MUKONO – At the veranda of the late Haj Gasane’s house in Kabembe Trading Centre, Kyampisi sub-county, Mukono district, sat Mariam Wamahoro.
It’s now three years since Wamahoro, 33 moved in, to live at her father-in-law’s home.
The move followed the arrest of her husband, Hamza Mwebe – the father of their six children. Mwebe was arrested on suspicion of murdering of ASP Muhammad Kirumira and his friend Resty Mbabazi Nalinya.
Before the family’s sole breadwinner was detained in 2018 on suspicion of following Kirumira and informing his murderers, who killed him on September 8, 2018, in Bulenga, Wakiso district, the family was living in Kagoma, along Bombo road.
Mwebe stayed on remand in Kitalya prison before he and his erstwhile co-accused, Abubakar Kalungi, were tried for murder in September 2022 at the High Court in Kampala.
Judge Margaret Mutonyi of the High Court declared on December 23, 2022, that while Kalungi had a case to answer, Mwebe didn’t.
The judge ruled that prosecution had failed to adequately demonstrate why and how Mwebe was arrested. Phone call records and other evidence presented in court were only related to Kalungi and Abdulrahman Kateregga, who was allegedly responsible for shooting Kirumira and Nalinya and whom security had killed during an operation to arrest him. As such the judge exonerated Mwebe – but security personnel in civilian attire waylaid him at the courtyard’s entrance. At that time, Mwebe’s lawyer, Zefania Zimbe had notified his family –including the wife – Wamahoro how her husband had been released.
Zimbe’s announcement set the family into celebratory mood. However, their joy was fleeting since the lawyer later called to reverse his earlier message – confirming that indeed plain clothed men riding in the infamous Toyota Hiace baptised drone had re-arrested Mwebe as he left the court premises.
The following day, Wamahoro and a few family members launched a search for Mwebe’s whereabouts – visiting the Central Police Station –CPS because one of the men travelling in the drone had reportedly claimed that the suspect could be traced from there.
Wamahoro narrated that the cells’ registry was thoroughly checked but no entry relating to Mwebe could be found – which situation has remained unchanged to-date.
Wamahoro said she hasn’t given up on the mission of searching for her husband, but was only stuck on which places to look for him. She said she doesn’t even any money to enable her move around the various security facilities to continue with the search for her husband.
She said needs at least Ugx15, 000 as transport fare to and from Kampala – which money she doesn’t have.
Wamahoro, is a subsistence farmer who occasionally sews cloths with her machine which she stations in their home compound. She has failed to facilitate Mwebe’s lawyer with transport, and is worried, he could give up on him soon.
Wamahoro’s financial worries are not limited to the search for the husband, but also sustaining her family. She says her children are often sent back for schools fees because she cannot afford to clear their tuition on time. Her 16-year old son is still in Primary six because he never settles in school due to non-payment of fees.
Her elder son, Shadad Hamza also says life is so difficult without their father. Apart from the financial struggles they go through, they are seen as outcasts by some members of the community – where they live – the reason he appealed to whoever had their dad to release him such that he returns to fend his family.
Mwebe’s mother, Jajja – grandmother – as she’s fondly referred to her grandchildren says she has left everything in the hands of the almighty. A woman, seemingly in her 80s, Mrs. Gasane said all she could do was praying and helps where she can in sustaining her family. However, she also looks frail and complained of pains common among the elderly as this reporter talked to her.
Mwebe is not the first person to be re-arrested after being freed by court either on acquittal or bail. In November 2017, Ahmed Senfuka -one of the seven people suspected of murdering of AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi was brutally re-arrested after Nakawa Court Grade One Magistrate Noah Sajjabi had granted him bail. In 2019, another group of four suspects in the same murder case were re-arrested from court premises shortly after their bail release by Justice Lydia Mugambe.
In 2016, High Court Judge, now Chief Justice Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo acquitted five men who were part of the 13 suspects charged with offenses relating to the Kampala twin bombings at Kyadondo Rugby Grounds and Ethiopian Village restaurant, Kabalagala where people watched on big screens, the 2010 World Cup finals between Netherlands and Spain in South Africa.
The police first kept the suspects saying that they couldn’t immediately release them for their own safety for fear that they would be attacked by families of the dead who might be discontent with the ruling. However, barely a week later, Police charged them before the Chief Magistrates Court in Jinja district with what police referred to as fresh allegations of terrorism.
The same happened in November 2010 when court acquitted 18 suspected charged with taking part in the same twin bombings after prosecution told court that their investigations found that they were not involved in the attack.
However three acquitted suspects, Christopher Baturaine, Issa Ali Senkumba and Abdulahi Muhamed were immediately rearrested and taken to an undisclosed location.
It’s now more than a fortnight since Mwebe was taken. Both the Police and the Army denied having him in their custody.