Why security must conduct better investigations
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | The June 01 shooting of Gen. Katumba Wamala, a former Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) and most recently, minister of Works and Transport, has brought police murder by assassination investigations back into the spotlight because of the prominence of the target. This time the army has vowed to get heavily involved in the investigations.
Gen. Katumba’s daughter, Brenda Nantongo Wamala, and his driver Haruna Kayondo died in the shooting.
The assailants are said to have been trailing Katumba for days and on the fateful day when his security detail took a detour from him at the Kisaasi-Kyanja Road, leaving him at the mercy of his bodyguard and driver, the gunmen pounced taking advantage of the lapse.
The former CDF used the Kulambiro-Kisaasi route as his routine commute to get to town, residents say. The major security lapse has raised suspicion and left the team of investigators handling the case with a lot to ponder on particularly the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).
After the shooting where more than 50 bullets were fired, Katumba in a blood-soaked shirt reeling from gunshot wounds appeared helpless and defenceless, crying out to for help. He picked cartridges from the ground before being helped onto a boda boda by his escort, Sgt. Khalid Koboyoit, for first aid. Koboyoit who was unhurt from the attack fired in the air and at the assailants while dispersing them.
Focus of investigation
A day after the attack on Katumba, the crime scene on Kisota Road in Kisaasi, was under heavy military presence with a rumoured visit of President Museveni to the scene. There were roadblocks from both sides of Kisota Road; one manned by an unidentified man in ragtag attire and another by Local Defence Units (LDUs). An eye witness who was on the scene minutes after the shooting says LDUs in a military pick up vehicle were the first authorities on the scene. The LDUs however left shortly in the kerfuffle of congregating onlookers and first responders, the eye witness told The Independent.
Residents of Kisota said the ‘military invasion’ of the locale created more tension and anxiety. In the shoot-out that shook the hamlet in Kisota, a bystander who operates a battery repair stall was shot in the legs by the assailants having judged him to be a key witness in how the attack unfolded.
The joint team of the army and police investigating the shooting will be observed on their conduct and modus operandi because investigations of a similar nature were plagued by turf wars in the past during the era of former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Gen. Kale Kayihura.
As the most influential figure in security circles, Kayihura is said to have often clashed and sidelined some of his subordinates like AIGP Grace Akullo who headed the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
Akullo is still in her position and experts say how her team deals with a heavily militarised investigation will be crucial. The de facto Police Chief Maj. Gen. Paul Lokech, is the deputy IGP and has a heavy military background with stints as UPDF Contingent Commander (CONTICOM) in Somalia and roles in South Sudan.
The others actively probing the matter are CDF Gen. David Muhoozi and Internal Security Organisation (ISO) led by Col. Charles Oluka. The Police also faced criticism for taking long to secure the crime scene. This is not unusual when there are high profile murders in Kampala or across the country because first responders are usually nearby onlookers but the cramped nature of the crime scene in Kisota made it vulnerable to tampering. The wall fences likely built in the road reserve make the usual traffic flow difficult and the narrow road is a haven of criminals at night.
The Police Forensics directorate led by Acting Director, Superintendent of Police Andrew Mubiru, has its work cut out. As detectives interrogated residents and eye witnesses hours and days after the scene, and area residents complaining about the inconvenience of restricted movements, there were questions by many Ugandans on what befell the investigations of Ugandans killed in a similar manner. Joan Kagezi, a Principal State Attorney gunned down in 2015; Sheikh Hassan Kirya in 2015; Maj. Mohammed Kiggundu in 2016; Police spokesperson Felix Kaweesi in 2017. The list goes on; Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga; maverick Police officer Mohammed Kirumira.
The advantage, however, with the current police team is that it is probably still devoid of cabals and therefore may be able to carry forward the investigation without fear or favour. Deputy IGP Lokech is seven months in office and is still establishing a grip on the workings of police and picking out who his top lieutenants are. His predecessor Maj. Gen. Sabiiti Muzeyi was ousted before he made two years and therefore the current police top brass likely have a certain degree of independence from their supposed interests and loyalties.
In removing his erstwhile trusted hand right man Kayihura as Police boss, Museveni had complained about the infiltration of police by “weevils”. Kayihura’s confederates in Police like Nickson Agasiirwe in charge of police special operations; Herbert Muhangi, commander Flying Squad and Joel Aguma commandant of Professional Standards Unit; were arrested and charged in the operation to strip Kayihura of his accumulated powers. In addition was Abdullah Kitatta, patron of Boda Boda 2010; a rogue organisation that Kayihura allied himself with.
The three officers under Kayihura were implicated in various offences and were said to be heavily entrenched in the former IGP’s political mobilisation schemes for President Museveni on the one hand while on the other profiting from a plethora of crimes and illicit transactions.
Analysts also say the military and its Commander in Chief, President Museveni are under pressure on the results of the investigation into the attempted assassination of Katumba Wamala, a high ranking soldier and now political figure from Buganda region.
There have been murmurs about the suspicious deaths of prominent people from Buganda including former Archbishop of Kampala Cyprian Lwanga who died on Easter Eve and Sheikh Nuhu Muzaata who died last year- both outspoken critics of government. This is on top of the military kidnappings of youths from the same region supporting opposition leader Bobi Wine.