Uganda's Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah was reportedly 'poisoned' according to his father Mr Nathan Okori who has said his son did not die of natural causes , but quickly added that the death should not be politicised.
“I know all of you who have come here are mourners. His (Oulanyah’s) death is not easy news to welcome because I know he did not die of natural causes, he was poisoned,” Mr Okori told handful mourners at their ancestral home in Omoro District.
In Kampala, Information minister and government spokesperson, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, in response to our inquiries, last night said: “Ignore that information [poisoning claims]. The post-mortem report will be released and the government will give out a statement.”
President Museveni yesterday confirmed that Oulanyah, a two-term deputy speaker, had passed on in Seattle Washington in the United States, but did not specify when he died or what caused his death, two touchy issues that have been a subject of intense speculation in the past week.
“I don’t want somebody to bring their politics here,” Mr Okori said yesterday in Omoro.
“I know very well that he was poisoned, and whatever somebody will say tomorrow should not distort the information we now have.”
He did not say who may have planned his son’s death or why.
Mr Okori said Oulanyah revealed the cause of his illness, which suddenly began manifesting publicly after he became a Speaker last May, before he travelled for specialised medical care in the United Kingdom.
“He (Oulanyah) called and promised me certain things and what he told me I know very well,” he added.
This publication could not independently verify the claims and there has been months of information blackhole about the health of the short-lived Speaker of the 11th Parliament.
Oulanyah was first rumoured dead last year when he sought treatment abroad, but he returned an unhappy man and chided those that gloated over false reports of his alleged death, challenging them to bend to compassion.
“What is wrong with us,” he asked, referring to rising cases where random individuals pronounce particularly indisposed public officials dead before their time.
But shortly afterwards, he again vanished from the public view, before he was flown on a chartered Uganda Airlines plane to the west coast US city of Seattle following his admission to both Nakasero Hospital and Mulago National Referral Hospital.
On March 14, unknown persons, whom Parliament spokesperson Chris Obore later said were using Virtual Private Network (VPN) to conceal identity and location, updated Oulanyah’s profile on Wikipedia to reflect that he had died.
Parliament staff and other Ugandan officials repeatedly edited out the record, only for others to reinstate the message on Wikipedia that the Speaker had passed on.
Without independent corroboration of any claim, confusion reigned as Deputy Speaker Anita Among last Tuesday led a team, including Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo and Health minister Ruth Aceng as well as Democratic Party leader Norbert Mao and Oulanyah’s brother to check on the Speaker in Seattle.
They said little upon return, except tweeting that Oulanyah was receiving treatment and needed prayers.
There was no word about his state, a photo of team members with him in hospital or if he talked to them.
This caused the rumours, which Mr Okori yesterday described as “murmurs”, to continue about the fate of his son.
“I did not believe it until today (yesterday) [when] the President Museveni broke the news and that is when it entered my ears,” he said, referring to Mr Museveni’s afternoon tweet confirming the death.
Mr Milton Omara, Okarowok-oyorole clan chief to which late Oulanyah belonged, who doubles as his uncle, equated the Speaker’s demise to the “fall of a pillar”.
“We will miss him as an advocate of development and education not only in his home area but the entire Acholi,” Mr Omara said.
Oulanyah loved culture, often beating the drum at traditional Acholi dances, and animals too, especially cattle.
He asked the government to “declare what exactly caused his death”.
Mr Douglas Peter Okello, the Omoro District chairman, said they are devastated by the death of Oulanyah who, as the vice chairman for Northern Uganda for the ruling party sat on its executive committee.
“Oulanyah was a shade under which the people of Omoro, Acholi, and northern Uganda sought refuge and, today, that shade is no more, it is a great loss,” he added.
Additional reporting by Tonny Abet