KAMPALA – It’s more than six months and the police are still holding onto Dr Kiiza Besigye’s vehicle, which was impounded during protests against the rising commodity prices in the country.
Dr Besigye – the four time presidential candidate, and no, leader of the Red Card Front pressure group, together with political activist, Samuel Lubega Mukaaku were protesting around Shauri yako, downtown Kampala when their vehicle was impounded, and towed to the Central Police Station on June 14, 2022.
In late October, the Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago – one of Dr Besigye’s lawyers asked court to order the Police to release the vehicle, reasoning that the former FDC president was struggling to transport himself, since the impounding of the vehicle, which prosecution didn’t list as an exhibit in the case. Lukwago’s argument impelled Buganda Road Court to order that the vehicle is released to rightful owners, under whose name it was registered.
However, police declined to release then said vehicle, claiming that it was still examining it, according Makaaku. He said police insists that it needs the vehicle for its investigations.
However, Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, Patrick Onyango said Besigye’s team didn’t bring the owner of the car as per the court order.
The vehicle in question bears the Reg. No. UAK 773F in the name of Obed Kamulegeya.
Onyango claimed that the Inspectorate of Vehicles discovered that the said car had been modified, and was therefore unfit to be driven on Uganda’s road – a situation that necessitated a de-registration. He could however, not tell what was unfit about the vehicle. The vehicle in question had been fitted with mega phones at the time of its impounding.
However, this particular vehicle is different from the famous; ‘The Beast,’ – a Land Cruise – Reg. No., which Besigye modified with wire mesh on the wind screen and mounted louder speakers on it.
Nonetheless, Onyango’s statement collaborates well with an affidavit sworn by Lawrence Tuhebwe, one of the Police officers who impounded the vehicle.
Tuhebwe said in the affidavit that said vehicle was inspected by the Inspector of Vehicles and it was found to be unfit. He added that Dr Besigye had denied ownership of the vehicle at the time of arrest, leading to a search certificate, which indicated that the vehicle ownership was unknown.
“That Police form 28 was submitted to URA and it was established that M/V UAK 773F is registered in the names of OBED KAMULEGEYA…was inspected by Inspector of M/Vehicles who found it unfit and hence deregistered it…has since June 14, 2022 never been claimed by anybody,” read the affidavit, in parts.
The Police does not explain clearly the process taken to deregister the vehicle, but the mandate to register vehicles lies with the Ministry of Works and Transport, specifically the Chief Licensing Officer.
Deregistration of a vehicle means removing the vehicle from the register and the owner returning the number plate. The Traffic and Road Safety Act 2020 provides for cancellation of registration on destruction or permanent removal of motor vehicle.
The Act notes that; “if any registered motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant is destroyed or becomes permanently useless as a motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant or is removed permanently from Uganda, the owner of the motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant shall immediately give to a licensing officer notice of its destruction, condition or removal, as the case may be, and shall deliver to the licensing officer the registration book of the motor vehicle, trailer or engineering plant and its registration plates.”
Eng Nathan Tumushabe, a Senior Vehicle Inspector at the Ministry of Works and Transport explained that a vehicle can be deregistered if it’s to be exported to another destination, which automatically dictates that the Ugandan number can no longer be used. The number plate, being a property of the government is given back upon deregistration of the vehicle.
A vehicle can also be deregistered when it’s declared a written off. Eng Tumushabe said it is usually the mandate of insurance companies to declare vehicles as written off, after evaluation process is conducted and found that such vehicles were damaged beyond repair. He added that a vehicle can aslo be deregistered when its owner voluntarily applies to the Ministry of Works and Transport to have it deregistered. This can be done when one feels that their vehicle has been destroyed beyond repair or when it is too old and they no longer want to use it
Eng Tumushabe says that when a vehicle isn’t road worthy, the owner is only advised to take it for repair before bringing it back to the road.
When a vehicle is de-registered, it cannot be licensed to be on the road again unless it is re-registered and registration fees paid again.