By Obed K. Katureebe
‘Your Excellency, we are aware that it is the Committee of the Prerogative of Mercy that advises you on such matters. We take this occasion and opportunity to appeal for your attention for the plight of John Sanyu Katuramu as it is a matter which touches the heart and minds of the people of Toro. We are not sufficiently knowledgeable in matters of the Judiciary and judicial decisions which we duly respect and we are unable to address the circumstances of court decisions. Your Excellency, we trust in your wisdom and we the undersigned do passionately appeal that you consider granting John S. Katuramu pardon. Once again be assured of our continuous prayer and support.’ reads part of the petition signed by the heads of religious organisations in the whole of Toro Kingdom.
There are various voices pursuing the only remaining hope for condemned former Toro prime minister Katuramu, now on death row at Luzira Prison, to save his life from the hangman’s noose. After exhausting all the judicial avenues of appeal, Katuramu can now only be saved by the president’s prerogative of mercy.
Pursuits for the presidential pardon were resurrected early this year following the January release of Obote’s former security minister Chris Rwakasisi who had been on death row since 1988. Katuramu was convicted for masterminding the murder of Prince Happy Kijanangoma on March 25, 1999 in Fort Portal. His death sentence which was passed by Justice John Bosco Katutsi was upheld by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
Since then, many Toro elders and youth under the guardianship of an elder Epafra Mugasi and a key regent to the Omukama (king) of Toro Rev. Richard Baguma have been holding meetings in both Kampala and Toro designing ways and strategies to appeal to Museveni seeking for Katuramu’s pardon. In one of the meetings held at DAJ Guest House in Fort Portal on the 2nd June 2009 this group of elders and religious leaders resolved to continuously plead with President Museveni for Katuramu’s release. They say Katuramu is such a pillar in Toro’s development and since his conviction and imprisonment, many development projects he had initiated have collapsed. They further ague that since Katuramu has served more than 10 years in prison and is now a born-again person, he should be pardoned and a process of reconciliation be initiated with the bereaved families of the late Kijanangoma who Katuramu murdered.
John S. Katuramu initiated many economic and developmental projects in the whole of Toro Kingdom and also offered educational and financial support to the needy. He is a young man who is still useful to this nation. Since his conviction and sentence all he was doing for this country has collapsed. We take this opportunity to appeal for your attention for the plight of John S. Katuramu as it is a matter which touches the heart and minds of the people of Toro,’ the petition by Toro elders reads in part.
The Toro elders who were drawn from all the districts of Kyenjojo, Kabarole, Kamwenge, Kasese and Bundibugyo further resolved to reach out to all the Batoro and other Ugandans to lobby President Museveni to pardon Katuramu.
The apparent pleadings for Katuramu’s release come at a time when Museveni is yet again set to seek re-lection as president of come 2011. Western Uganda especially Toro has in all the previous elections been voting Museveni overwhelmingly.
However the pardon may not come plainly. If Museveni just pardons Katuramu, there may be a price for him to pay. It may not augur well with the deceased’s aggrieved relatives. They may be a minority but are still influential in political and social circles. He needs their support too. He must appease Katuramu’s people without losing the support of the deceased’s relatives and friends. How does he avoid this?
According to observers who declined to be quoted because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the best way to achieve this is to hold some meetings at the local level in the kingdom. This would create an impression that the pardon arose out of immense pressure from the grassroots and that the president just succumbed to that pressure. The president will have endeared himself to the Katuramu sympathisers without antagonising or alienating the deceased’s side.
Katuramu who indeed initiated several development projects still remains a popular figure in Toro despite his guilt in the murder of Kijanangoma. This hard fact is not lost on Museveni and his NRM government. Most of Museveni’s supporters in Toro know very well that saving their son from the gallows would be a win-win situation for both President Museveni and Batoro. The release of Katuramu would amplify NRM support in Toro.
He was instrumental in the restoration and rebuilding of the Toro Kingdom before and when he was the kingdom Prime minister.
Who is Katuramu?
Katuramu now aged 54 was born on 20th June 1955 to the late Mzee Pascal Katuramu and Dorothy Komurubuga in Kabale Village, Kibiito Sub-county in Kabarole district.
Katuramu studied at Yerya Primary School, St Mary’s Seminary Virika, Nyakasura School and National College of Business Studies Nakawa.
Katuramu has 11 children and is married to Gertrude Katuramu, daughter to Rev. Canon James Rabwoni, the father to the late Brig. Noble Mayombo.
His business empires some of which have since collapsed include the following; Give and Take Group of Companies (involving chalk, coffee, tea, forex bureau, real estate and overseas financial remittance services). He also owned Oxford Airways, Voice of Toro radio, Rwenkuba Ranchers and several real estate properties, land and agro-investments.
NRM/A historical links
During 1984-85, Katuramu supported the NRA bush war struggle in the Fort Portal/Kasese area especially when the NRA was establishing its base in the Rubona and Mulema mountains in his Kibiito Sub-County in Bunyangabu.
Through the NRA top commanders like the late Maj. Gen. Fred Rwigyema and Maj. Gen. Jim Muhwezi, Katuramu was commissioned to export coffee largely got from the Banyankore Kweterana Cooperative Union stores through Zaire and Rwanda. In return he bought uniforms for the rebel fighters, drugs and food to boost their efforts to overthrow the Okello military junta.
He also mobilised young Batoro boys to join the NRA rebellion. Prominent in this group was his two in-laws the late Brig. Noble Mayombo and his young brother Maj. Okwir Rabwoni who rose to become national figures.
When contacted for a comment, the chairman of the steering committee for Katuramu’s clemency, Rev. Richard Baguma confirmed they had had several meetings aimed at persuading the president to release their son. ‘We are pleading with our dear president to have mercy for our son. He did so many things for Toro and Uganda as a whole. Even the relatives of the late Kijanangoma are with us because they have decided to forgive and are looking forward to total reconciliation,’ Baguma said.Baguma also said that a date is yet to be confirmed when they will hand over their appeal to the president.