The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) today dropped murder charges against Aaron Baguma, the former Kampala Central Police Station (CPS) boss.
Baguma and eight others are charged with the murder of businesswoman Donah Betty Katushabe in 2015 and were committed to the High court for trial two years ago.
The case had come up today for mention before justice Flavia Anglin Senoga. But principal state attorney Alex Micheal Ojok, on behalf of the DPP, told court that his boss had decided to drop all charges preferred against Baguma who was in the dock together with his co-accused.
Only Baguma’s charges were dropped. The others are businessman Mohammed Ssebuwufu, Godfrey Kayiza alias Godi, Shaban Odutu alias Golola, Philip Mirambe, Stephen Lwanga, Paul Tasingika, Yoweri Kitayimbwa and Damaseni Sentongo. They are also facing charges of aggravated robbery and kidnap with intent to murder.
Citing a communication of the DPP dated December 21, 2017, Ojok said that using his powers buttressed in Article 120 (3) of the Constitution, Mike Chibita, the DPP, had decided to discontinue the charges against Baguma.
Article 120 allows the DPP to “discontinue at any stage before judgment is delivered, any criminal proceedings to which this article relates, instituted by himself or herself or any other person or authority.”
Ojok didn’t explain why it was only Baguma who had been absolved of any wrongdoing. He, however, cited section 134 of the Trial and Indictment Act to which again emphasizes the powers of the DPP to discontinue criminal trials as and when he deems it fit.
Justice Senoga had no option but to let go of Baguma, who was casually dressed in a checkered shirt and jeans.
“Basing on Nolle prosequi signed by the Director of Public Prosecutions on December 21, 2017,” Justice Senoga ruled, “charges against Aaron Baguma have been discontinued.”
When contacted to give details as to why Baguma had been set free, Chibita, a former High court judge, said he was too engaged to comment.
According to the summary of the case prepared by the DPP, Katushabe purchased a car from Ssebuwufu with a pending balance of Shs 9 million.
After the deceased failed to pay the balance on time, Ssebuwufu instructed Tasingika, a crime preventer, to report a case of theft of the car at CPS.
“On 21/10/2015, at around 7am, accused five (Tasingika) in the company of three police officers from CPS left for Bwebajja along Entebbe road where the deceased used to reside to effect her arrest,” the case summary reads.
The accused booked at Bwebajja police station under SD reference 03/21/10/15 at 7:29am and then proceeded to Katushabe’s residence from where they arrested her.
Katushabe was driven to Kampala in a Toyota Premio registration number UAP 155T, which took her straight to Ssebuwufu’s Pine car bond in Nakasero, instead of CPS.
Here, a stone’s throw away from CPS, Tasingika handed Katushabe over to Ssebuwufu in the presence of Kayiza, Mirambe, Lwanga, Kitayimbwa, Sentongo and one Sam Kiwanuka alias Damage who is still at large.
Soon after the police officers left, the DPP claims that Ssebuwufu started assaulting Katushabe using a panga, with which he hit her on the back and thighs while saying: “If you don’t pay the money, you are going to die.”
Ssebuwufu was joined by others to beat Katushabe and tear her clothes, the DPP says. The deceased was at one point asked to call her sister to pay up and get her off the hook.
“While still talking to her sister, Accused One (Ssebuwufu), took the phone away from the deceased,” the DPP says, “and told the deceased’s sister that if they wanted her alive, they should pay his money, and he gave her the telephone number of accused five (Tasingika) where the money was to be deposited by way of mobile money.”
This, the DPP stated, happened while the deceased was handcuffed. At around 3pm, Baguma arrived at the bond in the company of other police officers aboard a police pickup truck and went straight to Ssebuwufu’s office. There, he found Katushabe in confinement, tortured.
Baguma went to Accused One’s office where the two held a discussion for about 15 minutes and was seen going out in the company of Accused One [Ssebuwufu] to Accused One’s motor vehicle, where Accused One handed Accused Eight [Baguma] an unascertained sum of money,” the DPP states.
Before leaving, Baguma told Ssebuwufu to handle the Katushabe issue and call him in case of anything.
“On Baguma’s way out of the office, the deceased pleaded with him, being a police officer, not to leave her behind lest Accused One [Ssebuwufu] and his co-accused would kill her, but Baguma did not heed to the deceased’s plea…,” the DPP states.
Soon after Baguma’s departure, the DPP further states, Ssebuwufu and his co-accused became even wilder as they continued to batter Katushabe, who later died from wounds obtained.
The trial of the eight, without Baguma, will start on February 5, 2017, Justice Senoga indicated.