20 May 2019

Uganda: State Agents Killing Leaders, Says Nantaba

Kampala — The gunmen killing notable Ugandans are not agents of Allied Democratic Front (ADF) rebel group as police previously said, but assassins from state security organs, the Minister of State for ICT, Ms Idah Nantaba, has said.

Addressing a congregation at Bukolooto Seventh Day Adventists Church in Kayunga Town at the weekend, Ms Nantaba said the "truth is that the killers are within security and government."

The masterminds, she said, were highly-placed government and security officials who are "untouchables," a moniker in Uganda's politics to individuals who orbit in the highest circles of government and state.

"As Ugandans, we have more than 10,000 questions on who is choosing which Ugandan to kill like chicken. I was going to be the next, but God saved me," Ms Nantaba said in reference to the March 24 incident in which police shot dead a one Ronald Ssebulime on allegations of trailing the minister.

The Force later recanted its earlier narrative that the deceased was armed and killed in firefight, admitting that its officers killed the 40-year-old widower, then a resident of Wakiso District, in cold blood while on his way to visit his two daughters at St Andrew's SS Kabimbiri in Kayunga District.

It remains unclear whether Ms Nantaba, also the Kayunga District Woman MP, who was the main complainant in the case, ever recorded a statement with police on Ssebulime's killing after she spurned initial police summons to do so, claiming President Museveni had instructed her to stay at home.

Amid bursts of tears, Ms Nantaba, who repeatedly choked on words and gasped for air, said: "I was shocked when a highly-placed person in security, who was trying to hatch a plan to have me assassinated, was promoted."

The minister, a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, did not provide any names or other forms of an identifier, prompting government and police to question why she had not lodged a formal compliant with law enforcement officials.

"It does not help her by talking in tongues. She has access to the President, Inspector General of Police and Army Commander, she cannot tell us that the entire army wants to kill her," Mr Ofwono Opondo, the executive director at Uganda Media Centre, said.

Mr Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson, said they have no record of the minister's complaint about threats to her life.

"It is unfortunate that she is talking about threats in her life in the media. Let her come out and make these threats in writing," he said.

There have been previous incidents of politicians and security officials, among them former Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga and former Buyende District police commander Muhammad Kirumira, who were shot dead last year after each publicly complained that men on motorcycles were trailing them. As it turned out, their killers fled on motorcycles.

Other high-ranking individuals killed in similar fashion included senior state prosecutor Joan Kagezi, former police spokesperson Andrew Kawees, Maj (Rtd) Muhammed Kiggundu and about a dozen Muslim clerics.

The then Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, whom President Museveni fired early last year after publicly scolding him that the Force he superintended had been infiltrated by "criminal elements," blamed the high-profile killings on ADF elements.

Gen Kayihura did not provide evidence, and Ms Nantaba punched holes in the assertions.

"I have come here to tell you the truth because I have been in hiding and my enemies have been using the media to distort the information about how Ssebulime wanted to kill me," Ms Nantaba said, adding: "I have decided to come here for prayers because I know when they kill [me], I will go to heaven."

Ms Nantaba's unrestrained swipe at the government prompted her Tourism counterpart, Mr Godfrey Kiwanda, to leap onto the podium and talk her out of further verbal assault.

At the function, Ms Nantaba gave contradicting accounts from her earlier testimony of the events that followed the late Ssebulime's killing.

She said Ssebulime, who was riding a motorbike, confronted her twice while peeping in her vehicle.

The minister previously said Ssebulime stopped in front of her vehicle and rode away at a high speed, prompting her to pursue him.

Ms Nantaba, in accounts we could not independently verify, said a top official of Uganda Communications Commission informed her that they had identified the caller believed to have issued last-minute orders to kill Ssebulime, who was already hand-cuffed, but the regulator, claimed that the information was "too sensitive."

Response

Mr Ofwono Opondo, executive director at Uganda Media Centre: "It doesn't help her by talking in tongues. She has access to the President, Inspector General of Police and Army Commander, she (Nantaba) cannot tell us that the entire army wants to kill her."

Fred Enanga, police spokesperson: "Ms Nantaba can engage the UPDF leadership to be part of the security detail to investigate her claim... Ssebulime's killing [is] being investigated by a special team from Kampala Metropolitan CID office."

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