28 January 2005

Uganda: Minister's Body Found After 32 Yrs

Kampala — THE body of Shaban Kirunda Nkutu has been discovered 32 years after Amin's regime kidnapped and murdered him.

Nkutu was works, housing and communications minister and Busoga South-East MP in the Obote I government.

The body was exhumed from a mass grave in a cemetery in Masese, Jinja by the family, the Police and pathologists last

November. The remains were flown to South Africa but it was impossible to carry out a DNA test given the duration.

However, three of the men who secretly buried Nkutu in 1973 helped the family conclude it was his body. The men said Nkutu's body was in a yellow shirt and red underwear without trousers when they buried it. They said his body was the sixth nearer the surface of the grave. The discovery puts to rest the family's agonising search for his body and the cause of his death.

Nkutu was kidnapped from his office in Jinja town, taken to Jinja Central Police Station and later Gadaffi Barracks. His body was dumped in River Nile, retrived and taken to Jinja Hospital mortuary before it was smuggled out for the secret burial.

A Mulago pathologist said he died of gunshot wounds, citing a hole in his skull.

The remains that were exhumed from the Mailo Mbiri cemetery, will be accorded a decent burial by his family on February 12, in Busesa, Bugweri county, Iganga district.

In a moving statement yesterdsay, the family spokesman, Conrad Nkutu, said, "The family has been deeply wounded and aggrieved by the violent and illegal killing of the family head and his secret burial at an unknown location, for the past 32 years." Conrad, one of the sons of the late Nkutu, is the managing director of The Monitor.

The location of his grave followed an extraordinary chance encounter in Semuto, Luweero district between a member of Nkutu's family and one of the grave-diggers.

Conrad said his father was one of several former ministers of the Obote I government murdered by Amin between September 1972 and January 1973.

He said the grave diggers were ordered not to talk about the burial lest they are killed and that the Police kept watch over the grave for a fortnight. He said Amin made an impromptu visit to the cemetery after the burial.

The family yesterday said the discovery gave the family a chance to close a painful chapter and hoped that the grim details would contribute to the respect of human rights by governments.

The identification of the body was not scientific because a DNA test was impossible because the bones were too old. But the family said the evidence from the grave and the grave diggers was overwhelming.

"The deceased person exhumed from the top of Grave Seven is indeed Shaban Nkutu," Conrad said.

The three grave diggers are Ibrahim Sengendo, Twaha Magale and Experito Kalema, the former headman at the cemetery.

They said Nkutu's grave contained five other masikinis (poor people) who had been buried four days earlier and that the body of Nkutu was the sixth and last, separated from the other five by a layer of soil. This was confirmed.

Nkutu's grave was the seventh in a line of several others, which they named ekifo kyo mutawana (a place of danger) because of the dozens of persons murdered by the state and buried there.

Nkutu was abducted on January 11, 1973 from his Scindia Road offices in Jinja by Amin's soldiers, the Police and the State Research Bureau in broad daylight.

His nephew, Twaha Magala and his driver, Abdul Muloyiva, were among a dozen of people who witnessed the kidnap.

The family believes that Nkutu, 42, was murdered on the night of January 11, 1973 at the Gadaffi Barracks and said his murder was a "violent, criminal, extra-judicial killing by the then government of Uganda, led by Idi Amin."

Born on November 15, 1930, Nkutu served as an MP for Busoga South East.

The constituency used to cever the present day Bugweri, Kigulu and part of Bunya counties and the whole of Bugiri district, from independence in 1962 to January 1971.

He was the parliamentary secretary for economic affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister, a deputy minister of education, deputy minister of works, a Chief Whip, minister of health and minister of works, housing, transport and communications.

He was also the national chairman of the Uganda People's Congress (UPC).

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