30 November 2012

Uganda: Condemned to Death for No Crime

Patrick Zizinga was condemned to death for murder in 2004. Despite new police findings indicating he never committed the crime, he remains on death row, writes Charles Etukuri

On October 20, 2001, the residents of Kawotto in Kajjansi along Entebbe Road woke up to a gruesome murder. Chopped body parts belonging to a woman, later identified as Annet Nakiwala, were found scattered near a shrine belonging to one Edward Zimula.

According to her family members, a day before her body parts were found, she had been picked up by her estranged husband, Ibra Sekate, from her sister's home at around 8:00pm on October 19, claiming that he was taking her to his village for duwa prayers.

Agnes Nalutaya, her sister, says Nakiwala had misunderstandings with her husband, quit her marital home and instead went to stay with her.

She was last seen boarding a car that belonged to her husband and left for Kajjansi where he stayed, never to be seen alive by her family members again.

Initial investigations by the Police revealed that the weapon that had been used and her clothes were found in his latrine.

When the residents mounted a search, a woman's head with plaited hair was found near the boundary of the land between the homes of the witchdoctor and his neighbour, Patrick Zizinga. Zizinga would later become a main suspect in the case.

On October 21, children playing football near the shrine stumbled on the other body parts wrapped in a polythene bag.

The Police was called and when they assembled them, the missing parts matched what had been discovered near the shrine.

Short-lived freedom

Zizinga's freedom was, however, short-lived.

"I came back home and was told that my husband had been arrested because he had killed his wife. I am his official wife and I had never known my husband to have another wife," says Agnes Nakibuuka.

In May 2002, the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) changed the file and what was initially a murder case was changed from Uganda Vs Sekate and Zimula to Uganda Vs. Patrick Lwanga alias Tyaba Kyafa and others.

A summary of the case indicates that Zizinga had murdered his official wife and scattered her body parts.

Sunday Vision has also seen a petition signed by 18 of Nakiwala's family members addressed to the DPP, copied to, among others, the Chief Justice, in which they question the way the whole case was handled and the decision of the DPP to drop charges against Zizinga and Sekate.

"After the death of Nakiwala, we reported to the Police in Kibuye and informed them of the person who came and picked our daughter," says one of deceased's family members.The family says they were not notified to come to court to testify, but only read the newspapers that the trial of their daughter's killers was going on.

When the family went to court, they were surprised when they saw in the dock the man the prosecution claimed was their relative's killer.

"He was a totally different person from the one we knew. We protested because we were not getting justice at all. How can you condemn an innocent person and let the criminal go unpunished?" asks a family member.

In a petition to the principal judge dated January 10, 2011, the deceased's sister Nalutaya says when she was asked whether she knew the person in the dock, she insisted that she did not.

"We were told that the suspect in the dock was the husband of our sister and we protested because we knew who her husband was and insisted that they had got the wrong person. But they insisted he was the one and had changed his looks because he had stayed in prison for long."

"In the letter to the DPP, the family posed five questions: Why were the people who came for the deceased that night from her sister's home freed before appearing in court? Why was Zizinga named as a boyfriend of the late, yet the family only knew Ssekate with whom they had children? Why was the family left aside during the trial? Why was the name of the deceased changed during the trial?

During the trial, the name of the deceased was changed from Agnes Nakiwala to Madinah Nakiwala Agnes, his official wife who is still alive today. Was this deliberate?

"We are poor people who were denied justice because the people who murdered our relative are very rich. We, therefore, ask your humble office to take the necessary action to save the pouring of an innocent man's blood," the family pleads with the DPP in the letter.

In 2004, Zizinga was condemned to death by the High Court and was immediately ushered into the dreaded condemned section.

Were these trumped up charges?

Relatives, friends and neighbours believe the charges that were brought up against Zizinga were trumped up. Police findings indicated that Zizinga had had a running dispute over a prime property situated along Entebbe Road with Zimula.

On several occasions, they had clashed over ownership of a 350-acre piece of land in Kajjansi.

On October 16, 2009, Zizinga wrote to the Commandant Land Protection Unit in the Police from upper prison asking for his intervention after unscrupulous people started parceling and selling his land.

At the time of his arrest, his land title of Block 380 plot 1 and other important documents were confiscated by the arresting officer. If these documents were in the hands of the Police, then how did they find themselves in the hands of third parties, some of whom testified against the accused in court?

An investigation by Sunday Vision at the lands office shows that Block 351 was shared out among big shots in Government and some handled this case, including the arrest of the accused.

Despite Justice Remmy Kasule issuing an interim order stopping all the transaction on this disputed property, the land grabbers, with the help of an army colonel, evicted the accused's relatives and continued selling the land.

A former presidential aide who runs an outlawed outfit also wrote to the commissioner of lands threatening her with severe action if she failed to register the new transfers that had been effected on the disputed property.

In 2011, the DPP wrote to the Police instructing them to carry out fresh investigations after receiving several petitions from concerned members. A report was compiled by William Musambwa, an investigating officer and examined by Moses Binoga who was the Head of the Homicide unit exonerating Zizinga who was on death row for the offence of murder.

The Police report questioned the role of the earlier investigating officer. "My mind is inconceivable that a police officer investigating a murder case can see a clue leading him to the path of truth and keeps silent without any mention of it in anticipation of the DPP and the courts to discover the same!" writes the investigating officer.

The report further adds: "It is unbelievable to me that a detective investigating a murder case can see suspicion of a murder and accepts the suspect's own explanation on face value. This is because the investigating officer believed what Zimula told him about Zizinga yet he was a prime suspect in the murder and exhibits were found in his latrine."

The report calls for the arrest and prosecution of all officials who tried this case. "The players in the justice system concocted evidence and thus justifiably stand accountable to the charges of concoction of evidence and as well as conspiracy to defeat justice," the report reads in part.

Further the report says that there was no impartiality and the intention, according to the evidence adduced on file, was to cover up the main suspect.

Despite vital body parts being found in possession of one of the suspects who was released, no effort was made to ask him to explain how the body parts got into his possession, who gave him the body parts, where they came from and for what purpose were they intended?

The arrests

A file was opened up at Katwe police station and several suspects were arrested, including Sekate, Zimula, Vincent Serwada, Isobotheth Tomusange and Ssalongo.

On October 29, 2001, an identification parade was carried out at Katwe police station and the deceased's family identified Sekate as the person who was last seen with Nakiwala. Zimula was also positively identified by Sekate as the other suspect who walked with the deceased to the shrine.

Zimula and Sekate were charged with murder and remanded to Luzira prison. On February 1, 2002, they were granted bail by the High Court.

Zizinga was arrested shortly after at his home in Wakaligga.

The investigation

One of the main witnesses who was called up to testify against the accused during his defense, Rogers Kasirye immediately disappeared and there are possibilities that he was kidnapped as he was leaving the court premises and probably killed.

The other witness for the defense, Agnes Nalutaya, who was a sister to the deceased fled to Dubai for fear of her life and only returned recently.

On October 26, 2011, The Deputy CID director Godfrey Musana wrote a summary on what action the Police had done after they received a letter from DPP ordering for fresh investigations. He observes that the old case file at Katwe had mysteriously disappeared, that some witness who testified in favour of the accused had disappeared, that the deceased's real husband Sekate changed his residence after he was released from prison immediately and it had been difficult to trace him, that some witnesses for the prosecution were paid and facilitated by Zimula to testify against the accused.

Musana also says the investigations found out that there was an outstanding land dispute between the accused and Zimula over a huge land that had been inherited by Zizinga from his late father Zizinga Serwano.

"The subsequent behaviour of Zimula indicates he had interest in the land in question because immediately after court convicted Lwanga he started sub-dividing and selling it."

When the new case file was sent to the DPP, the DPP observed that despite the new findings given in the new police report vis-a-vis the available records of the previous court proceedings, "the evidence which was adduced in court, tested through court examination, evaluated and believed by the learned trial judge has more credence than the untested newly compiled evidence."

According to Musana, the DPP advised that the new file be closed and that the appeal goes to the Supreme Court.

Copyright © 2012 New Vision. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.