FEATURE

Whose baby?
Woman  is  accused  of  stealing  and  
selling  Ugandan  babies  in  Juba
By  Joan  Akello

Sarah  Namubiru,  a  laboratory  administrator  at  MBN  Clinical  Laboratories  in  Kampala  
is  in  the  eye  of  a  maternity  storm  but  she,  surprisingly,  is  quite  calm.  She  is  stuck  
between  two  women;;  HamidahMusitwaWalika  and  Mary  Namukwaya  Musumika,  
who  are  battling  in  court  over  the  maternity  of  a  baby.  Musumika  accusesMusit-­
waof  stealing  her  baby.  But  in  a  strange  turn  of  events,a  DNA  maternity  test  done  at  
Namubiru’s  laboratory  showed  Musitwa  to  be  the  mother  of  the  baby  girl.

Hamidah Musitwa Walika (L) who is
accused of stealing the four month old
baby (C) and Mary Namukwaya Musumika
(R), the complainant. THE INDEPENDENT/
JOAN AKELLO

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Issue 302.indd 16

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1/28/14 5:31 PM

FEATURE

H

owever,  Musumika  has  rejected  the  
results  and  the  police  investigating  
the  case  and  the  magistrate’s  court  
are  not  convinced  and  are  casting  doubt  on  
the  DNA  results.
The  Lugazi  Magistrate’s  Court  has  
ordered  for  fresh  tests  to  be  carried  out.  
Not  at  MBN  Clinical  Laboratories  this  time  
but  at  the  Government  Analytical  Labora-­‐‑
tories  (GAL).    The  magistrate  also  ordered  
that  HamidahMusitwa  remains  in  jail.
In  November  2013,  the  police  took  sam-­‐‑
ples  from  the  two  women  for  testing  GAL.  
ȱ’œȱ—˜ȱŒ•ŽŠ›ȱ ‘Šȱ‘Š™™Ž—Žȱ˜ȱ‘Žȱꛜȱ
samples,  but  in  December,  DNA  experts  
from  GAL  took  a  second  set  of  sample  
from  the  women  at  Lugazi  Central  Police  
Station.  It  is  not  clear  why  results  of  these  
samples  are  also  not  out  yet.
Ordinarily,  that  would  leave  Namubiru  
and  her  clinic  in  a  tight  spot.  But  Namu-­‐‑
biru  is  convinced  the  DNA  results  are  
accurate  and  the  accuser,  Musumika,  will  
eventually  realise  the  baby  is  not  hers.
“I  am  a  mother  and  I  know  the  pain  of  
losing  a  child,”  Namubiru  told  The  Inde-­‐‑
pendent,  “As  a  woman,  Musumika  is  frus-­‐‑
trated,  and  a  desperate  mother  will  move  
everywhere  thinking  every  baby  is  hers,  it  
is  only  natural  for  the  public  to  pity  her.  
 “This  is  not  her  baby  even  though  she  
may  claim  it  looks  like  her  or  her  husband.  
DNA  results  do  not  lie,  they  are  the  most  
accurate  and  you  can  never  go  wrong,”  
Namubiru  adds.
But  Namubiru  and  her  husband,  Robert  
Wandera,  disagree.  They  have  named  the  
’›•ȱŠę—’ȱǻŠ™‘—ŽǼȱŽ”ŽœŠǯ
ȃ ȱœŠ ȱ–¢ȱ‹Š‹¢ǰȱŠę—’ǯȱ‘Žȱ’œȱ–’—Žǰȱ
those  results  were  tampered  with  because  
she  looks  like  her  father  and  she  is  light-­‐‑
skinned  like  me,”  Musumika  told  The  Inde-­‐‑
pendent,  “The  child  is  mine.”
Her  husband  agrees.
“That  baby  girl  is  mine,”  he  says,  and  the  
police  investigations  seem  to  back  them.  

Unbelievable story

The  women  in  the  dispute;  Musitwa  and  
Musumika  are  from  neighbouring  villages  
in  Buikwe  district.  Musumika,  25,  is  from  
Nakazadde  village  in  Lugazi  town  council,  
while  Musitwa  is  from  Kitega  which  is  a  
few  minutes’  walk  away.
Medical  records  indicate  that  on  May  30,  
2013  at  2am,  Musumika  delivered  a  baby  
girl  at  Namengo  Maternity  Home  health  
unit  in  Buikwe  district.
But  her  ordeal  started  three  months  later  
in  August  2013  when  the  baby  was  stolen.
On  the  fateful  morning,  Musumika  was  
outside  her  house  doing  her  laundry  when  
a  woman  she  knew  casually  approached  
her.
“The  woman  who  stole  my  baby  
pretended  that  she  was  looking  for  a  

house  to  rent  in  my  neighbourhood,”  
Musumika  recalls,  “She  had  been  here  
more  than  once  to  visit  a  woman  in  the  
neighbourhood.    The  baby  was  crying  
inside  the  house  so  she  asked  if  she  
could  help    me  carry  it.  I  gave  her  the  
baby,  and  then  she  said  was  going  to  
‘ŽȱœŠ–Žȱ ˜–Š—Ȃœȱ™•ŠŒŽȱŠœȱ ȱꗒœ‘ȱ ’‘ȱ
the  washing.”
When  Musumika,  at  around  9  am,  went  
over  to  the  neighbour  she  thought  the  
stranger  was  visiting,  the  woman  denied  
knowing  her.  Instead,  she  said,  the  stranger  

A copy of Mary Namukwaya Musumika
Mother’s passport and Dafini Nekesa’s child
heath card.
had  as  usual  asked  if  there  was  a  house  she  
could  rent  and  left  when  she  was  told  there  
wasn’t  any.
“I  moved  around  thinking  that  I  could  
catch  her  and  alerted  my  neighbours  but  
my  baby  was  already  taken.”  
She  telephoned  her  husband,  two  hours  
later  but  he  could  not  hear  of  it.  He  imme-­‐‑
diately  accused  her  of  negligence.
“I  want  to  see  my  daughter  by  the  time  I  
arrive  home,”  he  threatened.      
But  when  Wandera,  a  builder  returned  
home  at  7pm,  his  daughter  was  not  home  
Š—ȱ‘Žȱž—’Ž—’ꮍȱ ˜–Š—ȱ ‘˜ȱ˜˜”ȱ‘Ž›ȱȱ
has  not  been  caught.

The Juba connection

After  weeks  of  searching,  Musumika  
says  she  got  news  from  a  man  from  Lugazi  
who  had  gone  to  Juba,  the  capital  of  neigh-­‐‑
bouring  South  Sudan,  and  claimed  he  had  

seen  a  woman  from  Kitega  with  two  babies  
there.
That  woman  was  Faridah,  who  is  Hami-­‐‑
dahMusitwa’s  sister.  She  lived  at  Aru  junc-­‐‑
tion,  just  before  Juba  town.  It  is  not  clear  
how  it  happened  but  on  September  30,  
2013,  the  sisters  were  arrested.
“I  used  to  work  in  the  market  in  Juba  
Š—ȱ ȱ ˜ž•ȱ•ŽŠŸŽȱ‘’ꛊ‘ Š ŽŽœ’ȱǻ‹Š‹¢Ȃœȱ
name)  with  Faridah,  “  Musitwa  recalls,  
“On  September  30,  the  chairman  of  Bagan-­‐‑
da  in  Juba  came  and  asked  my  sister  why  
she  had  two  children.  We  were  arrested  
and  brought  to  Uganda.”
That  is  when  Musitwa  got  to  know  that  
she  was  being  accused  of  stealing  Musumi-­‐‑
ka’s  baby.
The  baby  was  six  months  old  at  the  time  
and  it  is  not  clear  why  Musumika,  whose  
baby  should  have  been  about  four  months  
old  then,  insisted  this  was  her  baby.  
Musitwa,  her  sister,  and  their  two  
babies;  Faridah’s  was  just  two  weeks  
Šȱ‘Žȱ’–Žǰȱ Ž›ŽȱꛜȱŽŠ’—ŽȱŠȱ ž‹Šȱ
Police  Station  for  four  days,  then  to  Kira  
Police  Station,  before  being  transferred  to   
žŠ£’ȱŽ—›Š•ȱ˜•’ŒŽȱŠ’˜—ǰȱŠ—ȱꗊ••¢ȱ
to  Luzira  Maximum  Security  Prison  in  
Kampala.
Musitwa  says  she  sympathises  with  
Musumika  because  she  understands  
the  pain  of  a  mother  whose  baby  is  sto-­‐‑
len.  However  she  says  she  suspects  it  is  
her  family  that  is  trying  to  target  her  by  
spreading  rumours  that  she  and  her  sister  
steal  babies  and  sell  them  in  Juba.    
Musitwa,  who  is  out  of  jail  on  police  
bond  and  is  back  home,  says  her  ordeal  
begun  in  2010,  when  she  lost  her  father.  
“My  family  wanted  to  chase  my  mother  
and  her  six  children  from  this  land.  But  
because  mother  refused  to  leave,  they  have  
been  threatening  us.
“The  LC  even  told  my  mother  that  we  
have  to  leave  or  else  we  will  be  burnt,  rela-­‐‑
tives  came  here  with  stones,  you  can  see  
that  some  windows  are  broken.  That  is  
why  we  the  four  big  girls  have  decided  to  
leave  home.  That  is  why  I  left  for  Juba  with  
Faridah.”  
Her  accuser,  Musumika  appears  to  back  
Musitwa’s  claims.  She  says  people  from  
Musitwa’s  village  have  been  feeding  her  
information  regarding  the  case.  Some  have  
also  threatened  her.

Unbelievable story

But  Musitwa  appears  to  have  got  into  
trouble  because,  according  to  Ayebare;  
the  Lugazi  police  boss,  her  story  did  not  
add  up.  For  example,  she  does  not  have  a  
record  in  any  hospital  where  she  delivered.  
ȃ ȱŽ•’ŸŽ›Žȱ‘’ꛊ‘ȱ Š ŽŽœ’ȱ˜—ȱ ˜˜ȱ
Friday  (March  29th  2013)  at  home  with  
the  support  of  my  two  sisters  –Faridah  
and  my  follower,”  Musitwaexaplains,  “I  
Jan 31 -‐ Feb 06, 2014

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FEATURE
did  not  go  to  a  health  facility  because  it  
was  a  public  holiday.”
But  Musitwa  does  not  have  any  docu-­‐‑
ments  or  photographs  of  the  baby.  She  
says  she  handed  these  documents  to  the  
police  in  Juba.  
She  also  claims  she  hid  her  pregnancy  
from  her  mother  and  never  sought  medi-­‐‑
ŒŠ•ȱŠĴŽ—’˜—ȱ˜›ȱŠ—Ž—ŠŠ•ȱŒŠ›Žȱž›’—ȱ‘Ž›ȱ
pregnancy.
“I  feared  mother  because  this  was  the  
second  time  I  was  pregnant  in  senior  four.  
She  had  already  threatened  and  warned  
–ŽȱŠŽ›ȱ‘Žȱ‹’›‘ȱ˜ȱ–¢ȱꛜȱ‹˜›—ȱ’—ȱŘŖŗŗȱ
when  I  was  also  in  senior  four.”
She  says  both  the  girls’  father  is  one  
Ahmed  IddKaweesi  whom  police  and  The  
Independent  have  contacted  to  no  avail.  The  
police  say  all  this  makes  her  story  unbe-­‐‑
lievable.
Things  got  complicated  when,  according  
to  the  chief  investigator  of  the  case,  Henry  
Ayebare,  who  heads  Buikwe  District  Crim-­‐‑
inal  Investigations  Department,  Musitwa  
was  examined  and  the  doctor’s  report  
showed  that  she  had  not  been  pregnant  in  
the  past  one  year.  She,  therefore,  could  not  
have  delivered  any  baby  in  2013.    
It  is  not  clear  what  tests  were  done  and  
Dr.  Joshua  Kiberu,  the  medical  superinten-­‐‑
dent  of  Kawolo  Hospital  in  Buikwe  District  
where  the  examination  was  done,  declined  
to  give  details  of  the  examination  citing  
Œ•’Ž—ȱŒ˜—ꍮ—’Š•’¢ǯ
But  the  police  boss  says  he  and  his  team  
opted  for  a  DNA  test  because  the  medical  
report  was  not  conclusive.  
In  November  2013,  the  Lugazi  police  
took  the  baby  and  the  two  women  to  MBN  
clinical  Laboratories,  Nakasero,  in  Kampa-­‐‑
la  for  a  maternity  test.  That  is  where  they  
met  Namubiru.

“Due  to  public  interest,  we  cross  
checked  the  information,”  she  says,  “We  
proved  that  the  person  police  arrested  is  
the  mother.”
“I’m  sure  she  will  get  the  same  results  
from  government.  There  are  two  DNA  
testing  machines  (genetical  analysers)  in  
the  country,  in  MBN  and  Government  
Analytical  Laboratory.  “These  machines  
are  expensive  and  accredited  internation-­‐‑
ally  that  is  why  they  are  not  common,”  
Namubiru  said.
She  adds  that  though  results  can  be  tam-­‐‑
™Ž›Žȱ ’‘ǰȱ’ȱ’œȱ’ĜŒž•ȱ˜ȱ˜ȱ’ȱŠȱȱ
because  “it  is  not  a  one-­‐‑man’s  show.”  
MBN  has  been  in  the  DNA  testing  busi-­‐‑
ness  for  about  three  years,  having  piloted  
in  2010  and  launched  operations  on  March  
9,  2012.
Dr.  Fred  Bwanga  who  technically  over-­‐‑
saw  the  DNA  testing  exercise  says  he  has  
a  PhD  holder  in  medical  science,  a  fellow-­‐‑
ship  in  clinical  microbiology,  and  masters  
in  microbiology.  He  says  he  is  a  Medical  
Microbiology  Technical  Advisor  with  
Ž¡™Ž›’Ž—ŒŽȱ’—ȱœŽĴ’—ȱž™ȱ•Š‹˜›Š˜›’ŽœȱœžŒ‘ȱ
as  the  Mycology  Laboratory  at  Makerere  
University,  a  side  laboratory  at  the  Medical  
ward,  Mbarara  University  Teaching  hospi-­‐‑
tal  and  MBN  clinical  laboratories.  
In  2005  to  2006  Bwanga  trained  and  
worked  at  Clinical  Microbiology  Labora-­‐‑
tory,  National  Mycology  Reference  Labo-­‐‑
ratory,  Molecular  Diagnostic  Laboratory  

Results rejected

Maternity  DNA  testing  determines  
whether  a  woman  could  be  the  biological  
mother  of  a  child.  Like  a  DNA  paternity  
Žœǰȱ’ȱŒ˜–™Š›ŽœȱŠȱŒ‘’•Ȃœȱȱ™ŠĴŽ›—ȱ
with  that  of  the  alleged  mother  to  deter-­‐‑
mine  how  likely  it  is  that  the  child  has  
inherited  the  DNA  from  the  alleged  
mother.   
ȱŽ ȱ‘’‘ȱ™›˜ę•ŽȱŒŠœŽœǰȱ’—Œ•ž’—ȱ‘Žȱ
one  involving  the  late  comedian  Paddy  
Bitama,  have  shone  the  spotlight  on  the  
role  of  DNA  tests  in  resolving  paternity  
and  maternity  disputes.
In  this  case,  the  results  showed  that  
the  suspected  baby  thief,  Hamidah,  was  
actually  the  mother  of  the  baby.  But  her  
accuser,  Musumika,  rejected  the  results.
According  to  Namubiru,  every  indi-­‐‑
Ÿ’žŠ•ȱ‘Šœȱ‘Ž’›ȱ˜ —ȱȱ™›˜ę•Žȱ ‘’Œ‘ȱ
does  not  change  unless  someone  tampers  
with  the  results.  
 For  this  case,  she  says,  the  clinic  was  
diligent  and  thorough.
18

Issue 302.indd 18

Robert Wandera, a builder and father of the
stolen baby quit his job. He is claiming paternity
of the baby Musitwa says is hers.

and  Immunology  laboratory  University  
Hospitals  of  Cleveland,  USA.  Previously  
‘Žȱ‘Ž•ȱ™˜œ’’˜—ȱ˜ȱ–Ž’ŒŠ•ȱĜŒŽ›ȱŠ—ȱ
Superintendent  of  Abim  Hospital  in  Koti-­‐‑
do,  Uganda.
Dr  Bwanga  declined  to  comment  on  the  
case  but  Namubiru  said  “Several  checks  
and  balances  are  in  place  to  ensure  only  
the  accurate  results  are  released.”
“The  DNA  testing  machine  is  not  like  
the  one  for  malaria  where  you  can  get  
varying  results,”Namubiru  said,  “This  is  
Šȱ–ŠĴŽ›ȱ˜ȱ•’Žȱ˜›ȱŽŠ‘ȱœ˜ȱ ŽȱŒŠ——˜ȱ“˜”Žȱ
around  with  such  results.”
“Secondly,  DNA  is  a  risky  business  
 ‘’Œ‘ȱ ŽȱŽ™Ž—ȱ˜—ȱœ˜ȱ ŽȱŒŠ——˜ȱŠě˜›ȱ
to  be  careless  or  negligent,”  Namubiru  
says.
Namubiru  says  it  is  not  unusual  for  
DNA  tests  results  to  be  rejected.
ȃ‘’œȱ’œȱ‘Žȱꛜȱ›Ž“ŽŒȱ‘Šȱ‘Šœȱ•ŽŠ”Žȱ˜ȱ
the  press,”  she  says,  “Most  people  apolo-­‐‑
gise  for  rejecting  the  results  because  they  
come  to  realise  the  truth  after  calming  
down.”
Namubiru  says  people  reject  results  
because  of  the  perception  that  everybody  
is  corrupt  and  are  always  bribed.  
“People  think  that  no  Ugandan  is  faith-­‐‑
ful  so  they  come  here  with  a  biased  mind.    
Naturally  they  reject  the  results  because  
they  do  not  favour  them,”  she  says.
She  adds  that  some  people  who  are  des-­‐‑
perate,  like  Musumika,  also  reject  results.  
Other  reasons  cited  include  fear,  unwill-­‐‑
ingness  to  accept  the  truth,  and  guilt.  
Namubiru  said  Musumika  might  be  
œžěŽ›’—ȱ›˜–ȱ‘Žȱž’•ȱ˜ȱŠ››Žœ’—ȱŠ—ȱ
imprisoning  a  mother  for  two  months  over  
her  own  child,  something  that  is  also  very  
frustrating.
The  loss  of  her  child  and  delay  in  releas-­‐‑
ing  the  DNA  results  have  also  strained  
Musumika  and  threatened  her  marriage.
“Mary  (Musumika)  has  become  a  with-­‐‑
drawn  woman,  always  lost  in  thought  yet  
her  next  door  neighbor  also  has  a  baby  
almost  the  age  of  her  lost  baby,”  says   
•’ȱ Š—ŠǰȱŠȱœŽŒž›’¢ȱ˜ĜŒŽ›ȱ ‘˜ȱ’œȱ‘Ž›ȱ
neighbour.
“My  life  has  changed  since  my  baby  was  
stolen.  My  husband  is  always  demand-­‐‑
ing  for  the  baby  and  even  quit  working  
because  he  feels  it’s  useless  to  work.  My  
–˜‘Ž›ȱŽŸŽ—ȱ˜˜”ȱŠ Š¢ȱ–¢ȱꛜȱ‹˜›—ǰȱ
Trevor  Kamya  saying  he  will  also  be  sto-­‐‑
•Ž—ǯȱ ȱ‘ŠŸŽȱ‹ŽŽ—ȱ•Žȱ˜ȱœžěŽ›ȱŠ•˜—Žȱœ’—ŒŽȱ
August  2013.”
Meanwhile,  although  the  case  is  sched-­‐‑
uled  to  be  heard  on  Feb.14,  it  is  unlikely  
that  the  DNA  results  will  be  out.  The  gov-­‐‑
ernment  laboratory  has  since  October  1,  
2013,  suspended  DNA  testing  due  to  lack  
of  reagents  to  use.    “I  will  hold  prayers  and  
Šȱ™Š›¢ȱ‘ŽȱŠ¢ȱ ȱŽȱ–¢ȱ‹Š‹¢ȱŠę—’ȱ‹ŠŒ”ǰȄȱ
she  says  hopefully.  

Jan 31 -‐ Feb 06, 2014

1/28/14 5:31 PM