We found Oulanyah alive, but unresponsive – Mao

Democratic Party President  General Norbert  addresses mourners at Speaker Oulanyah’s home in Muyenga on March 22, 2022. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

What you need to know:

  • Mr Norbert Mao is the Democratic Party president and was among a five-member Ugandan delegation that flew to the United States to check on a stricken Jacob Oulanyah, the Speaker of the 11th Parliament, before he was announced dead on Sunday.  
  • At a Tuesday vigil in Kampala, he told mourners that they found Oulanyah alive, but largely unresponsive. Our reporter Tonny Abet transcribed the speech.

“I love talking just like [deceased Parliament Speaker] Jacob (Oulanyah). But as you notice, I have been very quiet on the other forum where I have been making a lot of noise. I was in Abim District [in Karamoja sub-region] and then I travelled to Pader where I found Chief Justice (Alfonse Owiny-Dollo) and he told me that he would be travelling to Seattle [a United States west coast city in Washington state] to see Jacob.

So, I told him ‘please, don’t go without receiving big get-well-soon cards from me. I am going to buy many cards and ask people to sign so that you take them to Seattle.’ Then after Pader District, I went to Kitgum District [where] the Chief Justice was invited to talk to our people to deal with some issues that are confusing.

Then when I [returned to] Gulu (City), I got a call from the Deputy Speaker [of Parliament Anita Among] that I should travel with her and the Chief Justice to Seattle. So, I told her, ‘how are you going to make it happen?’ And she asked me whether I had a US visa and I said ‘yes, I do have it.’

She told me she will find the money for me to travel and they helped me to get a business class travel (ticket). Visiting Jacob was important for us given the kind of rumours that have been flying around. [An unknown person on March 14 edited Oulanyah’s Wikipedia profile to reflect that he had died in Seattle.]

We were accompanied by a medical doctor who is also the Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng. She called us for a caucus and she said, ‘I want you people to know the person you are going to see is not the Jacob you know’. He has lost a lot of weight, but he is alive. I want you to be prepared.’

So, we just dropped our luggage in the hotel and off we went to the hospital. At one point, the Chief Justice was almost like a paramedic to Jacob; visiting, admonishing, encouraging and even threatening him that ‘do you know what will [happen] if you just die without accepting that those who love you should do the best they can?’

So, he opened his eyes and he recognised us. Even his brother (Francis Emuna) was there. So, we didn’t go to visit someone who was already dead. Jacob actually called the name of the Chief Justice, Chigamoy, at some point with a little smile. But we noticed that his face was very sad. 

One other thing we witnessed was that doctors and nurses decided that he should be taken to the verandah [of the hospital]] to spend some minutes in sunshine and have some fresh air outdoor. So, they put him in a mobile stretcher and move him out. That was day one [of our visit]. 

Day two, we met the doctor and the doctor prepared us for the worst. I will just say that because I didn’t understand the details. It was actually Dr Aceng who asked some questions for our benefit. She stepped down the high-voltage information that the doctor had given us.

The doctor at Seattle told us ‘be ready for anything, it can happen today, tomorrow or after some time.’ So, we left [for our hotel rooms]. The next day, in the night, we got a call from the Chief Justice (Owiny-Dollo), we were preparing to see Jacob before returning to Uganda, and he said, ‘your brother has gone to [be with] the Lord.’

For me, I was just paralysed, but the Chief Justice sounded very strong. So, I told the Chief Justice ‘you are now going to be the one to talk to the home people’. I did this because Jacob and I considered CJ as a role model and an inspiration.”