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Watoto breaks silence on alleged staff poisoning, demands independent postmortem

Joyce Lamunu (in set) an employee at Watoto Church died Tuesday, June 13 due to suspected posioning at Laminadera Children's Village in Omoro. The case is now under inquiry(Photo/Courtesy)

KAMPALA, UGANDA: Watoto Church has finally spoken out on the ‘alleged poisoning’ of a staff member at one of their Children’s Villages and demanded that police conduct an independent postmortem on the deceased to establish the true cause of death.

Joyce Lamunu, 59, a Watoto Mother at the Village died under unclear circumstances on Tuesday, June 13, as she was being rushed to Gulu Independent Hospital after developing health complications on that fateful day. Her mysterious death made some of her family members to suspect that she might have been poisoned while at the centre.

However, much as the popular Christian organization acknowledges that Ms Lamunu died while on duty at the Chirldren’s village, the church refutes reports of suspected poisoning at the centre and demands that police conduct an independent postmortem to establish the exact cause of death.

“The Watoto Family is deeply saddened by the death of Mama Joyce Lamunu which occurred on Tuesday 13th June 2023 as she was being rushed to Gulu Independent hospital by the personnel for further medical attention soon after she started feeling unwell,” reads in part a Friday, June 23 statement by the Watoto’s Head of Communication, Ms Esther Agwang.

“We have requested police and the authorities to independently conduct a postmortem to establish the cause of death and to make appropriate recommendations in line with their findings,” the media statement adds.

According to Ms Agwang, Joyce Lamunu alias “Mama Joyce” as she was fondly called, who had spent the last 12 years working with Watoto was very loving, compassionate and devoted in the execution of her duties, and thus, will be dearly missed.

“Mama Joyce as we fondly referred to her, diligently served Watoto since 2011, and at the time of her death, she had eight Watoto children under her care. She is part of 365 mothers who collectively provide care to over 2,238 children across our villages in Suubi (Mpigi district), Bbira (Wakiso district), and Laminadera (Omoro district).”

“For the last 12 years that Mama Joyce has been with us, we have been blessed by her love, compassion, and devotion to serve. We will dearly miss her, as she was one of our exemplary and long-serving senior,” Agwang said.

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

Family Fires back

Shortly after releasing the Media Statement, Andrew Otim, a brother of the deceased former church employee said it’s too late for Watoto to jump in the middle of everything tried to cling on something which they were supposed to take the lead on, in the first place.

“Now they are jumping in the middle. They were the first to approach the family because Joyce died while with them. They should have been the ones to report the incident to the Police and authorities and come to the family to say death has occurred, how can we work together as a team but instead they just dumped her at the hospital and disappeared,” a distressed Otim told DailyExpress on Friday morning.

According to Otim, the Watoto officials who were with Mama Joyce ran away after her death pausing unanswered questions, yet the church now wants to claim that the family refused to cooperate with them afterwards.

He added that the family has vowed to continue with the burial arrangements.

“We are continuing with the vigil at our home in Kanyagoga today and tomorrow we shall bury the body. The problem is not with us. They are just jumping in the middle. We want them to explain what happened in the beginning we can’t allow them, oh come for burial. We don’t know what happened to our person,” said Otim.

What locals say

Mr George Okello, the LC1 Chairman of Laminadera Central where the Watoto centre is located told DailyExpress that he only heard of the news of Lamunu’s death as a rumour since some leaders inside Watoto 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 the area.

ALSO READ: Inside Watoto Church’s State of the art Mall proposed to replace KPC Building

Ms Damai Nachucha, the Aswa River Region Police Commander yesterday told DailyExpress that the Police in Omoro are aware of the case and detectives are actively investigating circumstances surrounding the former Watoto employee’s death.

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

However, amidst all the drama and allegations, Watoto Church says they remain committed to caring for communities alongside the most vulnerable in our society and embracing them with the love of Jesus to give each one a chance at a better future.

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