The Local Defence Unit (LDU) personnel accused of killing a 65-year-old man in Oyam District is to spend the rest of his life behind bars after court on Tuesday sentenced him to life imprisonment.
The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) fifth Division Court martial on Tuesday convicted Pt Jolly Thomas Opoka on his plea of guilty after he confessed to killing Francis Ogwang Munu.
Witnesses said that Ogwang, who a resident of Amati Village, Kamdini Sub-county lost his life on June 27, 2020 being beaten by members of a local security team. The security team that comprised LDU personnel was in the area to enforce coronavirus lockdown measures that were announced by President Museveni in March.
On Monday, Pt Opoka, 22, told the army court martial sitting at Amati Primary School in Kamdini Sub-county that he was responsible for the murder.
“I found him (Ogwang) lying under a table. I tried to wake him up by kicking and using my gun. He stood up and cried: ‘my son, do not kill me, I’m still alive,”’ Pt Opoka confessed, further admitting that he kicked the deceased to check whether he was still alive or dead.
That Monday, Pr Opoka appeared before court together with his co-accused; Pt Felix Okumu (LDU personnel) and their operations commander, Lance Corporal Geoffrey Ogwang (UPDF) over the same case.
Lt Abubakar Nyombi, the defence counsel, pleaded for leniency from court arguing that the convicts were first offenders and breadwinners for their families.
However, the prosecution team headed by Lt Alex Rasto Mukhwana asked court to slap the accused persons with a deterrent sentence.
“The Lance Corporal has served for 17 years [in the force] and that should have given him a better experience to serve this nation,” Lt Mukhwana said.
He also protested the defence submission that the LDU personnel should be given lenient sentences since they have taken less than a year in the force.
“Does it mean that they should be given more powers to kill more people? The UPDF came a long way and it built its trust…someone cannot just come today and begin to tarnish the image of the army,” Lt Mukhwana said.
After listening to both sides, the Court chair Col Paul Omara then ruled that the accused persons were guilty as charged.
“Pt Thomas Opoka has been found guilty as the key person who caused Ogwang’s death, and I hereby sentence him to life imprisonment. Pt Felix Okumu will serve 40 years and Lance Corporal Geoffrey Ogwang will serve 20 years in jail,” he ruled.
Locals speak out
The deceased’s brother, Mr Kenneth Ojok, told Daily Monitor that their family was satisfied with the court decision.
“The ruling will serve as a lesson to others that no one is above the law,” a resident of Amati Village, Mr Robert Nyanga, said.