Uganda Official In U.K. Court On Drug Charges

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Africa News Update

An assistant to the brother of Uganda’s president is set to appear
before a British court Tuesday to answer allegations of drug
trafficking charges, The Black Star News has learned.

Rose Birungi, who had traveled to London on a Uganda diplomatic
passport, was recently arrested at Heathrow Airport when sniffer dogs
reportedly detected narcotics in her luggage. She serves as an aide to
Gen. Salim Saleh, who is brother to President Yoweri K. Museveni and
also the East African country’s minister of Micro-financing.

Additionally, Birungi is Minister of Information for Toro, one of
Uganda’s traditional kingdoms. She will appear before Yarlswood Court
Tuesday at 10:00 hours to answer the charges. She has been held at
Bronzefield Ashford detention center. The court appearance will give
the Ugandan official an opportunity to apply for bail.

A Ugandan U.K.-based lawyer Patrick Asiimwe says he is “working around the
clock,” to find  “people to stand as sureties for her to get the
bail.” Asiimwe has been a busy man lately; separately, he is
representing president Museveni on an unrelated case in which a former
publisher won a $31 million judgment against the president in civil
commercial court for seized assets.

“We are still finalizing the bail application and we hope she will be
granted the bail,” adds Asiimwe, regarding Birungi. He says he will
approach Uganda High Commission to the U.K., which is the equivalent of
an embassy, to see if officials can guarantee the bail.

Asiimwe notes the bail application is fraught with diplomatic
sensitivity. “Though, Ms. Birungi at the moment is presumed innocent,
the government may not want to get involved because it has signed a lot
of international treaties including that of drug trafficking,” the
lawyer says. “It may be misconstrued by the government here to see the
Ugandan High Commission sending sureties to bail out Ms. Birungi. But
I’ve talked to some officials and am still—or alternatively her
relatives here.”

The drug charges could land the Ugandan 12 years behind bars if
convicted. Separately, last year, while on her way from Ghana to UK, a
former secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affair, Rhona Mugoya, was
arrested by UK’s Anti-Drug Trafficking Unit. She was later convicted
and is serving a 12 year sentence. Mugoya also was traveling on a
Uganda diplomatic passport. The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime
in its 2007 World Report, lists Uganda 13th among drug trafficking

Miwambo reports for The Black Star News from London


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