two others to carry her inside. Unconscious, she had an intravenous cannula stuck in her arm. The doctor on duty - Dr Joseph - examined the patient as the two men walked out and started calling Nebanda's relatives.

Then the doctor asked for the relatives of the deceased so he could inform them that their patient was dead on arrival. Two of the four men, who appeared to be medical officers, pointed at the two who knew the patient better. They were still standing outside by now. They rushed in and were informed their patient was dead. One of them started making calls, informing relatives that their loved one "had taken a drug overdose."

When the second man walked out of the hospital, he found that his friend had vanished from the parking lot but the car was still parked outside. He then made a call and appeared to be arguing with the person on the other end of the line before disappearing too. As the doctor continued to ask for the deceased's relatives, a young woman walked in and demanded to see her sister "who had taken a drug overdose."

But the staff did not know of any patient with such a condition. As the young woman continued probing, she was led into the emergency room. She came out crying and was the first person to inform the hospital staff that the patient was in fact, Cerinah Nebanda Arioru, the Butaleja Woman MP. When she asked who had brought the deceased in, the hospital staff looked around only to realise that all four men had vanished.

From that minute on, hell broke loose at the hospital. VIPs and ordinary people alike started flocking in. The Police chief, Kale Kayihura, was among the first to arrive. Then more relatives, journalists, MPs, Police detectives. The hospital was thrown into chaos.

At 8pm, a woman came in and asked what had happened to Nebanda. It was Alice Namulwa, the mother of the deceased. She was reportedly heard crying, "No, my daughter cannot die now. I have always warned her."

Questions abound

It was only after photos of Adam Suleiman Kalungi appeared in the papers that the hospital staff could identify him as one of the men who had delivered Nebanda on her deathbed. Kalungi recounted to Police that Nebanda had spent a night at his house on Thursday. Her mother says Nebanda had told her she would spend the night at Speke Resort Munyonyo where she was attending a workshop.

Kalungi says Nebanda left his home in Buziga - a Kampala suburb near Munyonyo at 11am. They separated and Kalungi went to meet a land surveyor. Namulwa says she met her daughter at Speke Resort Munyonyo at 1pm.

"She was healthy and energetic, she came to the car. I did not get out of the car and we met for a brief time. She said she was going back to her work so I said goodbye and she said goodbye," Namulwa says.

Later that day, Kalungi says he found her at his home seated down on the carpet. She had allegedly sniffed heroin that was left in the living room the previous night. He says she could talk but there were remains of heroin on her nose. He says he tried to give her milk and water but she couldn't swallow. So he made calls to friends asking for help.

They advised him to take her to hospital. But he opted to go to Bunga and pick his friend Moses with whom they went to a clinic to pick a doctor and some medication. They took the doctor to his home where the medic administered some medication and tested her urine. The doctor tried to put her on intravenous medication. He asked Kalungi and his friend Moses to pick another doctor and more medication. The two medical officers said she would get better.

When the situation got worse, they told Kalungi that she needed oxygen. So, the four men drove Nebanda to Mukwaya General hospital, about 8km from his home in Kigo Zone, Buziga. Kalungi's home is located a few metres away from Buziga Country resort. Nebanda's mother disputes Kalungi's claim that her daughter was using drugs, or even alcohol. She adds that his claim that she was taking drugs to gain confidence to speak in Parliament is also a lie.

"I am the one who produced Cerinah, she talks with energy, that was her character from primary school and all the schools she has gone to. Unless they are telling me she got the drugs from my stomach," Namulwa says.

Namulwa is still baffled by the lag between the time Kalungi found Nebanda and the time he finally took her to hospital.

"How do you stay with somebody's daughter for seven hours when she is sick and you do not inform her parents? Can't you call the parents and say your girl has got a problem? Do you wait for her to die and then you call? He said she could speak when he found her. If Cerinah had had a problem, she could have picked her phone and called me and told me 'mummy, I have a problem'," Namulwa told The Observer.

Namulwa also disputes Kalungi's assertion that Nebanda was his girlfriend.

"If he had befriended Cerinah, at least they would have taken a photo together. I have gone through all her albums and I don't see any photo of them together," Namulwa says. She adds that if he is indeed guilty like he says, he should have been charged with murder.

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