Hooded men riding on two motor bikes on June 1 cut off a military Land cruiser carrying the Minister of Works, General Edward Katumba Wamala from his home in Bulabira near Kyanja in Nakawa Division as he headed to Najjanankumbi to attend the funeral of his mother in law.
The audacious thugs showered the military vehicle with a hail of bullets, killing Brenda Nantongo, the daughter of Gen. Katumba, as well as Sergeant Hassan Kayondo, the driver.
The senior military officer, who served as the second Chief of Defense Forces, following in the footsteps of the Late Gen. and was the target of the assassins, was lucky he escaped with his life intact.
Police, as usual, kicked off investigations in earnest. The leadership of the Uganda Police, notably deputy inspector general of police, Gen. Paul Lokech, assured the country the force would not leave any stone unturned in their pursuit of the assailants.
The commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Gen. Yoweri Museveni added his voice to that of Lokech , guaranteeing how security was going to track down and finish off the pigs, the president’s characterization of the murderers.
The next update came from the president telling us how the gun the killers in case of Maj. Mohammad Kiggundu used was the same gun the thugs who attempted to kill Gen Katumba had used.
The president would amend his statement by revealing how the attempted shooting of Katumba Wamala had been politically motivated.
But he didn’t qualify his statement by telling us whether the people who are baying for Katumba’s life for reasons that are political in nature, are inside his government or outside it.
With that background, we now attempt to explore how the Police has been bungling the investigations geared at getting to the bottom of Gen Katumba’s shooting.
Scene of crime
We will begin from the beginning. Members of the security forces following the incident, and as would be expected of investigators, went to the scene of the shooting to gather evidence.
The first mistake they made, they trampled over the spot. As if that violation wasn’t bad enough, a number of security officers were seen driving into the scene and parking there.
The above indiscipline, whether committed knowingly or unknowingly, had the negative effect of tampering with the spot, not to mention the actual evidence that hadn’t been picked, or was being picked by the scene of crime officers.
We move to mistake number two: The shooting happened at a spot without survaillance cameras , so we were told by the police. Nevermind that a lot of taxpayer’s money went into the buying of the CCTV cameras.
The president was more helpful than the police regarding this issue. He revealed how police officers monitoring the CCTV cameras apparently witnessed the shooting, but didn’t bother to ‘ kukuba nduulu’ ( raising an alarm) to alert policemen in the vicinity to go and do something.
God is just, neighbors to the scene of the shooting volunteered to surrender their surveillance cameras to investigators to pick images of the shooting.
The next we heard was Police telling the public that bad people had stolen the private cameras which had captured the shooting.
What we don’t know is if Police has since the disappearance of such vital evidence replaced it or are waiting to go to court empty handed.
As the police kept busy investigating the shooting, the president dropped another bombshell. He revealed how the Police had fired Samuel Ezati, it’s ,’one and only’ expert in sketching the scene of crime.
The angry Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces directed the sacking of whoever fired Ezati. We don’t know for sure if the directive was implemented.
The Police spokesperson, Fred Enanga has since contradicted the President. He said the police boasts of a number of experts capable of doing what Ezati was doing.
It is yet to be seen if the experts Enanga talks about actually did what Ezati was supposed to do in the case of Gen. Katumba.
Other than arresting the supposed shooters, security kidnapped suspects instead, going on to keep them in detentions unknown to the relatives and lawyers of the suspects for days and without bringing any charge against them.
They would in the course of carrying out the arrests not identify themselves to anybody, including the area local councils where the alleged killers stay, or work.
And true to what members of the public knowledgeable about these matters had forecasted, all the people police has arrested so far for attempting to kill Gen. Katumba are Moslems.
After the shooting, security circles started pointing fingers at the rebels of Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) or it’s sympathizers.
Before that, analyst Peter Kibazo while moderating a political talk show on Radio Simba, had jokingly advised his muslim friends to take care, warning that it would only be a matter of time before police started picking them as the killers.
As Kibazo predicted, Sheikh Yunus Nyanzi, a Tabliq Cleric, was the first alleged shooter security arrested.
A herbalist, Nyanzi, was at the time of his arrest out on bail on an earlier case of murdering the former Assistant inspector of police, Andrew Kaweesi whose trial has never taken off years later.
” Nyanzi is an innocent man. He is a simple man making bricks and hawking herbal medicine to earn a living,” a local council official where Nyanzi stays, told journalists following his kidnap.
As if on cue, all the suspects Police has arrested subsequent to Nyanzi, have turned out to be muslims.
Nothing is new. ADF has been mentioned as the assassin on almost all occasions an assassination has occurred, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, The Kira Municipality Member of Parliament says:
Imam Iddi Kasozi concurs. “They (police) use the ADF as a scarecrow. They mention ADF aiming to incriminate the Islamic faith and it’s followers as the ones carrying out assassinations”, Kasozi argues.
The Moslem teacher made the remarks while appearing on the latest Pearl FM’s weekly Omunaala ( The Tower) program.
Kasozi is the Imam of Mawanga mosque in Munyonnyo, an enclave of especially the rich, that is located in Makindye Division.
Ssemujju, a Muslim himself, says although police have been arresting Muslims, alleging they are rebels of ADF who carry out assassinations, they have never won a case against majority of the suspects.
He mentions the murder of Muslim Sheikhs, lawyer Joan Kagezi, Assistant Inspector General of Police, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, Maj. Mohammad Kiggundu , as the previous cases where government failed or are struggling to find evidence pinning the suspects.
The domino effect of pinning assassinations on ADF has been the failure by the security agencies to carry out thorough investigations into tens of assassinations that have been occurring year after year.
The investigators probably know very well that whenever an assassination happens, they would point to the usual scapegoat (ADF). After all, the authorities who seem wired to believe such talk without question, would end up swallowing it anyway
Because investigators paid to do a good job are lazy, government continues to lose hope high profile criminal cases. Crafty investigators on the other hand, continue to find scapegoats in judges, calling them non patriotic Ugandans who side with criminals, for justifiably striking out framed up, or poorly investigated cases.
The above brings us to the mistake of trying cases in the media.
Gen. Edward Kale Kayihura was a showbiz who loved doing police work in the media.
Sadly, the current police leadership, more so, Gen. Lokech seems not to have learned or forgotten anything from the manner Kale carried out police work, at least going by the way he is conducting investigations into the shooting of Gen. Katumba.
Kale would move with a battalion of journalists picking up people he called hard core criminals. He would go on and lock them up for days before parading them before journalists complete with intimidating weapons as well as fresh wounds.
Other than waiting to present his evidence to Courts of Law , Kale would turn himself into the accuser as well as the prosecutor, telling journalists how the so-called criminals had killed, were killing and about to kill influential people, among such nasty stories.
Having presented his case as the prosecutor and having sat in his own judgment already, the lawyer in Kale holding a Masters degree in human rights studies, would give an opportunity to the obviously coerced suspects to go ahead and confess since they had purportedly confessed before anyway.
Cornered, and as would be expected under such circumstances, the suspects would own up as charged only to successfully disown such confessions later while in the safety of judicial officers.
“Suspects wishing to make confessions are supposed to do so before judicial officers not inside detentions or at press conferences arranged by the police”, veteran journalist Tamale contends.
The biggest in this unending sequel of criminal blunders is the way the investigator have found it easy to kill a key suspect, and without them facing repercussions.
“Am a good hearted man. I don’t want to harm anyone. All Am waiting to know is the person or people who sent the assassins to kill me and for what reason,” Gen. Wamala demanded in the days following his shooting.
Judging from the above statement, what Katumba is praying for is due process. It is such process, Katumba feels, which will help him not only to receive justice for the death of his daughter and for the injuries he suffered, but also to understand the people who wish him death and for what reason.
But before Katumba can know what he and indeed the general public wants to know, the police has started gunning down the suspects, starting with what Gen. Lokech calls the key architects of the shooting.
True, a suspect can turn out to be violent or try to escape, as Lokech has inferred while justifying the killing of the suspects in the shooting of Katumba.
Even so, police can overcome such unruly suspects by shooting them in the leg or by applying reasonable force in order to overcome them.
“Killing of suspects who have been subdued by the police, is highly scandalous. It is even dubious,” former Minister, Erios Nantaba contends.
Nantaba recalls the time police killed the man who had been arrested for plotting to kill her. She reveals how the police has never offered her and the country at large a satisfactory reason why they choose to kill a man who was putting her hands up while kneeling.
According to Nantaba, the arresting officers had put the suspect on the patrol vehicle ready to take him for interrogation, but the police patrol crew received orders to offload the suspect and summarily shoot him dead.
“What is the motive of killing suspects arrested by the police especially in the cases involving the shooting and murdering of key personalities?, Nantaba demanded to know following the shooting of Katumba.
Aside from killing the would-be vital evidence, killing of suspects isn’t a proper thing to do. This is why the 1995 Uganda Constitution disallows any killing except when it is done in the execution of a sentence the courts of law has duly sanctioned.
May be, Gen. Lokech is an innocent man in all this. And so was Gen. Kayihura. May be, the blame we are laying on their feet belongs elsewhere.
Read this. Following the shooting of Gen Katumba, one of the big people in this country asked the judiciary to stop releasing on bail suspects charged with heinous offenses.
Curiously, this big man went a head and revealed how security was going to start shooting dead capital offenders if the judiciary continued releasing them on bail.
“I will talk to his Lordship The Chief Justice about this issue,” the big man promised days after the incident.
The big man was addressing a gathering where the Chief Justice Alphonse Owinyi Dollo himself happened to be a congregate.
This wasn’t the first time this big man was threatening to kill suspects. He had made such threats on many occasions previously.
But some of the people of the judiciary have continued to play by the dictates of the Uganda Constitution, going ahead to release the capital offenders anyway.
Now that police is killing suspects accused of attacking Gen. Katumba Wamala, and remembering also that the judges are or were likely to grant bail to the suspects, should we take it that Lokech is merely implementing the wishes of this big man?