When most of Uganda first heard of him, Christopher Aine was this fearless Amama Mbabazi guard who subdued senior police officers. Weeks later, SADAB KITATTA KAAYA talked to Aine and got to know a soft-spoken son of an NRA fighter who felt betrayed by President Museveni.
Amid fears that he could be dead, the search for Mbabazi’s chief guard Christopher Aine this week went to court, a fortnight after he went missing.
On Monday, lawyers of presidential candidate Mbabazi petitioned court for a writ of habeas corpus to compel police chief Kale Kayihura to produce Aine, Mbabazi’s chief bodyguard in court.
Aine’s family says he was arrested from his home in Kyanja, a city suburb, by armed men on December 20, 2015. A day later, the police raided Mbabazi’s residence at Kololo and his campaign office at Nakasero, arresting dozens of his staffers and upcountry coordinators.
Some of them have since been charged in the Ntungamo Magistrate’s court. Aine’s name appeared on the charge sheet that was first taken to court but was later deleted.
Aine leapt into the limelight last September, when he was arrested on Kayihura’s orders, after run-ins with the police. Kayihura, then, described Aine as a UPDF deserter who had gone on to be a ‘commando’ in Iraq.
But Aine, who headed Mbabazi security detail, later told this writer that he once belonged to President Museveni’s elite Special Forces Command (SFC), which he quit over alleged marginalisation.
Aine says he was born in 1982. His father, Maj Julius Aine (RIP), was one of the 41 NRA rebels that launched the maiden attack on Kabamba barracks on February 6, 1981. Registered as RO/00044, Maj Julius Aine is reported to have died in the 1990s in a motor accident - although this cause of death is disputed by some family members.
On the campaign trail on December 4, 2015, in Pallisa, Aine told this writer that after his father’s death, he was recruited in the army and seconded to the SFC. He said he was the only one in the family who was allowed to see his father’s body. Because of his father’s contribution to the rebellion that thrust Museveni into power, Aine expected his family to be treated better.
But, with a marked tinge of sadness, Aine said Museveni “forgot” them.
When he realized that being in SFC didn’t better his family’s welfare, he opted to quit. But, he said, he was dissuaded by the then Chief of Defence Forces Gen Aronda Nyakairima (RIP), who arranged for him to meet Museveni.
The meeting, he said, happened on February 6, 2007, the day Museveni unveiled the ‘Freedom Fighters Monument’ at Kabamba Military Training School, erected in honour of the first 41 NRA fighters.
“I didn’t have a uniform and I was forced to borrow a uniform from one of the SFC soldiers on deployment because there was no way I was going to meet the Commander in Chief [CIC] without uniform,” Aine told The Observer.
Many high-ranking soldiers questioned his presence, a non-commissioned soldier, among generals. But Nyakairima, according to Aine, told the overly-inquisitive officers to back off.
Museveni himself, according to Aine, wondered who the low-ranking officer was seated among senior officers. After Nyakairima introduced him to the CIC, Museveni offered to address the concerns of Aine’s family. Aine ran out of patience after a year of waiting and began planning his exit from the army.
“I had saved about Shs 8m which appeared enough for me to start a new life. I then quietly began on the process of my discharge from SFC; it is a lengthy and difficult process,” Aine said.
“That is why Kayihura said at my arrest [in September 2015] that I was a deserter in the army – in fact it is the charge that he had wanted to slap on me but was surprised when he discovered that I had all the discharge papers,” Aine added.
According to Josephine Mayanja-Nkangi, the Go Forward head of media and communications, Aine joined the pressure group in July 2015 following Mbabazi’s arrest at Njeru on his way to Mbale to launch his presidential bid.
“The events leading to Mbabazi’s arrest at Njeru brought him; he felt that he [Mbabazi] should have never been blocked,” Nkangi said.
“He went back, mobilized his friends and assembled that security team,” Nkangi said.
Asked about Aine on Tuesday, SFC spokesman Chris Magezi did not rule out the possibility of Aine having been part of SFC.
“I am not sure but it is possible that he could have been there [in SFC] but was discharged,” Capt Magezi told The Observer.
Aine says that on leaving SFC, he secured a five-year contract job with “the Americans” as a security officer. He says that contrary to Kayihura’s claims, he has never worked in Iraq. Instead, he spent most of his time in Latin America.
“After two years, I said ‘ah-ah, let me go back home’,”Aine said.
According to him, he was getting a monthly salary of Shs 11m, but he resigned to join Mbabazi because he felt Museveni had betrayed the country. Before Mbabazi went public about his presidential bid in June last year, Aine said he had been part of the former prime minister’s silent mobilisers.
At the time, Aine came across as a reserved and quiet man. Before his leap into the limelight, Aine always humbly ushered in guests at Kololo to meet the former NRM secretary general.
His true character of a fierce fighter was exhibited in September last year when Mbabazi was teargassed in eastern Uganda as he set out to popularize his presidential bid.
In Jinja, Aine fought off a group of armed policemen who wanted to arrest him and when they finally did, he somehow got off the police truck that was taking him to Jinja police station and rejoined the Mbabazi team barely two hours later.
Asked by a journalist how he had left his captors, Aine retorted: “Bino bireke tojja kubisobola [Just leave that; you will not understand].”
Following that debacle, Kayihura turned the heat on his police officers for allowing to be manhandled by Mbabazi’s commando-like guards. Days later, Aine was arrested in Kampala, and although initially police denied knowledge of his whereabouts, he told this writer that he had been detained in Nalufenya prison in Jinja.
He was later taken to court in Jinja on assault-related charges. With the police now saying they don’t know where Aine is, some on the Go Forward campaign suspect he could have been reintegrated into the SFC. But Daily Monitor this week reported that some family members feared Aine could have died in custody.
The conspiracy theories about his whereabouts led Mbabazi’s lawyers to file a writ of habeas corpus.
According to Saverino Twinobusingye, one of the Go Forward lawyers, the petition is based on an account of Aine’s family that insist the head of Mbabazi’s private security team was picked by the police from his home at Kyanja, a Kampala suburb.
“The family tells us that Aine is in police custody because they [the family] talked to the police officers who picked him,” Twinobusingye told The Observer on Monday.
Twinobusingye insists that Aine is in police detention, because he was picked by suspected security men dressed in police uniform and others in plain clothes who claimed they were from the Central police station (CPS), Kampala.
Police spokesman Fred Enanga, however, challenged the family to produce proof that Aine was taken by policemen.
“Seeing men in a police uniform is not enough. What if they were thugs? Why didn’t they come and report to police?” Enanga wondered.
“Anybody can [claim to be a police officer], and this is what we tell the public in community policing. Did those policemen show them their warrant cards, and also explain to them the issue for his arrest and where he was being taken?” Enanga said.
On December 29, 2015, the police published a notice, placing a Shs 20m bounty on Aine who is wanted to answer criminal assault charges. This came a day after
Aine’s friends posted on social media a body of a victim of the Christmas day drowning at Entebbe beaches which they suspected to be of Aine.
“We put that figure [bounty] because of the level of public interest in the case,” Enanga said. “We want to account to the public and clear the police image that we don’t have Aine.”