The family of Christopher Aine, an aide to Independent candidate Amama Mbabazi, fears he could have died in police hands, days after Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura published a reward of shs20m for whoever gives the authorities information leading to his arrest.
The family has now put the police on the spot, arguing the bounty, a first of its kind for a minor offence of assault, could be a ploy to cover up a possible death in police hands
When contacted for a comment, the Inspector General of Police Gen Kayihura yesterday referred this newspaper to Mr Fred Enanga, the police spokesman, who did not pick call nor reply messages and his deputy Polly Namaye too didn’t reply to our repeated calls by press time.
In last Monday interview with the press, however, Mr Enanga insisted police are not aware of Aine’s whereabouts and learnt of his disappearance from media reports.
Aine’s sister speaks out
Speaking to Daily Monitor yesterday, Ms Rita Babirye, a sister of Mr Aine, whose whereabout remains a mystery, with police feigning ignorance and Mr Mbabazi’s team insisting he is in police custody, said the family had visited mortuaries in and around Kampala expecting to retrieve his body.
Ms Babirye said a source in security had told the family Mr Aine was in a torture chamber ran by police’s special investigations unit department in Kireka. This newspaper could not independently verify this claim.
Speaking to journalists last Thursday at police headquarters in Kampala, Gen Kayihura said Mr Aine, who heads Mbabazi’s private security detail, is a key suspect on the run wanted by police for the December 13 clashes between President Museveni and the former prime minister’s supporters. In a subsequent press briefing, Mr Museveni vowed “to crash that nonsense” referring to Mr Mbabazi’s supporters who had a confrontation with men wearing NRM T-shirts.
Mr Severino Twinobusingye, Mr Mbabazi’s lawyer, who is coordinating the search for Mr Aine, said in an interview, “We don’t know why police would do such a thing in the face of what is obvious because we know they are holding him.”
Mr Kayihura warned that if Mr Aine does not honour court summons by January 6, an arrest warrant shall be issued against him.
Mr Twinobusingye, however, punched holes in the police notice, describing the Shs20m reward as a continuation of games police are playing. Mr Mbabazi’s team insists Mr Aine, who has had several run-ins with the police before, was arrested on December 14, at his residence in Kyanja, a suburb in the outskirts of Kampala, by uniformed police officers who later bundled him onto a police pick-up truck.
The incident, he claimed, was witnessed by Aine’s cousin, a one Ezra Kabugo, who has since testified in an application for habeas corpus, a court decree compelling police to produce a suspect in their custody in court.
“When the police reached Kabugo’s house, they demanded he reveals Mr Aine’s house, to which he complied. Moments later, Mr Aine was arrested and driven away in a police truck. We have all those details,” Mr Twinobusingye said.
When Daily Monitor sought to speak to Mr Kabugo for an eye witness’ account, Mr Mbabazi’s legal team denied our reporter access, asserting that the matter was in court and they were uncomfortable with Mr Kabugo speaking to the press.
The same response was given when this newspaper asked for the car registration details of the police truck that allegedly drove Mr Aine away.
A source who spoke to Daily Monitor yesteday reasoned, bounties are usually thrown in the public sphere in cases involving suspects wanted for capital offences such as murder, rape, robbery and terrorism.
The source also pointed at the mysterious deletion of Mr Aine’s name from a police charge sheet as evidence of something gone amiss, prompting Gen Kayihura to issue the bounty.
Mr Twinobusingye said: “That (death in police hands) is very possible, in fact in our letter to the Electoral Commission, the family expressed the same fears but we suspect they have him and the latest development is to hoodwink the public so they justify their continued detention of our supporter.”
On Tuesday at the Grade 1 Magistrate’s Court in Ntungamo, Mr Aine’s name was deleted from a document enlisting his co-accused who have since been remanded.
Ntungamo District police commander Baker Kawonawo would later tell the media: “We are about to arrest Aine.”
The statements of the police boss, Mr Mbabazi’s camp says, most likely feed into their sustained claim by many supporters that the Go Forward pressure group supporter is in police custody.