Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo has said the controversies around the exact cause of the death of Jacob Oulanyah will be addressed by elders after burial.
Neither the family nor the government has revealed details in the post-mortem report issued by the University of Washington Medical Centre, USA where the Speaker emeritus died on March 20.
“We will bury Jacob Oulanyah and after the visitors have left, we shall not leave. We will remain to discuss the home issues. We will handle it the way elders used to. Today, even young children go to the radio and talk about death. The issue of death is not for children, but for elders,” he told mourners in Kampala on Friday night.
He added: “They will bury him and after that, we shall sit and discuss [the cause of his death]. If he was poisoned, we determine how best to look for the offender and assign a person who shall look for the offender. If he died a natural death from illness, we will say it clearly that he died of normal disease.”
Justice Owiny-Dollo was speaking during the vigil at Oulanyah’s home in Muyenga, Kampala, where about 300 people were gathered.
Government officials, leaders of different political parties, a team of Acholi traditional dancers, friends and family were at the place in suburban Kampala.
The Chief Justice, who has in the recent past made headlines for all the wrong reasons, also moved to offer clarity on questions around Oulanyah’s tribe.
There had been fears that a clash over which tribal traditions will reign supreme during the fallen Speaker’s burial will simmer over.
“Oulanyah is the child of Acholi, but his lineage is Lango. Those people who are fighting over the lineage of Oulanyah are worse than night dancers,” CJ Owiny-Dollo said, adding: “You can’t remove the ‘Langoness’ from Oulanyah and you cannot remove the ‘Acholiness’ from Oulanyah.”
While the government linked Oulanyah’s passing to late stage cancer, the fallen Speaker’s father—Mr Nathan Okori—last month told Daily Monitor in no uncertain terms that his son was poisoned.
Establishing cause of death
Some Acholi leaders—including Aruu North MP Santa Okot—have asked that Acholi rituals be performed at Oulanyah’s burial to confirm or dismiss the claims around poisoning.
CJ Owiny-Dollo said what will be witnessed in Omoro District next Friday “will be a kind of burial no-one has ever seen in Acholi.”
Speaking at the vigil, Ms Betty Aol Ocan, the Gulu City Woman MP and former Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP), said the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party has played a great role in keeping Oulanyah alive.
The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party legislator cited many instances where Oulanyah was hospitalised since the early 2000s.
“I went to check on Jacob in hospital in Mulago [National Referral Hospital in the early 2000s] when he became too sick and treatment was too expensive and it was difficult,” she recalled, adding: “Dorothy, [his first wife, who died in 2009], told me ‘madam it is hard, it is too expensive, we can’t afford this treatment.’”
The former LoP continued: “So it was [Gen Kahinda] Otafiire [of NRM] who helped Jacob in that treatment and also when he returned from Juba peace talks with another serious illness (Meningitis). These people helped him too much. This made me also appreciate that they contributed to him being alive. When he moved [from UPC to NRM], he moved solidly, completely.”
Mr Francis Mawa, the prime minister of the chiefdom of Puranga where Oulanyah hailed, said they expect to get the post-mortem report today when the body will be brought to the storied house the fallen Speaker erected in the leafy suburb of Kampala in the early 2000s.
“We…received the body…from the airport [on Friday], but we have not yet seen the post-mortem report. Whether or not we are satisfied with what is in the post-mortem report, I think by Sunday (today), we shall get to know what happened.
At this moment, we don’t know what happened— whether he died of natural causes, we are still waiting for the post-mortem report,” he said.
He also added that Oulanyah is an icon in Acholi, “a unique leader, very courageous and very committed. He was a very determined leader who would make sure he does what he promised.”
What they said…
Andrew Ojok : Oulanyah’s son
“Today, we received our father’s body from the airport and indeed we confirmed that he passed on. For us, this is day one. But we believe we [shall] get through it day by day and we are counting on your moral support and it will be well.
When we went to the airport, we were taken to a section where they lowered our father’s body from the plane. As it was coming down, my uncle [Francis Emuna] got very offended because to some, they were there for a show. The whole thing was emotional, and that Bwola dance was when my uncle got an emotional trigger”
Francis Mawa: Prime minister of the chiefdom of Puranga where Oulanyah hailed
“Jacob Oulanyah…touched so many lives and so we are preparing for at least 30,000 people at the burial on Friday. The local organising committee is doing ground work from there. Jacob is a national leader whereby the State takes over everything.
Construction of his unfinished house in the village is ongoing and the local contractor is preparing the roads ahead of the day.
On the side of the cultural leaders, as I told you, Jacob was an icon in Acholi Sub-region. Acholi has about 70 chiefdoms and all of these chiefdoms are coming.
Lango Sub-region is coming, [as are] West Nile and also people from Bunyoro.
When we heard that [the] Chief Justice went to make his apology with the cultural institution of Buganda, we were very happy. This cements the relationship between Acholi and Buganda, which started a long time ago. The relationship started a long time ago.
We had Daudi Ochieng, an Acholi who was an MP in Buganda. And it was not only him. We have Ojok Muloji, he was also an Acholi. We have Acholi quarters [in Kampala], which was given by the Kabaka to the Acholi when we had the Kony war in Acholi.
On the lineage of Oulanyah, culturally, he comes from Lango. But the history dates back to…that negotiation which took place in 1931 before the colonial era. The Langi, who the border cut in the part of Acholi are treated as Acholi and they pay taxes in Acholi. There was a war between Lango and Acholi and that war was settled by setting up the boundary.
The boundary is at Minakulu along Kampala-Gulu road. The name Minakulu means give me that river so that we settle the differences. So the Chiefdom of Lango gave their people to Acholi and since then we have been staying in harmony. The border cut the family of Jacob on the side of Acholi.”
Betty Aol Ocan: Oulanyah’s teacher and Gulu City Woman MP
“Jacob was my student. I taught him in Senior Two in 1981 in Layibi where my husband was also teaching. I didn’t know him very well by then. Later, we campaigned for him in 1997 to become the district chairman of Gulu but failed. That was the time we got to know Jacob very strongly.
That was the time his other name, lanywen came, which means confusion. Jacob would always say let us not have mathematics lanywen. In mathematics, we have addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and the other one is lanywen.
Oulanyah was very vocal, very courageous. His voice was very strong. I still remember his message to Gulu people that it was time to serve and that Gulu people deserve better. That was his message and it was the best but we missed him.
For him to come to Parliament in 2001, my husband was part of the negotiation. He took over [the] MP [seat] from Ongom Abednego, who was also his uncle. The Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) party then negotiated for it that Ongom should leave that seat for him and Jacob went through.
I always think in this country, if we play clear politics, maybe he would have remained in the UPC forever. The politics of the country at the moment still leaves a lot to be desired.
If we claim that we are in multiparty dispensation, then we should be free and have a levelled ground. In 2005, I left UPC and went to Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party and in that year, one of the days was my son’s graduation which was celebrated here at Jacob’s home.
That same day, we had FDC delegates conference and when I came, people had already left the graduation ceremony because I took too long at FDC conference.
[Jacob] quarrelled and he said ‘useless, how do you go to FDC and leave National Resistance Movement (NRM), a mighty party? How different is NRM from FDC. NRM is the biggest snake. Snakes, small or big, are all poisonous.’ That was his message to me in a loud voice. When Jacob went to NRM, I kept on smiling because I knew the challenge.”