In July 2007, informed the country that TEN Ugandans had been arrested in China, charged with drug trafficking and would soon face public execution.
Kinobe, who had just returned from China, told the media the detained were nine men and one woman, aged between 18 and 23, ‘were found with over 1.5kg of heroin each’ and that, automatically condemned them to death sentence.
Under the Chinese law, possession of five kilos of cannabis resin, one kilo of heroin or 50 grams of cocaine, attracts a death sentence. The minister then informed the public how the Ugandan government was doing everything possible, through diplomatic engagement with the Chinese government, to save the lives of the young Ugandans.
He then revealed how the anti-drug authorities in China had subjected the apprehended Ugandan to ‘therapeutic blood tests after which they were given a liquid which when drank, forces drug pellets concealed in the stomach by swallowing, is forced out of the body’.
He then sounded a serious warning to the intending risk takers, ‘if you are caught in China you will be killed because China’s Drug Control Bureau has no mercy for drug traffickers’ especially if you are caught towards Anti-Drugs Day in China that is marked every year.
Kinobe knew about the arrests because the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) of which hundreds of countries are party to, obligates that an individual detained abroad has the right to consular notification. That is how we get to know whenever a Ugandan citizen is arrested or jailed abroad.
The only problem is that in most cases, the persons arrested in acts of a criminal nature or in acts that they may not want known by people they left behind, usually behind information black-out. Interpol reports that often times, families are in the know but they try hard to keep the detentions a secret for the sake of the privacy of their relatives and friends in trouble.
As we mourn the execution of Ham Andrew Ngobi in China, we would like to appeal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that Ugandans travelling abroad are educated about what to do and what not to do while abroad. Likewise, Airlines and their agents should be obligated to inform their passengers not to carry on themselves or in their luggage any type of contraband because that puts the passenger and the airline in trouble.
Ngobi’s widow Mariam Nabanja and other members of his family have no doubt Ngobi was innocent. We also believe he was. It is unfortunate he could not be saved. All we can do is to ensure that no Ugandan ever dies in similar circumstances.