New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Yusuf Ouria's Murder Case Goes Cold

As he drove home after a hard day's work, assailants waylaid Yusuf Ouria and shot him. He was rushed to hospital in critical condition, but was pronounced dead soon after arriving. Five years later, his killers have not been brought to justice

The aroma of roasted meat wafted through the family kitchen and supper preparations were in high gear. It was Tuesday May 25, 2008. Sarah Aloko, wife to the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) youth chairman for Kumi district, Yusuf Ouria, who operated a shop in Kumi town, had closed her shop earlier and returned home to join the rest of the family.

A local trader in the area, Ouria also owned a taxi that plied the Soroti-Mbale route. That day, he had driven the taxi himself, and after offloading the passengers in Kumi, he decided to drive to his home in Oshoda village in Kumi Town Council to join his family members early enough.

Unknown to him, his assailants had laid an ambush along the way. Just as he took a turn towards his home, the assailants opened fire, spraying his car with bullets. In the process, they shot Ouria eight times and disappeared.

Aloko heard the gunshots, but it did not occur to her that it was her husband who had been shot. "When the gunshots went off, I immediately run to safety with my two children for fear of being hit by a stray bullet," she says.

Immediately the gunshots went silent, a phone belonging to her husband's nephew who was with her at home rang. It was her husband making a distress call for help.

Aloko and the children were immediately told to stay indoors as the nephew and another friend ran to rescue Ouria.

"They told us not to open the door for anybody because the people who had shot my husband could still be out there," she says.

The nephew, together with a friend, rushed to the scene, which was not far away from the Kumi Central Police Station. But by the time they reached, Ouria had bled heavily as a result of the wounds that he had sustained.

The relatives rushed him to Ongino Hospital, but it was too late. He died an hour later.

The local Police immediately secured the home of the deceased and the scene of crime. "By the time they came to our home to pick me so that I could go and see my husband, he was already dead," Aloko says.

Motive

Was his death as a result of his political activity in the FDC, business-related or was it because of a land wrangle?

During his burial, speaker after speaker blamed the Government for being behind Ouria's murder. Led by Kumi Member of Parliament Amuriat Oboi, the speakers claimed that the Government had caused the death of their supporter.

There were also suspicions that the deceased could have been killed because of a business deal gone sour. Having dropped out of school and established himself as a businessman, there are fears that he could have stepped on someone's toes during one of his business dealings.

Mob goes wild

As the news of Ouria's death filtered through, his neighbours and village mates went wild and the mob stormed one of the suspects' homes and attempted to set his house on fire. This prompted the Police to move in and quell them, arresting the suspect and some of the brothers who were implicated.

Among those arrested was Stephen Omaido, the mayor of Kumi Municipality. Omaido was arrested jointly with his two brothers; Samson Omongole and Charles Ogwang, both businessmen from Oshoda village, Kumi sub-county in Kumi district.

After arresting the trio, the Police said they had received overwhelming information that they had actually participated in the murder of the deceased.

According to the then Criminal Intelligence and Investigations officer in charge of Kumi, Selestino Ebulu, the arrest of the three brothers stemmed from mounting suspicion that they had a hand in the death of their brother.

Ebulu says preliminary investigations showed that the trio and their brother had, for some time, been embroiled in a bitter row over their father's property.

A detective who worked with the disbanded Rapid Response Unit and was tasked to handle the case told Sunday Vision that after interrogating the three suspects, one of them confessed to actually pulling the trigger. The brother implicated the other two and specifically mentioned who sponsored the killing.

In a chilling confession, the suspect who pulled the trigger told the detectives how the plot to kill Ouria was hatched by one of them and how they held a series of meetings to execute the mission.

He said on the fateful day, they deployed at the stage to monitor the deceased's movements from the main road up to his home. He added that they kept on communicating to one another as they tracked Ouria's movements.

Phone printouts also indicated that the trio were in constant communication before and immediately after the murder, giving credence to the confession.

A gun allegedly used in the murder of the deceased was also recovered. The suspects were charged with murder and detained at Kumi Prison.

Case goes cold

After spending some time in prison, the file in which the confessions and statements were recorded went missing from the office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Ouria's wife says in one of the mentions of the case in court, the prosecutor stunned court when he said the file in which the trio were being accused of murder had gone missing.

"It was clear that somebody had been compromised to make sure that the case was never brought for hearing. How could the file go missing in a secure office if there was no inside dealing?" she wonders.

She petitioned the DPP and the file that had gone missing was eventually found and brought to court again.

The prime suspect soon secured bail, and shortly after, the other two were also released and the case seems closed.

The widow and relatives of Ouria told Sunday Vision that they have never been called to court again and neither do they know the fate of the case. "It seems the state lost interest in the case and as a family, we have never been told why and how the suspects were never charged with the death of my husband," Aloko says.

The widow remains haunted to date. "I still fear for my life because I know that those who killed my husband could as well finish us off," she says.

She has since opted to stay away from the disputed properties.

All she is asking for is justice. "I want my husband's killers to be brought to book," she adds.

When Sunday Vision contacted Omaido, he said he was not ready to discuss the matter since he was busy and out of office.

He had reported threats to police

Family members who spoke to Sunday Vision believe that Ouria's death could have been avoided had the Police acted on a series of incidents he had reported at the station relating to threats on his life.

Sunday Vision learnt that the deceased had reported close to three cases of some relatives threatening to harm him to the local Police, but he was not taken seriously.

"They thought he was just another opposition chap who wanted to seek cheap public attention, even when he told them that the threats were serious," says a relative.

One of the relatives also added that a week before the deceased was waylaid and shot, one of the suspects had allegedly confronted him and warned him to keep off a disputed piece of property or he would face dire consequences.

The deceased was embroiled in a land wrangle with some of his brothers.

It is alleged that one of Ouria's brothers had wanted to use his office as the mayor of Kumi Municipality to grab family property, which included prime land in the council and a house that their father had left behind.

Ouria had stood firm, maintaining that the property should be shared equitably among the other family members.

It is said that several family meetings were held to resolve the issue and that the said prime suspect issued several threats to the deceased in the presence of some of the relatives and friends.

In one of the warnings, the suspect warned the deceased that if he did not stop meddling in matters to do with the property, he would not live for another week.

"He confided in me that his life was under threat and that his relatives wanted him dead. I even escorted him to Kumi Police Station and four days before he was actually murdered, we registered a case of threatening violence by one of the suspects," says a relative.

True to his relative's warning, the deceased was gunned down within the week

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