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Col. Muzoora’s death shakes security

By patrick matsiko wa mucoori

Arrests linked to how he entered from Tanzania and reached Bushenyi on May 5 afternoon

The late Col. Edison Muzoora is set to shake the country in death more than he did in life. In 2003 when information came out that Muzoora had deserted the army and was waging a rebellion against the Uganda government, there was no as much storm as one that has been gathering since unknown people dropped his body at his home in Nyanga, Kyeigombe in Bushenyi district on the night of May 28. Immediately mystery and fear spread across his village and the country.

About three weeks after his burial, half a dozen people have been arrested in what seems to be a precursor to many more arrests in and outside Bushenyi.  Already six suspects have been charged. Didas Atungabantu alias Colonel Iddi Kibwama Bendera, Boniface Mumbere Kinyambila,  alias Ivan Musinguzi were charged with treason in Buganda Road Chief Magistrate’s Court on June 28.

Dr Aggrey Byamukama alias Happiness Akasigazi, Abel Kazoora Kacwano, Simon Matte Mwesige and Muhwezi alias Esau Tugumisirize Rwafafa were charged with concealment of treason.

Surprisingly Bushenyi FDC chairman William Mukaira whom security claimed sheltered renegade Col. Muzoora who allegedly died at his home in Bushenyi was not included on the charge sheet. Surprising also was the exclusion of the murder charge against the suspects. Several security officials and the Inspector General of Police Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura had initially suggested there was strong evidence that Muzoora was killed and that they would bring his killers to book.  In fact Kayihura told a conference of regional CID chiefs in Kampala last month that Muzoora was murdered.

“It [Muzoora’s death] was deliberate and as we viewed the body, he did not die a natural death,” Kayihura said, contrary to the widow’s firm stand that her husband died of natural causes “at the hands of people who loved him.”

The exclusion of the murder charge from the indictment tends to confirm that Muzoora was not killed. This leaves the widow’s statement on Muzoora’s death uncontroverted. The widow’s version is reinforced by Internal Affairs Minister Hillary Onek’s statement at a press conference on June 21. “The deceased allegedly fell ill under yet-to-be established circumstances and three different doctors were called in to treat him…” Onek told the press.

It’s now clear that although the security fronted the allegation of murder initially, the real issue was treason. Murder was fronted for other reasons other than for prosecution purposes.

Why has Muzoora disturbed the state far more in death than he did when he was alive?

The security establishment say Muzoora sneaked into Uganda from the `south’ and stayed inside the country until he died and that his body was transported by people involved in subversion against the state. The security suspect this was part of a subversive plan to reorganise the People’s Redemption Army (PRA) to re-launch a rebellion in western Uganda with bases in the Rwenzori mountains. Therefore, the arrests of the opposition FDC Bushenyi Chairman William Mukaira and others over Muzoora’s death have more to do with fear of a new PRA insurgency than anything else.

What has remained thorny to the state and the country is where Muzoora died from, how he entered the country and who sneaked his body home.

Muzoora entry

A military intelligence source has told The Independent that Col. Muzoora crossed in Uganda from Tanzania. The source said he entered through the Kalisizoborder line on the morning of May 5. The Independent was unable to independently confirm this but the assertion was reinforced by the Minister of Internal Affairs Hilary Onek at a press conference in Kampala on June 22. “The investigation has, so far, established that the late Col. Muzoora entered the country from a neighbouring country on the 5th of May 2011. He travelled up to Bushenyi District….” Onek said. He declined to name the “neighbouring country” citing diplomatic reasons.

When The Independent called the Tanzanian High Commissioner in Kampala, Godlove Nsavike Ndatta, to comment on the statement that Muzoora entered Uganda through Tanzania and whether the government had contacted him over the matter, the ambassador became more furious than disturbed. He charged that he did not know anything, even when he was asked whether he had been contacted by the Uganda government about the matter.

“Ask the Ugandan security. Do you doubt them? They know what they are doing. Don’t come to me, I am a diplomat,” he said in a tone that did not invite more questions.

However, a military intelligence source told The Independent that Muzoora entered Tanzania sometime in April this year and was received by Yeseri Ruhinda, a Ugandan lawyer living in Bukoba, northern Tanzania. Ruhinda was born in Bushenyi but has been living in Tanzania for many years. According to the military intelligence source, Muzoora stayed at Ruhinda’s home until he left Tanzania in early May. On May 1 Ruhinda attended the baptism party for Muzoora’s last born which was held at the family home in Nyanga, Kyeigombe. One of the child’s Godfathers was a UPDF officer, Maj. Tushabe, from Nyabushozi in Kiruhura, President Museveni’s home district. The source said the child, now aged about 11, was baptised Zaire Bemba. Bemba, now facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in The Hague, was a rebel leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, one of DR Congo’s rebel groups during the civil from 1998 to 2003 and controlled a large part of DRC’s north eastern Equatoria region with support from Uganda.

During that time, Muzoora was the UPDF Sector Commander in the Equatoria region during Uganda’s military campaign in DRC, former Zaire. Muzoora and Bemba are said to have become very close friends during the time. Bemba later became one of the first four DRC vice presidents from 2003 to 2006 following a peace agreement that ended the war. So the naming of the child after Bemba was apparently in recognition of the historical friendship between Muzoora and Bemba.

The security source told The Independent that Vasta Muzoora had been in constant communication with her husband. The source says Muzoora sent Ruhinda to attend his son’s baptism party and that Vasta talked to Ruhinda before he left Tanzania. Vasta Muzoora had told The Independent on June 1 that her husband last talked to her on May 2 to congratulate them on his son’s baptism. Although she said Muzoora did not disclose where he was, the fact that he knew about the baptism programme and date implies the two were in touch regularly.

Muzoora and Mukaira

The intelligence source said that upon crossing the Kalisizo border into Uganda, Muzoora bought a SIM card and the first two calls he made were to Mukaira. By about 4:00pm Muzoora had reached Bushenyi and made another call to Mukaira from near the district headquarters. Call printouts obtained by security reportedly show that Muzoora’s phone was picking the signal from the mast of Bushenyi district headquarters. He reportedly went to Mukaira’s home, about 2kms from the district headquarters, where he stayed and held several meetings with people at various times. The source said that the widow knew about Muzoora’s coming and that she visited him at Mukaira’s home.

This version is reinforced by Internal Affairs Minister Hillary Onek’s statement at a press conference on June 21. “While at the home of Mr Mukaira the deceased was visited by, among others, his wife and other select individuals, who were invited by Mr Mukaira,” Onek said.

Onek’s version tends to tallies with the widow’s assertion that her husband died in the hands of people “who loved him” because his body was intact and had been properly treated.

This version is reinforced by a claim from other security sources which says Muzoora fell sick while at Mukaira’s home but due to fear of exposure, the deceased could not be taken to a hospital for medication. So his hosts preferred to allegedly treat Muzoora secretly from the house but he eventually died. After death, the security sources say Dr Aggrey Byamaka, who had been part of the medical staff treating Muzoora, was invited to treat the body. That the dilemma now was how to dispose of the body. It is said it was first suggested that Muzoora be buried in a secret grave, but this proposal was opposed by one of Muzoora’s family members. Then they started planning how to drop the body at his home for a decent burial without exposing anyone to risk of arrest by the state. This is how later the body was dropped at Muzoora’s house on the night of May 28 by unknown people who hooted about five times before driving away from the home. While still hatching the plan to go to Muzoora’s home, the intelligence source said, his body was kept in a store where a mouse appears to have gnawed at his toe and upper lip.

This part of the claim is given credence by the widow’s statement  toThe Independent on June 1 that Muzoora’s body bore a small wound on the toe and the upper lip.

The intelligence source says that Dr Byamaka provided Formalin, a chemical for embalming bodies to stop decomposition, but that the actual treatment of the body was done by Kacwano, a retired UPDF soldier and Muzoora’s former ADC. When challenged about Kacwano’s ability to treat bodies yet he is not a medic, the intelligence source insisted he could. He said Kacwano learnt how to treat dead bodies when he was serving in northern Uganda during the anti-LRA insurgency operations in the 1990s. He used to treat bodies of soldiers who were killed at the frontline.

Panic in Muzoora’s village

Local sources in Kyeigombe, Bushenyi, told The Independent on June 27 that about a day after the arrest of Mukaira and group, security personnel besieged Muzoora’s home for about two days until the widow, who had locked herself in the house, succumbed and opened. She was taken away for about three days and later released. Following the siege on Muzoora’s home and the widow’s arrest, many neighbours fled their homes fearing they would also be taken to explain what they knew about the Muzoora matter. By June 28, many were still in hiding. The security operatives have since left Muzoora’s home but the scare still hangs over Nyanga village.

“Everybody here is scared. People cannot talk about it (Muzoora’s death) openly. You may be asked to explain more…” said a resident who was able to talk to The Independent because she was alone weeding in her banana plantation.

As the fear of more arrests spreads, it appears that like the death of Antigone, the main character in the Greek tragedy by that name, Col. Muzoora will shake Bushenyi and the country more in death than he did in life.

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