Police have preferred charges of murder and attempted murder against two Opposition Members of Parliament after a six-hour grilling behind reinforced cordon.
Officers in anti-riot gear, and slinging AK-47 rifles, massed up to seclude Masaka Central Police Station (CPS) ahead of the arrival yesterday of MPs Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) and Muhammad Ssegirinya (Kawempe North), both members of the National Unity Platform (NUP) party.
Journalist were ordered to vacate and other parliamentarians accompanying their accused colleagues, including Mathias Mpuuga, the Leader of Opposition, were turned away.
Other legislators included Mityana's Joyce Bagala, Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West), Francis Katabaazi (Kalungu East), Francis Zaake (Mityana Municipality), and Lukyamuzi Kalwanga (Busujju County).
A combined security team including anti-terrorism operatives massed up to seal off all roads leading to Masaka CPS, contrasting the thin security manpower in villages where attackers hacked the elderly and hapless to death without a hot pursuit.
In a briefing to journalists last evening after emerging from the marathon interrogation, the legislators' lawyer Erias Lukwago, also the Kampala Lord Mayor, said police accused the duo of killing three people and attempting to kill a fourth in Masaka City on August 23.
Detectives named the victims as Sulaiman Kakooza, Michael Kiza Nswa, and Tado Kiyimba, all residents of Setaala Village.
The lawmakers were interviewed by a 7-member team of senior police detectives led by Mr Moses Taremwa, the deputy director for Political and Economic Crimes.
The suspects were represented by Mr Lukwago and Shamim Malende, the Kampala Woman MP.
Police released the accused, who recorded charge-and-caution statement as well as plain statement, on bond and asked them to return at 2pm, presenting the possibility that they could be arraigned in court.
On September 1, ten men were charged in Masaka Chief Magistrates Court with murder and attempted murder and remanded to Masaka Ssaza Prison.
They included Christopher Sserwadda, 23, a resident of Nyendo-Mukungwe, Mike Sserwadda and Jude Muwonge, both residents of Ssetaala, and Batesta Mutabaazi, Joseph Kayabula, Ashraf Kayinza, Issa Ssebunnya, Moses Kaganda, and Kaboyo Henry, all residents of Byanjiri Village in Lwengo District.
The other was Paul Ssekajugo, alias, Mawanda, 43, a resident of Nakateete, Kisekka Sub-county in Lwengo District.
Murder is a capital offence only tried by the High Court and, according to the Penal Code Act, the maximum punishment for a murder convict is death by hanging.
Kalungu West MP Joseph Ssewungu, who was among those turned away by police at Masaka Police, castigated the security cordon to block them saying instead the operatives would be better deployed to track the killers that have terrorised villages.
"Inside the station, it is the soldiers who were commanding. It seems they have assumed the role of police to interrogate the two legislators and we doubt whether police will conduct an independent investigation," the lawmaker said.
He added: "Such heavy deployment should have been in areas like Kalungu and other places where threatening leaflets have been dropped."
Mr Muhammad Nsubuga, the southern regional police spokesperson, said they heavily deployed around CPS after obtaining intelligence that crowds would converge in the area as soon the summoned MPs arrived for inquiries.
"We didn't want to take any risks. So we had to be on the alert to prevent any eventualities. We don't want any chaos," he said.
While addressing Journalists at Naguru Police headquarters on Monday, police spokesperson Fred Enanga revealed that some of the suspects arrested over the serial murders pinned the two legislators for orchestrating the killings.
He revealed that, according to intelligence, the duo allegedly held a meeting in Ndeeba, a Kampala suburb, from where they met some of the killers for whom they promised wealth.
Machete-wielding thugs, who mostly target elderly persons, have so far killed 26 people in Masaka sub region in a space of five weeks.
The motive of the killers remains unknown, according to police detectives.
About 70 suspects have since been arrested in connection with the night killings, of which 10 were charged in court with murder and attempted murder last Wednesday before being remanded to Masaka Ssaza Prison until September 15.
Some ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) top officials, including President Museveni, have blamed the killings in Masaka on politicians, who they claim want to paint a bad image of the government.
Opposition members have, however, dismissed the allegations as red herrings and scapegoating by the government unable to protect vulnerable citizens or catch the killers.
While meeting security chiefs from Masaka Sub-region in Masaka City last Friday, the Minister for Presidency, Ms Milly Babalanda, said the current wave of killings in the area may spread to other parts of the country.
She asked leaders at all levels to mobilise the masses to rise up and defend themselves against the machete-wielding thugs.
On September 1, ten men were arraigned before Masaka Chief Magistrates Court and charged in connection with the killings in the area. The group was charged with murder and attempted murder before being sent on remand at Masaka Ssaza prison.
They included; Christopher Sserwadda, 23, a resident of Nyendo-Mukungwe, Mike Sserwadda, and Jude Muwonge, both residents of Ssetaala; and Batesta Mutabaazi, Joseph Kayabula, Ashraf Kayinza, Issa Ssebunnya, Moses Kaganda, and Kaboyo Henry, all residents of Byanjiri Village in Lwengo District. The other was Paul Ssekajugo, alias Mawanda, 43, a resident of Nakateete, Kisekka Sub County in Lwengo District. The group returns to court on September 15 for mention of their case with the prosecution expected to update court on how far the investigations have gone.
President Museveni during the pass out of 97 cadet Assistant Superintendents of Prisons officers on about a fortnight ago, vowed to catch all those behind the killings and have them arraigned before court.
"I think these are political actors obstructing us. It is unfortunate they have caused the deaths of these old people, but those youths are finished politically because once we bring evidence against them, in courts, and say so and so is the one who sent these young people on marijuana to kill an old man, where will you go? You have nowhere to go, you are finished," the President warned.
Compiled by Gertrude Mutyaba, Malik F Jjingo, Noeline Nabukenya & Ambrose Musasizi