As pressure mounts on police chief Kale Kayihura, internal affairs minister says murder suspect Aaron Baguma will be produced in court writes, EDWARD SSEKIKA.
President Museveni’s cabinet has expressed regret at last week’s events when protesters opposed to the prosecution of Gen Kale Kayihura disrupted business at the Makindye Chief Magistrate’s court.
Addressing journalists at the Uganda Media Centre yesterday, the minister of Internal Affairs, Gen Jeje Odongo, who oversees police, described the pro-Kayihura demonstration as a regrettable interference with the judiciary. Odongo added that the government would ensure that those responsible are brought to book.
“We regret the unfortunate incident at Makindye Chief Magistrate’s court and condemn the gatherings as an interference with the constitutional duty of the courts and judicial officers, and an unlawful limitation on the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms of others under article 43 of the constitution,” Odongo said.
On August 10, hundreds of demonstrators stormed the said court, protesting against the scheduled appearance of the police chief that day. Kayihura was dragged to the court for private prosecution by a group of activist lawyers, accusing him and seven other officers of torturing members of the public.
The demonstrators vandalized a car belonging to one of the lawyers, Abdullah Kiwanuka, while other lawyers and the Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago had to be evacuated from the scene to escape the irate pro-Kayihura mob.
The demonstration, which has since been condemned by several stakeholders, including the Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe, and the Uganda Law Society, capped a bad couple of weeks for the police and its chief, having earlier come under fire after officers were captured on video flogging innocent by-standers cheering opposition leader Kizza Besigye who was passing by on July 13-14.
While Kayihura initially backed his officers, saying they had done a good job, he was forced to backtrack as pressure mounted from several quarters, including government ministers. The officers concerned were subsequently removed from their stations and arraigned before an internal police disciplinary court.
However, some lawyers wanted these officers tried in an ordinary court and for Kayihura to be charged too, and they opted for private prosecution to see to that. Then there was another incident in which a police vehicle trailing Besigye appeared to deliberately knock down a person standing by the roadside. This time the police promised to investigate the matter although the outcome is yet to be revealed.
Addressing journalists yesterday, Odongo condemned the act of beating up Besigye’s supporters and by-standers on July 13 and 14, the genesis of the court process. He said police officers involved in the act would be punished accordingly.
“Government takes note of similar incidents in the past and will take measures to ensure that these are not repeated and no person or group of people shall be allowed to interfere with the court’s duty to dispense justice,” he said.
Odongo, however, added that the office of the Inspector General of Police and Gen Kale Kayihura as a person should not be fused. It’s wrong to isolate and target Kahiyura as an individual, he said, adding that this applies to court where the institution and not the person should be arraigned.
This unprecedented step by Odongo and the government he serves underlines the growing disapproval of Kayihura’s methods at the cabinet level and willingness by ministers to speak out against them.
As Kayihura was busy patting his officers on the back following the flogging incident last month, Obiga Kania, the minister of state for Internal Affairs, came out to say that bad police commanders were tainting the public image of the force. He demanded that the police leadership apologize to the public.
NRM Secretary General Justine Lumumba weighed in while addressing an audience in Luwero by calling on the police to repent. Meanwhile, the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Kahinda Otafiire, has consistently stated that Kayihura should go to court as no one is above the law.
With the two ministers to whom he reports condemning his methods and the minister responsible for courts telling him off, Kayihura suddenly appears isolated. There have been reports that one of Kayihura’s fiercest critics in cabinet is Henry Tumukunde, the minister for Security.
Tumukunde, who was controversially shot, reportedly by the police, during an NRM youth election incident in Kabarole district last year, is said to harbor longstanding antipathy toward Kayihura.
The police chief’s main backer has always been President Museveni, who also condemned the police brutality. But while Museveni qualified this by blaming Besigye, the fact that ministers can openly challenge Kayihura’s methods means they have realized it won’t cost them politically.
The extent of ministers’ opposition to Kayihura was evident in Finance minister Matia Kasaija’s remarks in a parliamentary committee last week from which he was quoted as saying that the economy has performed badly partly because investors are holding back, with some pointing out that Ugandans are being flogged like animals.
DDP to the rescue?
Kayihura now desperately needs the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to save him from the case hanging around his neck. As anticipated, yesterday the DPP took over the case, and legal analysts believe that might well mark its end as a viable prosecution.
Surrendering one of his key lieutenants, Aaron Baguma, to face murder charges, as minister Odongo said he must, also shows that even the powerful IGP has limitations. The police have since last year shielded the officer from prosecution despite the DPP making it clear he was wanted. Now Kayihura might have to give in to the DPP’s orders in return for safety from private prosecution.
Odongo told reporters that the police will surrender the indicted former commander of central police station (CPS) Kampala, ASP Baguma, to be charged with murder. Baguma is accused of playing a role in the death of Donah Katusabe, a businesswoman, on October 21, 2015. His co-accused is Muhammad Ssebuwufu, the owner of a car bond in Nakasero, where Katusabe was allegedly tortured over a debt, leading to her death.
Last week, Jamson Karemani, Buganda Road chief magistrate, ordered police to bring Baguma in court on August 18 in connection with the killing. Gen Odongo said the government doesn’t condone acts of lawlessness.
“I can state categorically that he (Baguma) will appear in court and [be] charged accordingly,” Odongo said.
It is alleged that Katusabe was arrested by the police for defaulting on the payment of a loan balance of Shs 9m for a car she had purchased from Ssebuwufu. She was reportedly taken to the Pine car bond and handed over to Ssebuwufu.
She later died from wounds allegedly sustained in torture at the car bond. According to the DPP, there is evidence that Baguma went to the car bond with other police officers and, instead of saving Katusabe, ordered her to pay her creditor.