The speaker of parliament Jacob Oulanyah has been secretly flown to Seattle, United States of America for specialized treatment.
Oulanyah was flown out of the country in the wee hours of Thursday, February 3 after being discharged from Mulago National Referral hospital where he had been admitted. He travelled aboard Uganda Airlines’ Airbus A330-800 neo which reportedly flew from Entebbe to Keflavik, Iceland in a flight time of 10 hours and 42 minutes.
According to our source, on Friday, February 4, Uganda Airlines flew from Keflavik to Seattle in a connection flight time of 7 hours and 28 minutes. It appears that the plane just refuelled in Iceland because it was on the ground for just a few hours before setting off for Tacoma International airport in Seattle; its final destination.
The flight was operated with the flight number UR2, a mismatch from the ordinary Uganda Airlines’ flights which are operated with flight numbers in the UR4XX range.
“Uganda Airlines Airbus A330-800neo landed in Seattle on Friday afternoon. This was the first time a Uganda Airlines plane flew to the United States, so that’s cool to see. I’m still not sure what the purpose of this flight is, though I suspect we’ll be able to figure this out with a bit of patience,” an aviation publication onemileatatime.com stated.
In the same publication are several conspiracy theories about the unusual flight, by an airline that has only gone to Dubai in the recent past and only planning to launch flights to London, United Kingdom.
“Maybe I am reading too much into this, but the fact that the UR2 flight number was used (and presumably UR1 will be used on the way back) suggests to me that maybe someone important was onboard? It’s also entirely possible that’s not the case, of course,” OneMile publication further stated.
The speaker was last seen in parliament on December 21, 2021. Last year, shortly after his swearing-in as speaker, Oulanyah disappeared from the public eye for a month after presiding over parliament at the reading of the 2021/2022 financial year budget at Kololo Independence grounds.
His deputy Anita Among has mostly been in charge of the parliamentary business since the beginning of the term in May, a matter that triggered speculation about his health. Reports had initially indicated that Oulannyah was battling COVID-19.
Meanwhile, several sources within parliament and government departments never wanted to comment on the matter although they acknowledge that the speaker is unwell.
“I don’t want to invade his privacy but all I can tell you is that Oulanyah flew out of the country for a medical review and is out of danger,” a source privy to the information said. Another source who preferred anonymity said the speaker has been “visibly weak” but was unsure about the medical condition that has kept the speaker out of office for several months. Also, a legislator who requested not to be mentioned said Oulanyah’s continued absence in parliament has become a great concern to many Ugandans including members of parliament.
“I know the matter will be raised on the floor when plenary resumes next week,” the lawmaker said.
URN made repeated calls to the head of public diplomacy in the ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Alfred Nnam and ministry of Internal Affairs spokesperson Jacob Siminyu, but all went unanswered.
Martha Okumu-Ringa, the head of communications at the ministry of Foreign Affairs referred our reporter to the ministry of Internal Affairs for any response regarding the speaker’s travel to the United States.
“That information is with the ministry of Internal Affairs – immigration, because they handle immigration, it is for anyone entering the country or leaving,” she said.
Meanwhile, Anthony Kujawa, the US Embassy spokesperson, referred us back to the Office of the Speaker and government when we contacted his office about the matter.
Uganda Airlines operates four midrange Bombardier aircraft and two A330-800 neo for longer routes. The Bombardier aircraft fly to regional destinations in Juba, Mogadishu, Nairobi, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Bujumbura, Kinshasa and Johannesburg.
While one of the two A330-800 aircraft operates the Entebbe – Dubai route, the second one has largely remained parked at Entebbe with plans underway to open up the routes to the United Kingdom and China. Our reporter noticed, however, that the aircraft has not been at its usual parking spot since FRIDAY.