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Medical Union Boss Jailed Over Wife's Death in Uganda

Published on Saturday 31st July 2010

TRADE union leader Apollo Nyangasi was yesterday charged and remanded to Luzira Prison over the murder of his wife, Christine Dambio Nyangasi.

The 45-year-old Nyangasi is the national chairman of the Uganda Health and Allied Workers Union.

Grade Two Magistrate of Kira Richard Nuwagira read the murder charge to Nyangasi, but warned him not to say anything because the offence can only be tried by the High Court. He explained to him that he was entitled to bail but it could only be granted by the High Court.

Nyangasi allegedly committed the crime on July 24 at Kireka B Zone in Kira Town Council, Wakiso district "with malice aforethought".

He is said to have beaten his 40-year-old wife at the family home in Kireka after a misunderstanding over property and accusations of infidelity. If convicted, Nyangasi would face the gallows.

His wife was found unconscious in the bathroom and rushed to Mulago Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

Asked by the magistrate whether he understood the charges, Nyangasi said: "I understand the charges very well." Florence Akello, the resident state attorney, asked for an adjournment because investigations were still going on.

Accordingly, Nuwagira remanded Nyangasi to Luzira Prison until August 12, when he is expected in court for mention of the case.

Some 15 relatives of the woman, led by her brother, Higenyi Kemba, attended the court proceedings. They stared at their in-law who was wearing a thick grey jacket, a grey pair of trousers, a brown checked shirt and red bathroom slippers.

As he walked past the family, Nyangasi stared straight back at them, unfazed. Nyangasi has been in the Police custody at Kira Police Station since his arrest.

Speaking after the adjournment, Kemba told The New Vision that he had wanted to talk to Nyangasi to explain the death of his sister.

As he waited for the Prisons bus to Luzira, Nyangasi said the court would find him innocent.

"A lot of distorted facts have been written about me, saying I am violent. But let us wait for the scientific proof from the post-mortem report," he said.

Who is Nyangasi?

Nyangasi is a pharmacist at Soroti Hospital and the national coordinator of the Health Workforce Advocacy Forum of Uganda, a coalition of health professional associations, trade unions and health rights organisations.

He went to Bukedi College, Kachonga for his O'level in the mid 1980s, where he studied with his former close friend-turned rival, Dr. Sam Lyomoki, now a Workers' MP. Bunyole county MP Emmanuel Dombo was also his contemporary.

Nyangasi went to St Peter's College, Tororo for A'level and then took a para-medical course at Mulago, according to close friends.

"He was generally a calm person at school and I was shocked when he was arrested over the murder of his wife. I asked myself what could have happened and whether this was the Nyangasi I knew," said an associate.

The associate observed that problems between Nyangasi and his wife could have been resolved with good counselling.

His brother in-law, Higenyi Kemba, described him as an ambitious man who tries his hand at almost everything.

In 1992, he worked at Entebbe Grade A Hospital as a dispenser, and founded the Uganda Medical Workers Union, which Lyomoki joined in 1993.

Nyangasi is no stranger to controversy. In 1996, just after the general elections, he led the national strike, where health workers downed their tools and demanded a pay rise.

At the time, he was a clinical officer at Entebbe Grade A Hospital. He was interdicted by the Health ministry and only reinstated in 2008, when he was posted to Soroti Hospital as a pharmacist.

Also in June 2008, he was arrested for allegedly obtaining sh20m by false pretence, and detained at Tororo Police Station. He allegedly convinced individuals to form a savings and credit cooperative organisation in an attempt to fight poverty. But he was not charged over the matter.

In the same year, Nyangasi fell out with his longtime friend Lyomoki and claimed that he had sacked him as union general secretary. This prompted a power struggle in the Uganda Medical Workers Union. Subsequently, Nyangasi formed the Uganda Health and Allied Workers Union, which he chairs now.

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