In a recent ruling, the International Crimes Division of the High Court delivered verdicts in the case of seven individuals who had been under arrest for approximately five years on charges unrelated to the murder of former Buyende District Police Commander, Muhammad Kirumira.
Lady Justice Susan Okalany presided over the court and declared these individuals guilty, meting out sentences ranging from seven to ten years based on the number of charges each defendant faced.
The seven convicted individuals, namely Jamil Muwonge, Ibrahim Kavuma, Uthman Mugoya, Luutu Kimuli, Juma Swabalu Sekiti, Daniel Kaaya, and Ismail Ssewanyana, were not associated with Kirumira’s murder.
Instead, they were found guilty of terrorism-related charges, including aiding, abetting, financing, or harboring acts of terrorism, as well as knowingly supporting the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) with the belief that their assistance would be used for terrorist activities.
The convictions followed a plea bargain agreement and subsequent admissions of guilt entered with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, represented by Assistant DPP Thomas Jatiko and Senior State Attorney Lillian Omar Alum.
The prosecution’s case alleged that between 2015 and 2018, the convicted individuals, along with others who remain at large, were associated with or professed allegiance to the ADF, a rebel group led by Jamil Mukulu, in various regions, including Kampala, Wakiso, Masaka, Rakai, Kyotera, Buikwe, and the Busoga region.
During the sentencing process, Justice Okalany took into account the defendants’ willingness to sign the plea bargain agreements voluntarily. However, she expressed her anger towards Ismail Ssewanyana, who faced additional charges of child trafficking and recruiting children into the ADF, thereby denying them access to education.
The judge contemplated rejecting Ssewanyana’s plea bargain but ultimately endorsed it, stating that if she were to try him, she would have sentenced him to 50 years in prison.
The group of convicts was initially jointly charged with other individuals, including Sulaiman Ismael Ssebowa, Sulaiman Ssenfuka, Andrew Kaweesi, Ahamed Ssebuwufu, and Mariam Kasujja, who are currently out on bail and did not opt for a plea bargain.
Justice Okalany confirmed that she would not preside over the remaining accused individuals’ trials and recommended that their files be sent to the Registrar for reallocation.
The convicts, including the unwell Swabalu Sekiti, who had been in custody for five years, were returned to prison to serve their respective sentences. These individuals were arrested by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence in October 2018, following the murder of Assistant Superintendent of Police Kirumira.
Kirumira was assassinated by unidentified assailants on motorcycles in Bulenga, Wakiso District. The arrest of multiple suspects, including Mariam Kasujja, followed the murder.
Before their transfer to the International Crimes Division of the High Court, the accused individuals reported severe torture during their detention, claiming that they had been subjected to beatings, deprivation, and a lack of proper facilities, which led to health complications. It remains unclear whether their decision to opt for a plea bargain was influenced by their prolonged suffering in detention or potential involvement in the crimes.