As Betty Nambooze underwent initial medical tests in a South Africa hospital on Friday, in Kampala it emerged that state operatives tricked her off a November 2 flight to Johannesburg using ENHAS employees, in effect delaying her journey by three days. ENHAS is the company responsible for ground handling at Entebbe Airport. The Observer reported today.
The Observer has been told that a male employee of ENHAS deceitfully asked the captain of the South African Airways aircraft that was to fly Nambooze to Johannesburg last Monday whether he would be able to fly a sick passenger in need of oxygen. However, while the outspoken DP Spokesperson and Buganda activist was indeed sick, she wasn’t on oxygen as alleged.
At the same time, another EHHAS staff approached Nambooze, who had already obtained a boarding pass, and asked her whether she needed a wheelchair, which she declined.
The captain of flight SA 161 said he wouldn’t fly that passenger because he didn’t have medical personnel on board. After soliciting this objection from the captain, ENHAS staff went to the South African Airways manager at Entebbe, Catherine Mpanga, and informed her that Betty Nambooze was unfit to fly because of her medical condition.
Mpanga communicated the bad news to Nambooze and husband that the captain had refused to fly her on medical grounds. She further told Nambooze to submit a medical clearance allowing her to fly.
On her way back to Kampala to get the demanded medical clearance form, Nambooze got a phone call summoning her to face the Police’s Criminal Investigations Department (CID) at their Kibuli headquarters.
In the company of her lawyer, Kampala Central MP, Erias Lukwago, she met Moses Sakira, the Deputy Director of CID.
However, the same officer who had earlier issued summons for her to explain her alleged role in the September riots in Buganda said she was not needed. Nambooze and Lukwago left the CID headquarters while another lawyer, Fred Mpanga, stayed behind asking the officer to acknowledge in writing that Nambooze had appeared.
Instead, Fred Mpanga got summons requiring Nambooze to appear at Buganda Road Chief Magistrate’s Court on November 17 to answer sedition charges.
According to the lawyers, it appears the Director of Public Prosecutions had not sanctioned the charges against Nambooze but because elements within the state didn’t want her to travel, her name was simply added onto an existing charge sheet for Siraje Lubwama, a journalist who appeared on the same talk-show with Nambooze on the now closed CBS radio.
Nambooze and Lubwama, her co-accused, are alleged to have described Uganda as a failed state in several radio talk-shows. But Police denied any role in stopping her from traveling to South Africa.
After Police denied any role, Nambooze’s husband Bakireke, Erias Lukwago, Kizito Sserumaga and Victor Mukasa went to South African Airways to establish why the airline had pulled a patient from its November 2nd flight. At the same time, our sources indicate that one of Nambooze’s hosts in South Africa issued a statement to the media, accusing the airline of abating violation of the rights of a sick woman.
The airline got to know about the press statement in time and asked their Uganda office to explain. With pressure coming from their headquarters and from Uganda, the South African Airways Country Manager, Yogi Biriggwa, told Lukwago and company that they had been tricked by ENHAS to remove Nambooze from the flight.
To exonerate South Africa Airways of any wrongdoing, Biriggwa called Catherine Mpanga, the company’s manager at the airport, and put her on a phone loud speaker for the complainants to hear.
Embarrassed by the incident, South Africa Airways offered Nambooze $120 to book in a hotel of her choice where she would stay on Wednesday before her flight the following Thursday.
They also upgraded her ticket from Economy to Business class to compensate for the inconveniences caused. They even offered to pick her from wherever she would spend the extra day. The airline went as far as getting an airline official to clear her documents through immigration to ensure a smooth trip through Entebbe Airport. Lukwago confirmed the above story in a telephone interview on Friday.
Buganda sources have told us that Nambooze’s health and her travel nightmares were discussed during the kingdom’s cabinet meeting on Thursday.
Buganda’s State Minister for Research, David Mpanga, who coordinated the trip, reportedly briefed the meeting chaired by the Katikkiro, Eng. John Baptist Walusimbi. Mpanga, according to our sources, told his Mengo colleagues that to ensure Nambooze was not disturbed again, the Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, had been notified about the urgency of her medical trip to South Africa.
Police sources have also told us that the Buganda cabinet was informed that Kayihura had no objection to Nambooze’s travel. Nambooze told The Observer shortly before flying to South Africa that she was angry with the way the state had treated her.
Even without the backing of any law, they proclaimed that we must notify them before holding any public rally. They now also want us to notify them before traveling; this is very bad for the country, Nambooze said.
In South Africa, doctors have subjected Nambooze to various tests. One of the doctors told The Observer on phone from Johannesburg on Friday that they had subjected her to sigmoidoscopy and gigmoidoscopy on her first day in hospital.
This was meant to establish the state of her digestive system. Nambooze has been suffering from intestinal problems for a while. Before flying to Johannesburg, her legs were slowly turning black, the reason doctors in South Africa subjected her to another test to rule out the possibility of poisoning.
Most of the doctors attending to her are Ugandan experts working in South Africa. One of them told The Observer that Nambooze’s condition can be treated but they will subject her to more medical tests. The doctor said they will examine her fully to establish whether her incarceration is part of what weakened her veins, something that causes some bleeding.
Nambooze was picked up by state operatives in the wee hours of July 18, 2008 and briefly detained at Jinja Road Police Station. She, together with Buganda Information Minister, Charles Peter Mayiga, and his deputy, Medard Lubega Ssegona, were later detained at various Police stations in Bundibugyo, Ibanda, Kagadi, Fort Portal and Kiruhura, before Ssegona and Nambooze were returned to Kampala and charged with sedition. Mayiga was released without a charge.
Shortly after the riots, the Kabaka’s cabinet decided to fly Nambooze out of the country to seek medical treatment. The Buganda government decided that her ailment needed more advanced medical attention that Uganda couldn’t provide.
There was a proposal to fly her either to the US, UK or India. The idea of flying her out became even more urgent when FDC President, Dr. Kizza Besigye, a medical doctor, advised so after visiting Nambooze at Mukono, following an operation in September.
Besigye contacted medical colleagues in South Africa who expressed willingness to help.
All they required was to fly her to South Africa. The Mengo group, together with other well-wishers from the US, UK, South Africa and in Uganda, quickly raised money she needed for accommodation and upkeep.
I am pleased with all the help I have received. The Kabaka can give directly or through his people. For me he has done both, Nambooze told The Observer. She will be in South Africa for about a month and her lawyers are expected to inform court on November 17, that Nambooze is not ready to stand trial because of her health situation.