25 January 2013

Uganda: Rwakihembo Recounts Wife's Shooting

10-year-old girl says lance coporal was attacked

Ten-year-old Patience Kwagala raised the stakes, in the court martial trial of Lance Corporal Herbert Rwakihembo, when she confirmed that five people attacked the soldier before three of them were shot dead. Kwagala, who sat in front of a packed courtroom swinging her legs, told the seven judge advocates that the five struggled for the gun with Rwakihembo before it went off and killed three people, injuring a fourth.

The minor said she was accompanying her mother from Luzira prison when she saw three women, who were quarrelling with a soldier.

"Baagamba twakoowa, tojja kumalako. Omusilamu nnaagamba omukazi takwagala," Kwagala told court meaning, "They said, 'We are fed up, you will not manage. The woman doesn't love you.'"

"There was a young man dressed in a white vest and a flowery shirt and a man holding a child. I saw two men and three women who surrounded the soldier and grabbed his hands. They fought for the gun. They held his hands and pointed the gun upwards and downwards. When bullets started firing, I fell down on the floor and injured my left eye. I ran away with my mother," Kwagala, who gave an unsworn statement, told court.

Apart from Kwagala, the defence presented five witnesses, including Winnie Nakato, Allan Ggonga, Musa Ivule and Rwakihembo who all testified before court in one day. All the witnesses said Rwakihembo was attacked by five people but they did not see who pulled the trigger. Nakato demonstrated to court how she found Rwakihembo standing in the doorway of their house.

According to Nakato, Bavawala said Rwakihembo was impotent and useless.

"Bullets weakened him, he should leave everything to the young people," Nakato quoted Bavawala as saying.

However, when it was his time to testify, Rwakihembo shot himself in the foot when he told court that while he is allowed to move with a gun outside his duty station, the day of the shooting was the first time he had taken the gun home with him. He said he had cocked the gun to scare off his wife and her supporters who wanted to attack him but never intended to fire it. He asked court to forgive him.

In an expedited two-week trial that could end today, Rwakihembo is being tried for killing three people, namely his girlfriend Prossy Namuyaba Nakibirango, Loyce Kawendeke and Zainab Nassolo as well as the attempted murder of Ali Bavawala. If convicted, Rwakihembo could get a death sentence.

Rwakihembo's account

I am here to give evidence on murder charges against me. There were three women but I only know two of them. One was called Nnalongo and another one was called Prossy Nakibirango. I had no relationship with Nnalongo but Nakibirango was my wife. I got to know my wife while working at a military detach in Kisekka market. She used to sell airtime.

That is where we met and fell in love. I rented for her a house in Nansana and we stayed together for some time. They transferred me to Luzira detach and I set up a business for her, a popcorn machine and a fridge to sell water. Time came when I was among those required to go for a training course in Singo to prepare to go to Somalia.

By then she was still in Nansana. We went to Somalia. For the first four months I did not talk to her because I had not got any money. The first time to call her, she told me she was pregnant. I did not mind. I tried to get permission to come back home to confirm. After six months in Somalia I got a movement order to come back to Uganda. I brought for her some gifts, a phone and some ladies clothes. She was glad and indeed she was pregnant. I gave her help.

This was in December 2011. When time came for me to return, we sat down and agreed on a project for her. She informed me that she preferred a piggery project which she would set up at her home. I told her to identify property near her home area. I also told her to identify a plot for us to build if I returned. I gave her my mission ATM card and Shs 600,000 in cash. I then returned to Somalia.

We used to get allowances every month of $100. I used to buy her presents, watches, bracelet, and a necklace, and once in a while I sent her money. I came back to Uganda and found her fine. She had delivered a baby boy. I was happy because I had a son. After a month, I returned to Singo and was deployed to Luzira military police detach.

I worked for two weeks. We agreed that she looks for a house where we could set up a business. She said a salon would be better. I got one in Luzira. She inspected it and she liked it. I asked her to take me to her parents' home and also show me where she had set up the piggery and where she had bought the plot.

Since she had told me she bought the plot for Shs 7m, I asked her to show me the agreement. She told me she was still busy, she promised to take me to see the land. I waited for some time but each time I asked her, she tossed me around. At one time I asked her and she told me I was impatient but promised to show me the agreement and receipt.

In the meantime, our salon business was doing well. Then I came and settled in Luzira military police detach. I stayed with my wife and we were in a good relationship and we used to love each other. [Three days to the shooting] I left my place of work and came back home, I found her so pissed and I asked her what had happened. She answered while quarrelling and abusing me.

She told me: "You soldiers do not understand and keep moving from place to place aimlessly".

I asked her why she was angry because I had not quarrelled with her. She informed me that she had kept quiet for a long time but the truth is that I was not the father of her son. I got so scared and went to my bed and slept. On that day I was deployed. I did not do anything to find out if the son was mine. After two hours, I walked back to the barracks. It was a Friday December 7, 2012.

On Monday December 10, I went for the morning parade to be allocated duties. I was deployed and put in charge of three soldiers. I worked till dusk. About 7:30pm, I told my subordinate soldiers I was going home briefly for a warm suit and a jacket. I passed by my home in Kisenyi where I had rented for Prossy for some tea.

Just before I got home when I was about eight metres away, I found people sitting in the salon, two ladies and one man. As I moved closer I saw Prossy hurrying from the room.

She came and lifted up the baby who was sitting in the bedroom doorway and carried him to the bedroom. There was a man following her from the bedroom. He stood behind the curtain I could see his shoes. I asked Nnalongo: "Biki bino byemunkola?" (what are you doing to me?) and she couldn't answer me.

The man, who was seated with her, replied to me: "If the woman doesn't love you, why not leave her?" I came closer to the door and asked him if he is in his right senses.

He told me: "I am a soldier, I call myself commando. You have a gun, we can remove it from you". I put the gun around my shoulder. This is when Prossy came running with the baby towards me. I moved and stepped back, opened [the gun's safety catch]. I saw others running to grab me. Bavawala, Nnalongo and another lady came closer to me. I wanted to scare her from coming closer to me. I discovered the safety catch had not been opened.

It remained in the middle, implying that the gun cannot fire a single bullet. I would fire rapidly [if] I touched the trigger. They came and grabbed me and a scuffle ensued. I was confused. I don't know who pulled the trigger. Bullets fired and I saw my wife falling down. I saw Nnalongo falling in the salon. I don't know what happened after because I returned to the barracks and to my deployment.

The platoon commander came at that time and I told him what happened. He asked for the gun and I gave it to him and he returned it to the armoury. I have never been charged with any other criminal offence apart from this. I pray that court forgives me because finding my wife with another man in my house annoyed me. She and her supporters connived to disarm me. I had to defend myself.

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