The Director of Public Prosecutions has withdrawn murder charges against State Minister for Information, Communication and Technology Idah Nantaba and three others, with whom they were on trial for the death of one Ronald Sebulime.
In a withdrawal letter to the Chief Magistrate’s Court in Mukono, dated September 9, 2019, the DPP, Justice Mike Chibita, does not cite any reasons for the withdraw of the charges since the constitution gives his office the mandate to withdraw criminal charges against an accused person at any stage of a criminal trial apart from when a given matter is pending judgment.
"This is to inform court that the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided to discontinue proceedings against Erios Nantaba Idah, PC Ronald Opira, PC Ronald Baganza and PC Edward Cherotich charged with murder," reads the withdrawal form in part.
The minister had initially been summoned by Mukono Chief Magistrates' Court to appear on July 15 and plead to the murder charges.
The DPP spokesperson Ms Jane Kajuga who confirmed the development said they were yet to go to court to tender in the document as required by the law.
Ssebulime who was riding a motorbike was arrested and handcuffed before being shot dead by police on March 24, 2019, on suspicion that he wanted to assassinate the minister, an act that caused a public uproar.
Nantaba had reportedly tipped Police that she was being trailed by two men riding a grey Suzuki sports bike in a threatening manner. She reportedly said that the suspected assassins had trailed her for a distance of 40 kilometres from Sezibwa Bridge up to Naggalama Trading Centre, prompting police to pursue them.
In the aftermath, three Police Constables Ronald Opira, Edward Cherotich and Ronald Baganza were sued for the shooting that claimed Ssebulime’s life.
But the DPP advised the police to try the Police Officers in the Police Disciplinary Unit since their commander, Corporal David Ssali had confessed to the crime and a ballistic report proved that it was his gun that was used to kill Ssebulime.
Corporal David Ssali, 46, attached to Naggalama police station was charged before Grade One magistrate Mariam Nulugya in April and remanded to Luzira prison after he had reportedly recorded an extrajudicial statement in regards to the shooting.
However, the rest were never charged, prompting Ssebulime’s family to petition the court to institute a Private Prosecution against Nantaba and the Police Officers on grounds that they were accomplices to the murder.
The murder charges that attract a maximum a death penalty by hanging, were initially instituted by way of private prosecution by Ssebulime's sister, Ms Sylvia Nakayita. The case was later taken up by the DPP before discontinuing it on Monday.
Through their lawyer Muwada Nkunyingi, the family alleged that they had evidence that Ms Nantaba gave misleading information to the Police officers who ended up taking Ssebulime’s life.
Additional reporting by URN