Hotel bosses face charge for Bush daughter poisoning

Saturday February 9 2013

By ALEX NGARAMBE The EastAfrican

The managers of a Rwandan hotel where the daughter of former US president George W. Bush, Barbara Bush, suffered food poisoning, could be charged in court, police said.

Ms Bush, the chief executive officer and founder of Global Health Corps, was leading the annual media retreat of the organisation’s members in East Africa three weeks ago at hotel in Kibuye Town, Western Province where more than 20 people suffered food poisoning.

According to article 154 of the national penal code, any institution or individual who servers food or drinks that causes food poisoning is liable to an offence, a senior Rwanda National Police officer said.

Conviction carries a maximum sentence of two to five years in prison or a fine of between Rwf100,000 and Rwf 500,000 or both.

“We have opened a case against the hotel management and any individual who could be directly linked to the act may be charged,” said Superintendent Urbain Mwiseneza, the Western provincial police spokesperson.

King Faisal Hospital, where the victims were hospitalised, has tested food samples served on the day the alleged offence took place but police are yet to pick the results, he added.

“We are done with tests of the samples but our professional ethics don’t allow us to disclose the results to the public before the appropriate time,” said Dr Alex Butera, the chief executive officer of the Kigali-based hospital. Dr Butera said that, at an appropriate time through appropriate channels, the hospital would release the results to the concerned parties.

“We have been informed that the hospital is done with the laboratory tests, although we have not picked up the results,” said Supt Mwiseneza.

Among the more than 40 guests from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the United States who were staying at the hotel, 18 corps and three staff members were affected. It is however not clear whether Ms Bush ate the same food as the rest of the team.

The Catholic Church-run hotel, which had hosted the retreat for the past four years, reopened one week after its closure by the district authorities.

The event, which was supposed to last five days, was cut short after several guests and staff suffered from abdominal pains, vomiting and diarrhoea.

The affected were taken to Kibuye Hospital but, as their condition worsened and the number of casualties increased, some were evacuated by ambulance to King Faisal where they were admitted for over a week.