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Watoto Church on the spot over alleged poisoning of staff at Children’s Village

The aggrieved family of the former Watoto Children’s Village worker accuses the Christian organization of concealing the circumstance under which their relative died during duty.

RIP: Joyce Lamunu, a home keeper who was working at the Watoto Laminadera Children’s Village died on 13th June 2023 (Photo/Courtesy)

GULU, UGANDA: The Police in Omoro District are Investigating a case of suspected death by poisoning of one Joyce Lamunu, a staff at Watoto’s Laminadera Children’s Village in the Northern Uganda district.

Lamunu, 59, who had served as home keeper at the Children’s Village for the last 13 years died on Tuesday 13th June 2023 under unknown circumstances.

According to an official document signed by the medical personnel of Gulu Independent Hospital who confirmed Lamunu’s death, she was brought dead at the facility.
“1. This client was brought dead on arrival and treatment of the body was done 6 hours after arrival time with formaldehyde. 2. For postmortem to be done,” the official signed and stamped document reads.

Family pins Church

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The aggrieved family of the former Watoto Children’s Village worker accuses the Christian organization of concealing the circumstance under which their relative died during duty.

Andrew Otim, the brother of the deceased while addressing journalists at Northern Uganda Media Club on Tuesday 20th said several staff of Watoto Laminadera Children’s Village ‘lied’ to the family that they took Joyce Lamunu to the hospital when she was alive and yet the hospital is saying the contrary.

“Watoto leadership’s claim that they took Joyce alive to the hospital is inconsistent with the doctor’s examination. When she got to the hospital, she was already brain-dead and they were trying to cover up. We as the beloved family of Joyce Lamunu strongly believe Watoto Church is participating fully and aiding and abetting the murder of my sister,” lamented Otim.

“As a family, we are convinced that Watoto is involved in a massive coverup not only for Joyce Lamunu but for the rest of the people who died in Lamimadera, and authority should come up to stop Watoto from covering such killing,” he added.

Joan Akwiya, the daughter of the deceased while narrating her last encounter with the deceased to journalists, said on the same day her mother died, she interacted with her mother on the phone at 1:18 pm and they talked for 11 minutes. Their conversation ended after the deceased requested to go serve food to the children who were to go back to class and she was sounding normal as usual without any complaints of any pain.

To her biggest shock, at about 5:00 pm, she got a phone call informing her that her mother is dead. This prompted her to rush to the Gulu Independent Hospital where she was rushed but only to find the body of her dead mother already swelling as if she died days ago.

These signs according to her made the family members suspicious that their mother could have eaten something poisonous. And immediately the family realized that the body started swelling, they requested the hospital to treat the body postmortem.

Contradicting Reports

A case of suspected death by poisoning was then reported at Gulu Central Police Station but the family were later referred to record a case of Death Enquiry File at the Gulu West Police Station under case number DEF 8/2023.

Subsequently, on the 14th a postmortem was carried out from the 4th Division Army Barracks mortuary where the body was taken and preserved. According to the pathology report issued by Dr Onen JJ Olwedo who conducted the postmortem, there were ‘no external injuries and established dark haemorrhagic stomach bloody gastric content, ruptured gastric and lower oesophageal vessel.

The postmortem concluded the cause of death to be “raptured oesophagal/gastric varices with profuse internal bleeding into the stomach causing haemorrhagic shock,” the report reads in part.”

The pathologist also stated that samples including the liver, kidney, and blood gastric content among others have been taken for toxicology by the central government chemist. Toxicology is the study of how natural or man-made poisons cause undesirable effects in living organisms.

When asked what they demand from police and the church administration, Ms Akwiya demanded that a thorough investigation is wholly done to have individuals suspected to be behind her mother’s death brought to justice books.

“We want this case to be investigated thoroughly. Because after the death of our mother, people started calling us to tell us how they survived the poisoning attempt on them at Laminadera. We need justice for our mother. The perpetrator must be brought to the book. So that this kind of death stops with our mother,” Ms Akwiya told DailyExpress.

“The evildoer is among them. Watoto should never cover up anything. They should expose the person. It will save the children and other mothers. It is a big community under Watoto,” she added.

Watoto Church speaks out

When DailyExpress contacted the Watoto Head Office in Kampala for an official comment Today Thursday 22nd, the Organization’s Communication Officer, Ms Esther Agwang, acknowledged awareness of the incident describing it as “unfortunate” and they are yet to come out with an official statement.

“We are saddened by the unfortunate incident, I will share with you Watoto’s statement on the matter in the due course,” Agwang acknowledged, adding that “The matter is currently being handled by the police and we do not want to interfere with the investigations.”

What local leaders say

George Okello, the area LC1 of Laminadera Central where the Watoto centre is located, said only heard the news of the death as a rumour. Okello said it was unfortunate that a tragedy happened in his area but Watoto leaders decided to conceal it from the local authority.

According to Okello, he has heard rumours of deaths at Watoto but the administration keeps it to themselves and it makes it hard for him to speak on what he is not fully informed about. He added that such practice portrays a bad relationship with the community and must be improved so that the local community gain the trust of the Christian organization in their area.

The Aswa River Region Police Commander Ms Damali Nachuha when contacted over the matter confirmed to DailyExpress that the Police in Omoro is actively investigating circumstances surrounding the staff’s death.

“Yes. We are aware. The case was first registered at Gulu West Police Station but has been referred to Omoro. The officers in Omoro are investigating it,” Nachuha said.

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