INSIDE STORY: How Unanswered Phone Calls Tipped Off Oulanyah’s Deputy, Friends About His Illness

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The Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah had spent three days without eating when he was evacuated from his home to Mulago National Referral Hospital and eventually out of the country, URN has learnt. The Deputy Speaker Anita Among and Oulanyah’s close friends intervened when he didn’t answer their repeated phone calls for three days.

Oulanyah was flown to Seattle, United States of America on February 5, 2022, for specialized treatment. He travelled with four people who included his personal doctor, paramedics and a relative. It all started in late January when Chief Justice  Alfonse Owiny-Dollo and Democratic Party President General Norbert Mao, made several phone calls to  Oulanyah but he didn’t respond.

This went on for three days according to information obtained by URN. Oulanyah’s deputy Among also made several calls that went unanswered for two days. According to legislators, privy to the matter, after trying for the third day in vain,  Among decided to drive to Oulanyah’s home in Muyenga to check on him on January 29, 2022. “She found him in his bed,” one MP from Teso sub-region said. Adding that, “but he was not sleeping.”

The MP says that Oulanyah was unable to speak to Among who told him that she was concerned since he didn’t answer her phone calls for three days. Among noticed that Oulanyah was struggling to speak and was visibly weak. At the time, Oulanyah was staying with one female relative in the house while his security officers watched over the compound and gate.

“Among questioned this woman who was staying with Oulanyah on why she did not alert his security or pick up his calls to say he is not well, “one of Oulanyah’s friends told our reporter. The woman reportedly told Among that she did not have money to take Oulanyah to the hospital or make calls.

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“This infuriated Among who called Oulanyah’s head of security only identified as Odongkara and the parliamentary medical team to make arrangements for his transfer to Mulago National Referral Hospital,” the source said. Another source close to Oulanyah, says that Chief Justice Owinyi-Dollo and Mao got in touch with Among when the speaker failed to pick up their phone calls.

They supported the move to take him to Mulago National Referral Hospital. “We all got concerned that Speaker Oulanyah had not eaten for three days when he was home because he had a swollen throat. He was very weak and was wheeled to the ambulance from his home to the hospital,” said another source.

According to sources, Oulanyah has been private about his health condition and usually does not want the public to know when he is unwell. “This could be the reason why many people including his deputy and close friends did not know that he was not well for over a week,” one source noted.

In her communication to the House on February 8, 2022, Among told MPs that Oulanyah had been sick for two weeks and had to seek further medical attention abroad. “When he was taken to Mulago hospital, his personal doctors recommended that he is flown abroad for specialised treatment,” Among said.

Among, Owinyi-Dollo and Mao couldn’t be reached to comment about their interactions with Oulanyah before and after his flight to the US by the time of publishing this story. Oulanyah’s health condition and illness remains unknown. However, some media reports allege he is battling stage four cancer of the colon.

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Mathias Mpuuga, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament told URN that he talked to Oulanyah after Among’s communication. He however declined to reveal what they discussed and whether or not Oulanyah was better.

Mpuuga also declined to comment on whether or not parliament paid for Oulanyah’s flight to the US and treatment. This after sources at Uganda Airlines told our reporter that a team from parliament paid US$ 500,000 about Shillings 1.7 billion for the chartered flight to the US.

Some legislators mainly from  Acholi and Lango sub regions are concerned about Oulanyah’s health. Kitgum  Municipality MP, Denis Amere Onekalit says that the local community and leaders are praying for Oulanyah’s recovery.

He explained that much as he belongs to the opposition Forum for Democratic Change-FDC and Oulanyah belongs to the National Resistance Movement-NRM, he is an important person in Acholi and the entire country.

Onekalit says he last talked to Oulanyah on December 23rd, 2021. The Kilak South MP Gilbert Olanya and Maxwell Akora of Maruzi County wish him a speedy recovery.

Oulanyah was elected Speaker of Parliament on May 24th, 2021. He flew out of the country and spent one and half months after presiding over the reading of the 2021/2022 financial year budget last June.

At the time, several media reports indicated that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was allegedly transported to Entebbe International Airport in an ambulance and carried on a stretcher to the plane that evacuated him from Uganda.

Chris Obore, the Director of Communications and Public Affairs, said Oulanyah had travelled to see one of his children in the United Kingdom. “He travelled to the UK, but this is in no way related to sickness or anything, but to see his son whom he had not seen in a long time,” he said.

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Oulanyah thereafter returned to the country in late July last year. However, he was last seen chairing the plenary on December 21, 2021. One of the people close to Oulanyah, say that he started feeling unwell on January 3rd, 2022.

“He kept complaining about his throat being itchy. He had just got swabbed in the throat for a COVID-19 test,” the source said. Adding that, “He ignored the irritating throat for a week. But I think the tonsils got swollen later on and he was unable to swallow food. So we realised that he had not eaten for three days and could not talk by the time he was taken to Mulago hospital.”

The same source adds that President Yoweri Museveni also got concerned about Oulanyah’s condition and supported efforts to fly him abroad for further management.

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