KAMPALA — The death of a member of parliament in Uganda has sparked anger against the president, with several MPs accusing his government of murder. The dead woman's boyfriend has been charged with manslaughter, and an inquest is due to begin soon.
Uganda’s parliament has been rocked by scandal, arrests and rumors of poisoning in recent weeks, as lawmakers argue over the death of 24 year-old opposition MP Cerinah Nebanda. The young woman’s boyfriend was arrested in Kenya, and has been charged this week with manslaughter.
Nebanda died in a Kampala hospital in mid-December. Now a group of MPs is calling for parliament to be summoned out of recess to debate the death. Nebanda had been openly critical of President Yoweri Museveni’s handling of oil contracts, and some are saying she was murdered.
But a government-led autopsy concluded that Nebanda died from taking cocaine and heroin. Museveni has lashed out at those claiming the government poisoned the MP, calling them idiots and fools. “So anybody who says we kill unarmed people is an idiot. He’s an idiot, he’s a fool, he’s despiseable," he said. "And they will know what it means to fight the National Resistance Movement.”
Several opposition MPs have already been arrested for making inflammatory statements about the death. These arrests, along with the president’s comments, have driven a wedge between the president and parliament, as MP Medard Segona told a local television station in late December.
“Parliament is under attack. The president said when he was in the bush, he was not under any kind of oversight. We want parliament to come back [and] convene, so that we either, one, move to save Uganda, or we are arrested from parliament as the president promised,” Segona stated.
MPs have already collected the 125 signatures required for parliament to be recalled, although several parliamentarians say their signatures were forged.
Government spokesman Fred Opolot says the recall is unnecessary and calls the poisoning accusations “ridiculous.” The governing National Resistance Movement (NRM) does not kill its opponents, he says, pointing to opposition leader Kizza Besigye.
“Kizza Besigye has been extremely vocal against President Museveni’s regime. He has been. And Kizza Besigye is alive and kicking in Uganda," Opolot asserted. "Would he have been killed by government? Absolutely not. It is not the principle of the NRM government to kill its opponents.”
A judge has been appointed this week to lead an official inquest into Nebanda’s death. The government had earlier blocked attempts to take forensic samples out of the country for independent examination.