Lawyers, prosecutors, judiciary ponder curious case of top police officer
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Justice Mike Chibita discontinued all charges against fugitive Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP)Siraje Bakaleke. The discontinued charges include abuse of office (three counts), embezzlement, obtaining money with false pretence, conspiracy to defraud, and kidnapping or abducting with intent to commit a felony (three counts). But apparently that is only limited reprieve and Bakaleke remains very much a wanted man.
In one case, Bakaleke was accused with eight others for defrauding Shs1.4 billion from three South Korean nationals. Charges against these eight have also been dropped.
The accused are a mix of police officers, businessmen and lawyers: Paul Mugoya Wanyoto, Samuel Nabeta Mulowooza, D/ASP Innocent Nuwagaba, D/ASP Robert Ray Asiimwe, PC Junior Amanya, PC Gastavas Babu and PC Kenneth Zirintusa.
Bakaleke remains wanted because of the alleged human rights abuses he committed when he had parts of Kampala in his menacing grip. The likes of Dr. Kizza Besigye, Erias Lukwago are some of those who incurred his wrath.
Ben Oyo Nyeko, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) in charge of Interpol, told The Independent before the DPP issued the letter that the global policing body is actively “hunting” for Bakaleke.
He is still a wanted man. We are doing all we can to get him.”
Nyeko was guarded in his response about the former top police lieutenant during the reign of former Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura but sources say there is an active manhunt for him.
Usually regimes, especially revolutionary ones like the NRM government tend to pursue their own when they flee. Bakaleke was not one of the most critical officers but he played a part in Kayihura’s efforts to quell opposition assemblies in the city.
This is the reason some think that Bakaleke will be allowed to ‘re-appear’ when the situation has calmed down. This is cited as there is still a furore over Kayihura’s reign.
Human rights lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi tells The Independent that most likely the state knows where Bakaleke is hiding. “They must be knowing where he is. At the same time, they are ashamed of him and they may want to protect him. They are playing those tricks.”
Rwakafuzi says the state usually knows many things. “He was very close to Kayihura and accomplished so many things for him so they must know.”
Rwakafuzi says he was also a victim of the fugitive officer when the latter was at the peak of his powers. He recalls a time Bakaleke barricaded his chambers with tanks and logged teargas around to prevent him from consulting with his client Besigye in 2017.
The disappearance of Bakaleke has vexed the current police administration led by Martins Okoth Ochola and activists who feel strongly about the need for Kayihura and his former henchmen to face justice.
Commandant of Police Professional Standards Unit, Senior Commissioner of Police (SCP)Joel Aguma; Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nixon Agasirwe, who is a former commander of Police Special Operations and Assistant Superintendent of Police James Magada (Crime Intelligence) have all appeared before the General Court Martial in a clean-up exercise of the Kayihura-era.
The most recent was Abdullah Kitatta, former leader of Boda Boda 2010, a militia that terrorised residents of Kampala, who was convicted by the General Court Martial and sentenced to eight years in jail.
Bakaleke and Kayihura’s former aide Jonathan Baroza have remained at large. “He was declared a deserter after absconding from duty. It’s a disciplinary offence,” says Fred Enanga, Police Spokesperson.
Section 59 of the Police Act, states: “A person who has been absent without authority for a continuous period of twenty-one days or more shall unless the contrary is proved be presumed to have deserted…”
The penalty upon conviction of desertion is one year imprisonment.