When Hussein Walugembe, a boda-boda rider, walked into a traffic office at Masaka Central Police Station on July 2, no one including his confidants knew his intention. What was known is that he wanted to reclaim his motorcycle, which had reportedly been impounded two days earlier for violating curfew guidelines. However, Walugembe ended up setting himself on fire after failing to regain his bike, a Bajaj Boxer.
The police say the deceased doused himself with petrol he carried in a small bottle and set a fire, which also injured a traffic officer who was in the office.
Fellow boda boda riders claim the traffic police officers demanded a bribe from the deceased to release his motorcycle, but his pleas for the amount to be reduced fell on deaf ears, leading to the incident.
In a statement on Friday, police spokesperson Fred Enanga said after Walugembe was fully frustrated by the acting officer-in-charge of traffic in Masaka District, Mr Ibra Ssesanga, he went and bought petrol from a nearby Mogas Petrol Station and set himself a blaze.
Mr Enanga further said the deceased attempted to grab Mr Ssesanga for them to die together, but the latter escaped with minor burns, leaving the deceased behind.
Enanga, however, claimed the deceased had just acquired the motorcycle and since he did not having driving skills, he gave it to his friend, Twaha Kaweesi.
“He was, therefore, not a boda boda rider as alleged in the media. Walugembe was a casual worker and night watchman at a petrol station,” Enanga said.
He added: “He [Walugembe] was also employed by Mr Rogers Namanya who supplies food to suspects in custody, but also performed several odd jobs at Masaka Police Station.”
The deceased was also residing in Masaka police barracks. Officers; Sgt Julius Ewalu and Sgt Ibrahim Ssesanga, the acting officer-in-charge of traffic at Masaka Central Police Station, have since been arrested over acting negligently and unreasonably in holding Walugembe’s bike without giving him an explanation.
Who was Hussein Walugembe?
Walugembe was born 20 years ago to Ndawula Kalema and Juliet Nanfuuka, both residents of Central Zone, Lwengo Town Council, Lwengo District.
He was the fourth born in a family of 10 children – eight boys and two girls.
The father, a retired lieutenant in the military, is a local defence unit commanding officer in Lwengo Town Council.
Walugembe studied at Mbirizi Muslim Primary School in Lwengo District, where he completed Primary Seven in 2012. His father says after the primary level, Walugembe chose not to continue with studies and moved to Masaka Town to look for employment. He was employed at Masaka Central Police Central Station as a cook.
“He left home and went to stay with his uncle Ssekabuza, who was staying at Masaka Police Barracks then. He was doing some odd jobs within the barracks and also riding a boda boda, but he kept checking on us whenever he got time,’’ Walugembe’s father says.
Walugembe’s last visit to the family was two weeks ago when he bought a motorcycle and took it to show his father.
“Previously, he came home using a boda boda belonging to his friend, Kaweesi. When he bought his own, they came together and we celebrated his achievement,” says Kalema.
The deceased has been a strong pillar of the family and always guided his siblings on matters pertaining to development.
At the time of his death, Walugembe was completing his house at Lwentamu Village in Lwengo Sub-county.
“He has been very focused, business oriented, and believed so much in saving money for development. He would always share with me his progress in business,” his father says as he struggles to control tears.
Despite losing his son under unclear circumstances, Kalema says he demands nothing from police, not even compensation.
“I cannot change government arrangements, they are free to do it [compensation] if they want, but my religion bars me from demanding any compensation for a dead person; nothing can bring him back,” Kalema says.
Ismail Juuko, a brother of the deceased, says Walugembe was a jack-of-all-trades; sometimes riding a boda boda, other times doing other odd jobs in the police barracks and then working at night as a guard at a petrol station.
However, he says the deceased left behind unspecified debt from one of his friends who helped him top up the money to buy the motorcycle.
According to Jjuuko, the deceased told him that his motorcycle had been parked in Masaka Town, at a petrol station, which was under construction and that is where a policeman attached to Masaka Central Police Station picked it up from.
“I suspect something wrong might have happened between him [Walugembe] and the police officer because he has been working with them and a motorcycle cannot defy curfew rules when it is parked in the compound only waiting to be taken inside,” Jjuuko said.
He asked police to thoroughly investigate the cause of his brother’s death and bring the errant officer to book.
Walugembe was buried on Thursday at the family home in Kyajubira burial grounds, Kabonera Sub-county, Masaka District. The burial ceremony was attended by some police officers and a few relatives. The father, who suffers from diabetes and ulcers, missed the burial as he was still receiving medical attention in Kampala.