Oulanyah hated witchcraft, priest tells mourners at vigil

Left-Right: Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, Deputy Speaker Anita Among, Minister for Security Gen Jim Muhwezi, and Government Chief Whip Thomas Tayebwa attend the vigil at Oulanyah’s home in Muyenga, Kampala, on Sunday night. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The priest says Oulanyah loved Church and even led worship songs.

They arrived, first in trickles, then droves. By cars, boda bodas and on foot, the mourners gathered. A number, among them a battery of journalists, had early on Sunday been turned away.

Security personnel manning the gate said the vigil for Jacob Oulanyah was scheduled for 6pm that day.
Oulanyah, 56, the Speaker of the 11th Parliament, died in Seattle Washington in the Pacific coast of the United States.

President Museveni announced the news on Sunday on the micro-blogging site, Twitter, ending a week of intense speculation. There was no detail about the hospital, illness, and day when the speaker died.

Our investigations show that Oulanyah died at the University of Washington Medical Centre, a teaching hospital and affiliate of University of Washington School of Medicine.

In Kampala, Muyenga, the suburb where Uganda’s third most important citizen lived, is an upscale and hilly gated residential neighbourhood, with a commanding view of the sprawling capital.

Here, visits are on appointment and unannounced arrivals can be conflated as security scare. Residents live secluded by high walls, keeping a serenity on lush compounds and isolated from the chaos, want and disturbances of the less fortunate.

The perimeter wall and wall of Oulanyah’s house received fresh coat of paint last week. The painting, a family member said on condition of anonymity, coincided with early unproven rumours, including a change of his Wikipedia profile that the Speaker had passed on.  

When Mr Museveni confirmed the death on Sunday, friends, fans and foes in and outside government trooped unannounced in a culture where death, like birth, is considered an open invite either to condole or celebrate.

Many powered in, in class wheels, looking dapper, having made their way here from work. Top bureaucrats were chauffeured in red-number plated government cars.

Except for a few cars parked inside, arrived mourners stopped outside the gate and their guided parking left signification way through for pedestrians to access Oulanyah’s home which, when he was alive, was super-restricted.

In this moment of sadness and void, security at the entrance was lax, there was no adherence to standard operating procedures to prevent the spread of Covid-10 such as mandatory hand-washing and wearing of masks.

Among the mourners were Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, Deputy Speaker Anita Among, and Information minister Chris Baryomunsi.

No marquees were erected. In the cooling warm evening weather, mourners sprawled on the manicured lawn. Others huddled in smaller groups, talking hush-hush.

Being a single man, Oulanyah’s palatial house was under-occupied. Relatives who arrived early to arrange for the vigil declined to speak to this newspaper.

Lawmakers subscribing to Acholi Parliamentary Group where the deceased was a member led the organisation of the vigil. Another team was at hand to serve tea to mourners, who kept arriving and departing in a rhythmic pattern. As the sun crossed to the horizon yonder, the way the lion of Omoro transitioned to the next world, a man of God, Rev Can Christine Shimanya, the Anglican chaplain at Parliament, sprang to his feet.

Holding a Bible aloft, the man of collar spoke passionately about Oulanyah’s love of the Church, where he sporadically led worship songs --- including pastor George Okudi’s high tempo Wipolo (Heaven) song --- to the elation and consternation of the faithful.  

Oulanyah did not believe in witchcraft, Rev Can Shimanya, said in an attention-arresting commentary that piqued the interest of mourners, some until this mention distracted, and crane their necks.
“We don’t want any witchcraft in this country. So, Jacob never bowed before any god except God almighty,” the priest said in reference to no particular person

Many of those present could be heard whispering among themselves. And just like that, the session drifted into political commentaries and eulogies by the notables present.


“We don’t want any witchcraft in this country. So, Jacob never bowed before any god except God almighty,” Rev Can Christine Shimanya, the Anglican chaplain at Parliament