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Oulanyah body set to arrive on Friday

The body of Jacob Oulanyah, the former Speaker of the 11th Parliament, is expected to be flown into the country by Ethiopian Airlines on Friday, this week, this newspaper can reveal.
President Museveni last week announced that 56-year-old Oulanyah, who was also the Omoro County MP, had died in United States where he was taken ill in February.

Questions about return of his body grew louder after a lightning election was conducted to replace the deceased, ostensibly to fulfill requirements of Article 82(4) of the Constitution, even before a state burial programme was released.

The Article provides that Parliament shall conduct no business other than the election of the Speaker at any time the office falls vacant, prompting differing legal interpretations.

Critics, among them lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, argue that the office of the speaker did not fall vacant because the Rules of Procedure of Parliament define it to include both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, with the latter alive and superintending the August House.

However, Attorney General Kiryowa, who is the government chief legal advisor, yesterday defended the interpretation of a vacancy, referring those aggrieved to petition the Constitutional Court.

Now highly-placed sources close to the National Organising Committee (NOC) headed by Presidency Minister Milly Babalanda, which President Museveni tasked to ensure decent send-off for Oulanyah, said the body of the speaker emeritus will be repatriated this week pending resolution of outstanding financial and logistical arrangements.

The return of the body is being coordinated by a Seattle-based funeral home, Dayspring and Fitch Funeral Home, in liaison with officials from Uganda’s embassy in Washington DC responsible for Uganda’s diplomatic and bilateral relations with the US government.

Oulanyah died at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, a north-western Pacific-coast American city in the state of Washington, and his body was moved to a funeral home for embalming and processing of requisite paperwork for its repatriation to Uganda, two sources familiar with the arrangement told this newspaper.

The government has said the speaker succumbed to cancer, contradicting earlier claims by his father Nathan Okori that his son was poisoned, and the University of Washington Medical Centre where he was admitted is ranked best in the Washington state, and among the best in the US, for six adult specialties.

These include cancer, gastroenterology and gastrointestinal surgery, urology, and orthopedics and urology, complications for which Uganda’s Health ministry’s Medical Board recommends more than a dozen VIPs for treatment abroad annually.

The government has not explained the inordinate delay in getting Oulanyah’s body home, but highly-placed sources said the hospital and funeral home bills were yet to be paid, something that Gender Minister Betty Amongi appeared to corroborate in an address to mourners at Oulanyah’s home in Muyenga, Kampala, on the weekend.

“In the USA system, the process is a little bit longer because you have to transfer a [dead] person to a funeral home; so, that process started when I was still there… And by yesterday (Friday), all those things had been submitted and, I think, financially Parliament [of Uganda] concluded by yesterday,” said Ms Amongi who had just returned from the US.

According to another source, which preferred anonymity to discuss a confidential matter, the delay in clearing the bills was rather procedural.
The source said the University of Washington Medical Centre and Dayspring and Fitch Funeral Home had both not submitted their invoices for treatment of Oulanyah, and processing of his body, explaining its repatriation time lapse.

Minister Among told mourners that while across the Atlantic, she linked up with Uganda’s outgoing Ambassador to the United States Mull Katende, with whom she flew to Seattle in the west coast, to start the preliminaries for repatriating Oulanyah’s body.
It remained unclear if she acted on her own volition or was deployed by the government.
“So, we are looking at the body coming mid next week and we have nothing to do because that is the process,” she told mourners, without specifying the actual date.

Earlier last week, State minister for International Affairs, Mr Okello-Oryem said the body was expected by last weekend, but minister Babalanda dismissed the information.
Asked when Oulanyah’s body will land in Uganda, Ms Babalanda, who chairs NOC for the state funeral, said “I am not supposed to say anything to the media, everything will be communicated at the right time.”

It is provided in law that a Speaker, upon death, shall be accorded a state funeral and the actual day of burial shall be declared a public holiday, with some social media users expressing keenness to know the day for them to plan their schedule.

The expected Friday date for arrival of the body, one source told this newspaper, is premised on an estimation communicated by the funeral home, which could change.
The casket is to be accompanied by Oulanyah’s family members in the US as well as Ambassador Katende, who in the December reshuffle of Ugandan diplomats was redeployed to the ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Kampala.

In the team returning Oulanyah’s body will be Ms Patricia Lakidi, who is said to have been close to the deceased speaker of the 11th Parliament, and was reportedly by his bedside in Seattle.
It is unclear if Oulanyah’s divorced second wife, Lady Winnie, a mother of his two children, and who has remarried in the United States, will travel to attend the burial of her ex-husband in Uganda.

Another source said the government contracted funeral home Dayspring and Fitch Funeral Home, which run by father and son Zane and Victor Fitch, due to ease bureaucratic red-tape including a welter of paperwork.

Besides a copy of the deceased’s passport biodata, other documents that were required to facilitate repatriation of the body included autopsy report, which in the US is conducted by a county chief medical examiner, before issuance of a death certificate.
Also required are a certificate of embalmment and a certificate of no contagious disease, among other documentations.

Besides a copy of the deceased’s passport biodata, other documents that were required to facilitate repatriation of the body included autopsy report, which in the US is conducted by a county chief medical examiner, before issuance of a death certificate.

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