By Henry D Gombya in London and Nkonge I Kaggwa in Kampala
A post mortem report issued Thursday by Ugandan Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda’s office has added insult to injury after it seemed to suggest that the cause of Gen Joseph Aronda Nyakairima’s sudden death last week as he was returning from an official visit to South Korea, may have been because he was obese.
The general who was until his death an active member of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) as well as being the country’s Minister of Internal Affairs, was found dead while aboard an Emirates Airlines flight from Soul, the South Korean capital where he had been on official government business. On hearing the news, the UPDF spokesman Lt Col Paddy Ankunda issued a statement saying the general had suffered a cardiac arrest and died as a result of a heart attack. Many wondered how Col Ankunda would have known immediately the cause of Gen Ankunda’s death within hours of his death.
But a post mortem certificate, a copy of which was sent to our London office Thursday, seemed to that Gen Aronda’s death was as a result of having been obese. It said, inter alia: “The heart had an abnormal fat layer surrounding the heart blood vessels. Some blood vessels had also been affected by the excessive fat.” Not only will the general’s family see this as a quite offensive message to send to them at this time of grieving, many of the dead general’s army colleagues will also feel hard done by that one of their own is being treated like this.
The way the general’s death and the handling of his body since then, points to a kind of amateurish work by a government that has been in power for nearly 30 years. For example, Gen Aronda’s post mortem report stated that on being informed of his death, the Uganda government ‘dispatched to Dubai a team of professionals and family members’ consisting of the following people:
Dr James Makumbi, the chief of medical services in the UPDF; Dr Moses Byaruhanga, head of forensic services at the Police Health Services; D James Makumbi, the chief of medical services in the UPDF, Dr Robert Lukande a pathologist and lecturer at Makerere College Health Services; Lt Col Dr Victoria Nekesa – a pathologist at State House, the official residence of the Ugandan president; Andrew Mubiru, a toxicologist and ‘senior government analyst’; Mark Paul Odongo, senior police detective and; Henry and Jolly Ngabirano from the Aronda family. This was indeed a high-powered government delegation.
But immediately after this information, the post mortem report claims this very high-powered group failed to carry out a post mortem in Dubai ‘because it required a lengthy process of clearance’. One would have assumed that before the Ugandan taxpayer forked out the money to send such a delegation to Dubai, officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would have determined the criteria under which Ugandan pathologist travel to a foreign country to carry out a post mortem. In the New Vision article, Ugandans were told: “No post-mortem was done in Dubai because the pathologists would have to be registered practitioners in Dubai…”