By Independent Team
Intruder’s identity now known
* Man was minister’s ex-guard
* Had pistol wound to the head
The shooting of an unidentified man in the early hours of May 7 at the residence of Security Minister Amama Mbabazi along Nyonyi Road in Kampala’s plush suburb of Kololo has remained a mystery three weeks later, leaving more questions than answers among the public.
Who was the man? What was his motive? Was he acting alone or with others? Did he intend to harm the minister? Is the minister’s life in danger? But above all, what is the status of police investigations?
Ideally, an attempt on the life of a high ranking government official at the level of a Security minister should have elicited a high profile investigation like was done following suspected poisoning of the Ministry of Defence permanent secretary the late Brig. Noble Mayombo in May 2007. The recent shooting of city revellers by a Presidential Guard Brigade soldier has elicited an inquiry by the army. But the Mbabazi shooting incident is being conducted off-radar by the police and for Minister Mbabazi, it is business as usual ‘ raising even more questions.
The Independent has learnt from its sources in police and security that the intruder, whose body is still under the custody of Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), has now been positively indentified as Francis Nuwagaba aka Nicholas Bainomugisha, a former guard of the minister who deserted the army a few years ago. He hails from Rukungiri (where Mbabazi’s Kanungu district was carved out), and is related to Col. Kasura Kyomukama, Uganda’s military attach’ at the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat in Arusha, Tanzania.
The question investigators in intelligence are now grappling with is what he could have been doing at the minister’s residence in the wee hours of that morning and why he was shot dead, instead of being only disabled and subsequently arrested. Mbabazi’s calmness in the aftermath of the incident and the handling of the case by police have also reportedly tossed into the air a number of questions.
For instance, Mbabazi is reported to have arrived at his office early; his usual time and carried out his duties normally and only officially informed State House, CMI and Internal Security Organisation (ISO) of the incident after 5pm. Also, investigators are wondering how no member of the household could indentify the stranger who as it turns out was a former guard and was reportedly close to one of Mbabazi’s daughters who now lives in London, but is said to have been around a few weeks ago?
The Independent made several attempts to get an official response to these queries and to ascertain the status of the investigations from the police. When contacted by telephone, the Director of Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), Edward Ochom, said he was in no position to comment on the issue.
‘The police have a spokesperson. It’s not my job to give comments to the press,’ he said. The Independent also contacted Bernard Muhumuza, the OC CID at Jinja Road Police Station where the incident was recorded. We learnt that he [Muhumuza] was transferred to Katwe Police Station and a new OC, Morris Mayega, took over office on May 18 and couldn’t comment on the case.
‘I took over this office on Monday. My predecessor is in a better position to answer your queries,’ said Mayega.
Attempts to contact Muhumuza on his official telephone number were fruitless. The Independent then contacted the Kampala Metropolitan Police chief Tumuhimbise Katto. He too declined to comment. ‘I just took over this office five days ago. My predecessor Godfrey Musana is still pursuing the issue,’ he said.
When contacted, Musana who is now head of Crime Analysis at CID said he had already handed over the file. ‘I am now at CID headquarters. I handed over the file to Katto when I left CPS. I cannot comment on these issues. Contact the police spokesperson.’
Attempts to contact the police spokesperson Judith Nabakoba were equally fruitless as her official number was permanently engaged.
Three lines of investigation
According to our sources, it is believed that the intruder was perhaps known to the Mbabazis having been a former guard and would ordinarily gain access to the premises by invitation. He is also believed to have had a close relationship with one of the minister’s daughters (names withheld). It is this relationship that reportedly may have caused his expulsion and subsequent desertion from the army.
More than two weeks after the incident, the police seem to be carrying out the investigations under the table and it remains unclear what their findings are at the moment.
According to our sources, ISO and CMI, however, are pursuing three lines (or theories) of investigation and so far difficult questions are beginning to emerge: 1) enemies of the minister, knowing Nuwagaba’s military background and likelihood of easily accessing the Mbabazi’s residence dispatched him to try and assassinate him by strangulation, stabbing or other means, 2) that Nuwagaba was invited into the residence by a member or members of the minister’s household for one reason or the other and was shot, 3) that he could have made his way into the residence and was later found in a compromising/an inappropriate situation, or was mistaken for a robber or something and shot.
The first theory was initially the most plausible but, according to our sources, it has several holes, one of which is the question as to why he could have dreamed of mounting an attack on Mbabazi without weapons, considering the heavy security (about 30 guards) at the minister’s residence. From the way Mbabazi has always cried wolf, investigators also find it strange that he does not seem to be suspecting any particular enemy, least of all his publicly avowed enemies former minister Jim Muhwezi and Trade minister Kahinda Otafiire.
In public, Mbabazi has kept a certain calmness that belies a man who could easily have been killed by a stranger. He has told the media that he cannot comment on the incident since it is still under police investigations. In an interview with Sunday Vision, though, Mbabazi described the incident as an attack on his life, and while speaking at a function in Kanungu to mark the 14th anniversary of Kinkizi Diocese at Nyakatare on May 10 (three days after the incident), he said he would not be shaken by anybody because God protects him.
‘Nothing is greater than God who is protecting my life,’ Mbabazi told the congregation, adding, ‘My father was among the leaders who brought Christianity to this region and the relation he had with God cannot allow my enemy to hurt me.’
Over the last weeks, the other two theories have increasingly gained currency and are now the focus of investigations by ISO and CMI, considering many unanswered questions regarding the circumstances before and after the actual shooting.
First press reports claimed the well built, middle aged man was gunned down by the minister’s guards at 5:20am as he tried to sneak into the gymnasium where Mbabazi works out at that time every morning.
The man had reportedly jumped over the high perimeter wall.
CID chief Ochom reportedly told Daily Monitor that ‘the man put a log at a corner joining two houses; he then climbed the wall and jumped inside the compound. We found his shoes outside the wall.’
After allegedly sneaking into the compound, he reportedly walked straight to the main house and stood on the verandah. Ochom, who was among the first outsiders to arrive at the scene, said when the man stepped onto the compound, ‘the guards thought it was one of them but when they asked him who he was, he started running.’ The CID chief added that one of the minister’s guards shot in the air once but the alleged intruder reportedly continued running. ‘They shot [read fired] a second bullet, the third and the fourth got him on the head. He fell inside the compound and was taken to Mulago Referral Hospital where he died moments later,’ Ochom is quoted as saying.
Interestingly, those familiar with the residence of the minister doubt it is possible to climb the wall, considering its height, without the aid of a ladder, rope or some other object. ‘The wall is about three metres high and has metal spikes at the top. Now consider that Nuwagaba was fleeing from gunshots and had to climb that wall,’ one said.
Indeed, intelligence reports indicate that a member of Mbabazi’s household (name withheld for legal reasons) last week while in a salon working on her hair told a friend (who is probably familiar with the residence and was questioning the theory) that actually the intruder jumped over the small side gate, not the wall. Considering that guards are usually stationed at every entry/exit, questions arise about how he was not detected.
It is not clear whether Ochom got his account of the events from the guards or the minister. He refused to make any comment when approached by The Independent for clarifications, insisting that we put our questions to police spokesperson Nabakoba who did not answer our calls and text message.
Nonetheless, there seems to be more questions than answers. For instance, the man was wearing a clean white vest, a pair of jeans trousers, and had no shoes (which Ochom says were later recovered outside the fence). Where was his shirt? Has it been recovered anywhere inside or outside the compound? How could an assassin scale a 2-metre wall and wear a conspicuous white vest? Given his military training, he would have been wearing rubber shoes to help him scale the wall and also wear a dark coloured vest or camouflage. He would also have been armed, given that he was ‘attacking’ the home of a Security minister.
From the images of the body published in the press, and from observations of investigators, there are queries why there are no clear bruises or signs of climbing on the vest and arms. There is also no big blood splatter on the white vest. Considering that a bullet fired from an AK47 automatic rifle hit his head, possibly from a distance of 25-50 metres, investigators are puzzled why part of his head was not shattered? If he was shot as he climbed the wall, then the bullet could have entered from the back of his head and exited from the forehead which would have a gaping hole, like that of Private Nicholas Mucunguzi, the PGB soldier who shot people at Top Pub in Kampala recently.
Instead, our sources claim, there is a small bullet entry hole on the left side of the head but no exit hole on the right ‘ a fact corroborated by the photos published in New Vision and Red Pepper. This, our sources say, is characteristic of a pistol shot which often leaves the bullet logged in the body. The question therefore is: Could somebody (may be one of the guards?) have used a pistol to shoot the intruder and at what range was he?
According to press reports quoting Ochom, the intruder was reportedly rushed to Mulago Hospital where he died on arrival. A family member however told the press that the intruder died instantly after being shot on the head, and if it was an AK47 gunshot, the head would have been shattered so rushing him to Mulago would have been more an act of disposal than saving life. Indeed, a senior UPDF officer speaking on condition of anonymity told The Independent that a shot on the head causes instant death so there is no chance that one could survive 10 to 20 minutes which is the time it would have taken to reach Mulago at the shortest.
Museveni not informed
Intelligence sources have told The Independent that one of the big questions is why it took almost 10 hours between the incident and the time Mbabazi reportedly officially informed his superiors and colleagues in the security.
It is understood that Ochom was the first officer to arrive at the scene at about 1pm but intelligence sources say the police boss Kale Kayihura, his army counterpart Gen. Aronda Nyakairima and President Museveni only learnt of the incident after 5pm. Even ISO boss chief Amos Mukumbi and CMI chief James Mugira were also reportedly unware of what had befallen the Security minister for several hours of the day.
Ordinarily, the first people a Security minister would call in the event of such an attack on his residence is the inspector general of police, chief of defence forces and the president. It is also understood that Ochom visited the scene without police dogs.
‘The CID boss turned himself into a ‘˜police dog’ and went to inspect the scene. We do not know whether they were able to follow the trail of the man as he came in and everywhere he went. A police dog would have done that right from outside the wall,’ an intelligence official attached to State House told The Independent. The official said consequently investigations may have been bungled.
It is also not clear, sources say, whether soil and blood samples were taken from the scene where the body fell, as well as finger-prints from inside and outside the wall, and whether they have been taken to the government chemist for analysis and what the results are. Police have kept a tight lid on the investigations.
Attack on Mbabazi’s daughter?
On May 15, security operatives and police counter-terrorism officers deployed heavily at Garden City mall in Kampala after unidentified people were allegedly seen planting an object under the luxury SUV car of the minister’s daughter, Rachael Mbabazi.
The police officers, who included experts from the bomb squad, used sniffer dogs to check the Lexus before giving it the all-clear and returning it to the owner.
‘Soil-like substances wrapped in a newspaper were recovered. They have been taken for further examination,’ Kayihura told the press. ‘We suspected it could have been anybody; people were seen sneaking something underneath the vehicle. We are not taking this lightly.’
The Director of the Police Counterterrorism Agency, Abbas Byakagaba, told the press that people had been seen looking underneath the parked car and claimed they had dropped a soda when questioned by a passer-by.
The suspects, said to be travelling in a Rav4 vehicle, reportedly made a quick getaway before police cordoned off the mall for about one-and-a-half hours searching for them in vain. No arrests have been made but Byakagaba said police are hunting the vehicle the suspects were driving.
It is not clear whether the matter is linked to the shooting at Mbabazi’s home in Kololo. But this would not be the first time Rachael Mbabazi, a businesswoman, comes into the news in the middle of a crisis involving her father.
At the height of the Shs 12 billion NSSF-Temangalo land saga, she came into the news when somebody reportedly broke into her car and stole her cheque book. Photocopies of one of the stolen cheques appeared in MPs’ pigeon-holes with forged transactions on her account indicating that she had transferred about Shs 400 million to a school owned by the wife of former Finance Minister Ezra Suruma (who together with Minister Mbabazi) were being accused of fraud and conflict of interest in the Temangalo land deal.
The parliamentary committee on statutory commissions which was investigating the minister then did not entertain the documents when Mbabazi tried to present them in one of his appearances before the committee, saying instead that that was a police matter.
Whatever the identity of the dead man and the circumstances of his death, it is clear that a security breach at the residence of a high ranking government official raises many questions than the answers being provided and the blanket cover on the subject by police can only feed speculation that there could be more than meets the eye.
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