Mercy Baguma: Ugandan family want answers from UK

A vigil for Mercy Baguma was held in Glasgow, Scotland, on Sunday
A vigil for Mercy Baguma was held in Glasgow, Scotland, on Sunday

The Ugandan family of Mercy Baguma, who died in the UK where she had been seeking asylum, is angry with the British authorities over the investigation into her death.

In August, her body was found in a flat in Glasgow near her crying child.

But, three weeks on, the family is no closer to finding out what happened, Ms Baguma’s sister told the BBC at her funeral in Uganda.

Her death in Scotland prompted calls for changes to the UK’s asylum system.

Charity Positive Action in Housing (PAIH) , which along with other charities had been helping her, said she was “effectively destitute” as she was unable to get a job because her right to work in the UK had expired.

“I must say that the family is not happy with the way this case of Mercy was handled… because we would expect the UK government by now to have answers for us,” Sarah Nakendo, her eldest sister, told the BBC.

“It is three weeks down the road and we don’t know the cause of death. It’s not reported in the documents that were shared with us.”

Sarah Nakendo says the family wants to know what happened to Mercy Baguma
Sarah Nakendo says the family wants to know what happened to Mercy Baguma

A letter seen by the family from the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit said that the “cause of death was unascertained pending investigation and that there are no circumstances which would render any further examination of the remains”.

“We’ve been quiet [since her death],” Ms Nakendo said, “and now we see justice, we want to know what happened to Mercy.”

The mood at the funeral in Bugiri, eastern Uganda, was sombre with people turning up despite coronavirus restrictions, the BBC’s Patricia Oyella reports.

In August, Eric Nnanna, the father of Ms Baguma’s one-year-old son Adriel, called the police four days after he had last had contact with her.

He was worried as he had heard the sounds of his son crying from inside her locked flat.

Money raised for the child

The police forced open the door and discovered the 34-year-old’s body in the hallway while Adriel was found alive in his cot.

Her death has been described by police as “unexplained but not suspicious”.

The funeral took place near the family home in eastern Uganda
The funeral took place near the family home in eastern Uganda

It is thought that Adriel had been alone for at least three days without any food, PAIH said.

The charity helped raise money for the repatriation of Ms Baguma’s body and the funeral costs.

PAIH said the remaining funds, totalling about £75,000 ($97,000), would be placed in a trust for Adriel.

Ms Nakendo thanked people for raising the money.

PAIH has called for a public inquiry into her death and those of other asylum seekers in Glasgow, as well as into asylum seeker accommodation in the Scottish city.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said “wholesale reform” of the asylum system was needed, starting from “the principle of dignity, of empathy and of support for our fellow human beings”.

The UK’s Home Office said it would investigate Ms Baguma’s case and Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament that he would also look into her case.

She is believed to have arrived in the UK as a student some 15 or so years ago, the Guardian newspaper reports.

Mr Nnanna, who is originally from Nigeria, met the “charming and lovely” Ms Baguma in 2017, he told the Glasgow Times.