Owiny Dollo Recollection of Oulanyah’s Final Moments

Tonny Abet, transcribes the speech. “Honourable ministers of government, honourable Members of Parliament, our various political leaders, fellow mourners, I thank you all for this vigil. I arrived from Seattle, USA [where Jacob Oulanyah died] via Dubai today (March 22, 2022) in the afternoon with [Democratic Party President] Norbert Mao. Sadly, we came back with Hon Mao empty-handed. We left, not [11th Parliament Speaker] Jacob Oulanyah, we left the body of Jacob Oulanyah lying in a cold room in a top cancer institute; a world-renowned cancer institute in Seattle [in the Pacific west coast of the US]. When I listen to people talking about Jacob Oulanyah, I will just sum it in one sentence: that he was larger-than-life. We have said many things about Jacob Oulanyah, but then there is one thing that nobody wants to say. He was a very strong-willed person and could be very difficult. I was privileged to be one of the very few who could bully him and I did bully him a number of times. But to earn that respect for Jacob Oulanyah to accept to be bullied by anyone, it means I meant a lot to him and he also meant a lot to me. Before I went to the United States of America, I was briefed by his [Jacob Oulanyah’s] doctor, Dr [Jackson] Orem, who heads the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI). He told me an account of what I didn’t know.
One other aspect of Jacob Oulanyah was [that] for some reason he became secretive about his malaise. Maybe I would have bullied him to take his condition seriously. But one thing, if only Jacob Oulanyah, because I asked [Norbert] Mao [who like the Chief Justice and Oulanyah hails from Acholi sub-region and are friends]: ‘did you know [about] this?’ Then [Mao] said, ‘No I didn’t.’ I am yet to find someone who will come out to say ‘I knew this [Oulanyah’s sickness]’. Imat [elder lady] Cecilia [Ogwal, the Dokolo Woman MP], that son of yours [Oulanyah], even when he was speaking, as the Speaker, when he came back from Dubai [the United Arab Emirates where he had gone for medical care last year] before he was taken [to Seattle], he would leave those chambers of his [in Parliament], these people told me he would go to wash room, kneel down and hold the feet of washroom in pain and then he would come back and come and chair meeting.
I am told that even when he was at the hospital, if his children were the ones talking with him, he did everything for the children not to know that he was in pain. His eldest daughter wept before me when he passed on. In the United States in Seattle, Jacob Oulanyah died on March 19 at about 10:30pm or thereabout. But it was already 20th here [in Uganda due to the ten-hour time zone difference].
So, his certificate will read 19th, not 20th [of March]. She cried and said ‘my father didn’t prepare me, didn’t prepare us for this [his death]’. But, also, Jacob, true to his nature, believed he would get out of hospital until one week before we went [to see him] when the doctor told him what he told us; that there was nothing they could do anymore. That they had come to the end of the road and it was [just a] matter of time. He was told this in the presence of one of his best friends, Opiyo Oloya, who [lives] in Canada. I have talked to him. He [Oloya] took notes of what Jacob told him when he was confronted with the reality that he didn’t have long to live. I have said [to Opiyo Oloya] ‘assemble that, let it [notes taken at hospital] be coherent … Please, come with that book, but also make it coherent so that there is a flowing narrative.”
If Jacob had confided in a few of us, maybe, maybe just… But his doctor (Orem), who is here [and is] a fellow Acholi as Jacob was, must tell the people what my brother went through. So, when he was flown out, the social media was awash [with rumours that] “oh, he is in the UK, flown here and there, Turkey”. Jacob was in Dubai. [State Minister for Foreign Affairs] Oryem Okello is here. He called me and said, ‘the Lord Chief Justice, we must go and see our brother.’ I said ‘true.’
Hon [Health] Minister Jane Aceng and myself went to Dubai and met him (Oulanyah). We came back and I told him, ‘Jacob, you have nothing to prove, you have been a Deputy [Speaker], Speaker [of Parliament], you have chaired Parliament. Rest at home. Then when you are well rested and you are healed, you will go and take charge.’ But I heard that he was in Arua, he was even in my place in Patongo [in Agago District]. He feared to tell me because he knew I was going to quarrel with him. Sometimes, when he would go [on] those [political] trips [in northern Uganda], if he saw my call he wouldn’t pick because he knew what was coming. He knew I was going to admonish him.
Then one day I was seated in my official residence at Nakasero [Kampala], the Deputy Speaker called me and said I am at Jacob’s place here [in Muyenga, Kampala] and ‘I have been told the only [person] who can move Jacob is you. If he refuses to listen to you, he will die in this house; Jacob will not take more than two days’. On my way, I tried to reach Mao, but I couldn’t; so, I told [Gulu West Member of Parliament] Hon Ojara Mapenduzi that ‘tell Hon Mao [that] even if he [Mao] has a morsel of food in his hand, let him put that morsel down and come to [Oulanyah’s residence in Muyenga, a Kampala suburb] immediately’, which he did.’
I found my brother (Oulanyah) in his bedroom seated on a chair. When he saw me, he started crying and started singing, but you couldn’t hear him. So, I had to go near. He was singing a funeral dirge in Acholi [language] which means in [English] he was ‘fighting alone like the mighty warrior who speared a lion while lying down.’ To spear a lion while lying down means the lion has already brought you down and as you are down, you spear the lion and disable it. I told him ‘you are lying, I am not going to join you in that song’. I told him ‘the song I am going to sing will be a Bwola song [a graceful Acholi traditional dance for royalty or other notables during which high achievements including battle exploits or tribulations are recounted]; we are going to dance with you in Laloogi [sub-county in Omoro District that Oulanyah represented in the 11th Parliament], in the thanksgiving when we are thanking God for giving you your health. That one we will dance with you the whole day.’ I know the song he liked most, I will sing it at his burial. When we came back from [the government of Uganda-Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group peace talks in South Sudan capital] Juba, there was a time when he (Oulanyah) was very sick, and he almost lost his life. That was the first time I met his father (Nathan Okori). When I went, for some reason, he opened his eyes, saw me and said ‘Owiny-Dollo’, then he saw his brother (Francis Emuna), the one we took to Seattle [and] then he said ‘where did you get my jacket?’ I think he [Emuna] was putting on his [Oulanyah’s] jacket. Then his father asked, ‘who is this one?’
Then they told him it was me [Owiny-Dollo] and he was happy. Later he (Okori) told me this, ‘lead this younger brother of yours, train him in leadership’. I am much older than Jacob, close to 10 years older than him, he was a young boy. Since then, we have been close [friends]. I would call him Yakobo or wod [Acholi word for son of] Aporapora [which is his father’s nickname] and he would either call me Bicigs which was his beautification of Chigamoy, or he would call me wod Angom. Angom was the surname of my mother. That was the level of intimacy.
So, when I came home here [and found him sick around February 2022], I said ‘why do you want your father to call me a wicked man? How can you die in the house as if there are no hospitals? How can you die here and I don’t know?’ I said ‘I have come here [and] we are going with you to the hospital now. And I want you to tell me yes’. So, he looked at me and tears started rolling and he said ‘wa ceti’ meaning ‘let’s go’ [to the hospital]. So, I told the Deputy Speaker [Anita Among] who had lost hope that ‘he [Oulanyah] has accepted that we can go to the hospital; so, let’s prepare and go’. So, the doctor who was around said ‘we have to make special arrangement. So, let’s take him to Mulago [National Referral] Hospital’. I said that ‘but for today and tonight I hope you will have sufficient care’ and the doctor said ‘we are going to do everything’. So, they made an arrangement at the new [Women Specialist Hospital Mulago] wing. He was taken to the seventh floor where he was alone.
We did everything possible to ensure people didn’t go to him because he had serious infection which had to be managed before he could be flown out. I told the Deputy Speaker that a decision has to be made on whether he should be taken to Turkey, or Germany, where he has been going a number of times. But the decision was made by the medical team that was in-charge of him because Jacob was suffering from cancer, [a] long-term cancer.
[The] decision to take him to Seattle [in the US state of Washington] was because it is [a] world-class cancer [treatment] centre. It [Fred Hutch Cancer Centre in Seattle] has been in long relationship with Makerere University teaching hospital, Mulago. There is Fred Hutch Cancer Centre where went. He [Oulanyah] couldn’t go [to Seattle] by ordinary flight; so, they chartered the [Uganda Airlines Airbus A330-800 neo] plane that took him there and that is what the witches, the wicked people of this world, have used Jacob Oulanyah as a pawn in their political chess game.
Really wicked! Actually, wicked to a point of being tribalistic. But just like [LRA rebel leader] Joseph Kony and Alice Lakwena [the former leader of the insurgent Holy Spirit Movement] never represented the Acholi people, these wicked people don’t represent their tribe at all. I attended King’s College Buddo and then Makerere University [both in Buganda] then I worked here all my life as practicing attorney, as a government minister, as member of parliament…and now as a [Chief] Judge where by God’s grace I will complete my life journey.

These people [against Oulanyah] don’t represent their tribe. I have lived with members of this tribe. There is no tribe which is more accommodative than that tribe in this country.
But just like if you go to Acholi you will find Joseph Kony and [martyred Archbishop] Janan Luwum, so we have wicked people. My appeal to this tribe is ‘you are better than this.’ One frog spoils the water point. It is up to you to come out openly and condemn these people who are pouring filth on you, not on Jacob Oulanyah, not on me.

You cannot say ‘you [Acholi] are the ones who have made [President] Museveni win.’ Assuming that is true, but we have made Museveni win only once. But you have supported Museveni for over 30 years and we never demonised you for supporting Museveni. Why do you demonise us for supporting Museveni for one year? We didn’t demonise you for supporting Museveni because that is your right.
Why would you dance on Jacob Oulanyah’s grave just because you want political power? Acholi people are very forgiving people. But truly your 40 days will come.

A week before I went, I had found his (Oulanyah’s) missed [telephone] call the day [of the official funeral service] for [deceased Teso] Emorimor (Augustine Osuban Lemukol) at Kololo [Ceremonial Grounds in Kampala], but when I tried to call back, I didn’t succeed. Then later he did [call back]. His speech was already slurred. So, I told him ‘my brother, next week I am coming there [to Seattle].’ He (Oulanyah) said ‘bin’, which means come.

Barely responsive
So, I went, we visited him twice in hospital. And for the second time the doctor told us [that he was not going to live long], then we gave up. The first day we went, the lady who was looking after him looked at him and said, ‘the Chief Justice whom you wanted to talk to has come, please open your eyes.’ He [Oulanyah] would struggle to open his eyes so I told him, ‘I am here, the whole of Acholi is here now. I want you to know if you didn’t know how much people love you in Acholi land, how much people are praying for you to be healed, to go back home, you know now.’

[I added] ‘but I want you to be strong, I know how strong you are, you will recover and you will go back home. Remember the thanksgiving I told you about. We must have our Bwola dance.’ But I was lying to myself, there will be no Bwola dance. He didn’t respond and I was now stepping back to sit down and, I think, his brother [Emuna] was stepping to him to convey the message from his father.

Then he [Oulanyah] in a long drown, he mentioned my name ‘Chigamoi.’ That is the only thing Jacob spoke for the duration of our stay in the USA. Probably that is the only thing he said and he died. But when he said my name, tears started rolling down his eyes. I am emotionally a very weak person, but I refused to shed tears, I went and shed tears in my hotel room.

The following day we went and met the lead doctor. He said they did their best, they even wanted to apply some of the most modern techniques, but unfortunately it couldn’t be done. The details will be in the [post mortem] report that government will read it. I want you people to know that he (the doctor) was telling us he (Oulanyah) was going, the only thing was to save him from the pain. So, what they were giving him would sedate him. If they didn’t sedate him, I think the pain would be too much. They were helping him to end his journey as peacefully as possible.

Parts of his organs had started failing, the kidney and many other things. And then the Deputy Speaker came back with [Emuna]. I told them, ‘go, there is nothing that you can do here now. If they wanted blood or organ donation, you would stay, but there is nothing you can do here now.’ They left on Friday (last week) and I told [Emuna] that ‘go and tell your father to prepare for the worst’.

Then his [Oulanyah’s] personal security is the one who came [to my hotel room], knocked and I opened. Then he told me, ‘he is gone.’ And he started weeping. Then I told him ‘don’t weep, the time for weeping has gone’. The time to weep was when he was still alive so he could see our tears and change his tears and intervene.
Then I informed Hon Mao. I told Hon Mao that ‘I know your hand is very quick with the pen, no tweeting. Jacob Oulanyah was no longer an Acholi; he was a national figure and it is the President to announce and after that we can do other things. And since then, I have not spoken about Jacob Oulanyah’s death, about his condition, about what we saw.

Election of Speaker
About the election of the Speaker, it is [Article 82(4) of] the Constitution which we made. When there is a vacancy in the Presidency…a vacancy can be created by death, resignation, or impeachment. When such a vacancy arises in the Presidency, the Constitution says the Vice President takes over until an election is conducted.

When there is a vacancy in the office of the Chief Justice, the Deputy Chief Justice takes over until the next Chief Justice is appointed. In Parliament, there is no such provision. Some person was saying they want to rush burying an Acholi and yet [former Bank of Uganda Governor Tumusiime] Mutebile [who died in January], who is a Mukiga, has not been replaced. The person could be saying this out of ignorance. They need to be educated on the law.


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