By Bob Roberts Katende
After the death of the Omukama of Toro kingdom, Patrick Olimi Kaboyo, in 1993, disagreements rocked the monarchy over the management of the kingdom’s property.
The ensuing battle pitted the kingdom’s Prime Minister John Katuramu against the royals, especially prince Happy Kijanangoma and princess Elizabeth Bagaya.
The royals petitioned court seeking revocation of Katuramu’s powers to manage the kingdom properties. They alleged that the premier was having an inappropriate affair with the Queen Mother, Best Kemigisa. During the same period Kijanangoma was mobilising the royal clan to move a vote of no confidence against Katuramu. His position in the kingdom lay in balance.
It was alleged that in order to preempt the move to have him removed from office, Katuramu hired assailants who killed Happy Kijanangoma on March 25, 1999.
But before travelling to Fort Portal to attend the court case against Katuramu on March 25, 1999, Kijanangoma had asked Karamagi to inform a friend, Mboijana, that he had heard information that Katuramu had hired gunmen for Shs6 million to kill him. On that evening of March 25 while enjoying drinks with a friend, Ferri Babara, at Palace View Bar in Fort Portal, an unknown person entered and whispered to Alex Twinomugisha (A1) and the two went out. Shortly after, they returned and Twinomugisha shot Kijanangoma and the bar’s night watchman Stephen Kaganda. Both died on the spot. Babara was injured.
Twinomugisha was arrested in Kireka in Kampala by Capt. Kayanja on July 23, 1999. He was taken to the Directorate of Military Intelligence (now CMI) and to Kampala Central Police Station.
Patrick Kwezi (A2) who had acted as the contact person between Katuramu and Twinomugisha was arrested in Kasese. John Katuramu (A3) masterminded and funded the murder plot.
In their defence in the High Court, €œA1 denied involvement in the murder of the deceased persons and said that at the time, he was in Nairobi. A2 denied having participated in the murder of the two deceased people and A3 denied having procured people to kill Kijanangoma. He stated that killing was not part of his business and that those who testified against him did so because of the grudges against him.’
However, their defence was not sufficient to save them and the trial judge sentenced the three to death on September 12, 2001.
They appealed individually in Court of Appeal but lost in 2002. They appealed in the Supreme Court but lost on May 21, 2003.
The Court of Appeal listed five links of circumstantial evidence upon which they concluded Katuramu participated in the murder.
The first link was in the evidence of Ernest Nkoba, who was then manager of Voice of Toro (VOT) radio owned by Katuramu. When Kwezi arrived in Fort Portal a few days before the murder, he reported to Nkoba and asked to be allowed to speak to Katuramu on the office telephone. After he had spoken to him, Kwezi handed back the telephone receiver. Katuramu instructed Nkoba by telephone to provide a vehicle, fuel and money to Kwezi as he wanted him to do some work for him. Kwezi used the vehicle for some days. When Kijanangoma was killed on 25th March 1999, that vehicle was found abandoned outside the VOT office. Kwezi was nowhere in Fort Portal.
The second link was that on the morning, following the murder, Katuramu, who was in Fort Portal, called Nkoba to his house at 7.30 a.m and ordered him to get Shs300,000 from VOT and give it to his visitors whom he would find at the station. Katuramu also directed his official driver, Milton Mwesige, to take his visitors to his farm in Rwenkuba.
€œFrom the confession of A1 [Twinomugisha], the evidence of Mwesige and Nkoba, we now know A3’s visitors were Silver Muhenda and Bob Smart, the original conspirators in the murder of the deceased prince. From the confession of A1, he and Fred were then hiding at Rwenkuba farm after committing the murders, the previous night,’ the Supreme Court ruled.
The third link was the involvement of a Toyota Corolla, No 725 UBC, the property of VOT, which Mwesige used to take Katuramu’s visitors to Rwenkuba farm on 26th March 1999 after the murder.
Another link which court cited involved the way car Reg. No 725 UBC disappeared from the Ugandan roads a few weeks after the murder.
€œEdward Luyonga, was a manager of Give and Take Forex Bureau, one of Katuramu’s companies in Kampala. He used to drive M/V Reg. No. 725 UCB before it was transferred to Voice of Toro in Fort Portal. He used to live in Bukoto. He lived upstairs of a block where the company’s Chief Mechanic Babu Singh, was resident downstairs. One week after the death of Prince Kijanagoma, he saw the vehicle being driven by Katuramu’s driver, Kawesa Ramathan. He drove it to the company’s housing estate and handed it to Babu Singh the company mechanic. It was parked in one of the garages. One day as he was driving from work, he heard an announcement on Radio Simba from his car radio that the same vehicle was wanted by police because it had belonged to people who murdered Kijanangoma.’ He tried in vain to get in touch with Katuramu on the phone. When he finally saw him, a seemingly surprised Katuramu contacted the Jinja Road Police Station.
However, court heard from Luyonga’s testimony that one night at 1 am a vehicle came to Bukoto housing estate. When he looked through the window, he saw Katuramu and two men come out of a Ford Escort car which used to belong to the late King Kaboyo. Under the security light, he saw one man remove the rear number plates from the Ford Escort. The 725 UBC car was later driven out with Katuramu bearing the number plates of the Ford Escort. The Ford Escort remained outside without number plates.
Incriminating evidence also came from Sunday Joseph Babu, a former employ of Give and Take Forex Bureau, who accompanied Katuramu’s brother, Chris Katuramu to visit his brother in Luzira prison. He overheard Katuramu urging Chris to do all that they could to make sure that Babara Ferri and Milton Mwesigwa disappear, even if it involved money, before they testified against him.
The Supreme Court summarised the case saying that Katuramu had told a calculated and deliberate lie when he said that he had no dealings with the accused persons. He therefore lost the appeal and the death sentence was upheld.