Noble Mayombo: Five years after the Brigadier’s mysterious death

In this special report commemorating five years since the demise of Brig. Noble Mayombo, Senior Reporter Emmanuel Gyezaho speaks to friends and foes of the former head of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, tracing his last moments on earth and details how the Ugandan media covered his death.

Wednesday May 2 2012

Mayombo was known for his loyal service to his

Mayombo was known for his loyal service to his boss, right, from when he was President Museveni’s ADC. His death attracted a media frenzy that attracted international attention. Courtesy photo.  

By Emmanuel Gyezaho

Mayombo’s last moments

Thursday April 26, 2007
Brig. Mayombo reported to office early to start planning his day which had two meetings; one with potential suppliers to the ministry of defence and the other with technical officers to plan the Ministry’s budget to be fed into the national budget that was due in June. He reportedly sipped some tea during the meeting breaks.

At about 7pm, he left office and went home postponing some work to the next day, including a meeting with army spokesman Felix Kulayigye. At home, he reportedly complained of stomach pain and as his situation worsened, was rushed to Kololo Hospital where he was admitted.

Friday April 27, 2007, 1:00pm
Brig. Mayombo was taken to the Kampala Imaging Centre for a scan and then to the International Hospital Kampala. He is said to have slid into unconsciousness in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Doctors would soon place him on a life support machine. Here he is attended to by a team of Cuban, Israeli and Ugandan doctors.

Saturday April 29, 2007, 9:00pm
He is flown to Nairobi aboard the Presidential jet to Nairobi, Kenya and admitted to the Aga Khan Hospital. He is accompanied by his wife Juliet, sister Getrude Katuramu and Mr Rogers Baguma, his cousin.

Monday April 31, 2007.
Sources close to his family say his condition is improving.

Tuesday May 1, 2007 11:00am
His younger brother, Maj (retired) Okwir Rwabwoni talks to him.
3:00pm, Brig Mayombo is pronounced dead.

What his friends say about him

Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire
"I miss him greatly. For all that you have asked me my response in just one sentence is that I miss him; I miss and I miss him greatly. I don’t want to speculate [about his death] because I am not privy to the [probe] report [into his death]. He was a revolutionary that is what I know. Yes, I did work with him and all I can say is that he was a good soldier; in fact he was a great soldier. That is what I miss about him."

The Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister closely worked with Brig. Mayombo in the UPDF. As Colonels in 2002, both men were actively involved in the army’s operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, assignments that saw them implicated by a UN panel of alleged plunder of minerals and resources in the eastern region of the Congo. The two men, however, were subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.

Dr Crispus Kiyonga
Mayombo died a natural death. Well, we miss him. He was a revolutionary. He made his contribution and we move on to the work he contributed. We are making more progress. It is true the inquiry was ordered by the President and he indeed received the report. But it is his prerogative to decide how to disseminate that information. What I can confirm is that our comrade died a natural death. His death was natural. It is not true to say that his late father died without knowing that. That is all I can tell you.

Brig. Mayombo had been permanent secretary at the Defence Ministry for close to a year before Dr Kiyonga joined him as Defence Minister following his 2006 appointment. In a 2007 eulogy, Dr Kiyonga described the former P.S as a leader of rare quality, a nationalist who was committed to his work and one who often worked long hours “sometimes 24 hours a day.”

Maj. Gen. James Mugira
"He was an extremely talented officer. For us who grew up, studied, worked and lived with him, Noble’s incredible brain power, his astuteness, his unparalleled smartness was a story of immense proportion; one that he was so shy to admit but which we all clearly knew and admired."

This quote was picked up from a eulogy delivered by then Col. Mugira during a requiem service for Brig. Mayombo. The two men were close friends. President Museveni would eventually task Maj. Gen. Mugira to head a probe into Brig. Mayombo’s death. The officer took six months with the help of two others before finally delivering a report to Mr Museveni in November 2007.

Nobert Mao
"He made mediocrities look worse by his brilliance. He was a brilliant man and very engaging in any discussion with very strong views which he was not afraid to express. In political contests, you may end up with opponents so unworthy-just a nuisance but I found him to be a worthy opponent and if it were not for his death, I am sure we would have another round of a political duel. I believe he was the kind of person who would go for the presidency. I think there is ground for people to be suspicious [about his death]. I think his family should demand the [probe] report. I don’t think the report was intended to be secret. In the case of Mayombo, all of us demand that the report should be made public. We need to know what happened. In any case that’s the only way the government can come clean. Many people think the late Mayombo was a victim of the NRM infighting; that he was deleted by those who thought he was a president in waiting and because he was a brilliant man inside a system that encouraged mediocrity. He made mediocrities even look worse by his brilliance. Also, he was not a perfect man, he had many flaws. I think he is one of those who believed like Museveni that the gun can be a chief arbiter of arguments. He was an idealist. He trusted the NRM system too much. I am afraid I am one of those who is suspicious that this man was a victim of the NRM system. The dwarfs around him must have conspired against him."

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