Upon losing a loved one to assassins, most grieving family members would want the culprit sentenced to a maximum punishment of death.
However, Sgt Warder Nicholas Mutamba, a prisons officer, did the unthinkable; he reconciled with a man who killed his father.
Sgt Mutamba says his father, Corporal Warder Charles Nangosha, formerly working at Mbale Main Prison, was killed by one of the suspects he was guarding at a court.
Nangosha was gunned down by soldiers; Lt Peter Masette and his colleague one Sgt Mukiibi, in 1993 after they grabbed a gun from another prison officer before they escaped. The accused persons, who had been charged with possession of a stolen car, had been denied bail at the time of committing the offence.
They were later re-arrested and sentenced to death before being transferred to the Condemn Section of Luzira Maximum Security Prison in 1999.
Sgt Mutamba says at the time of his father’s death, he was four years old and he together with his three siblings were raised by their uncle, Mr Godfrey Othieno, who also educated them.
“I studied up to Senior Four and in 2007 when Prisons advertised, I applied, passed and underwent an 11-month training at Luzira Training School and my first posting was Luzira Maximum Security Prison. All along, I had heard that the person who killed my father was in Luzira Prison and when I reached there, I was so eager to meet him,” he recalls.
“Upon being deployed in 2009, I asked one of the senior persons to show me an inmate who killed one of our staff in Mbale. The officer described to me the character and appearance of the inmate and one day while working on a late shift of a Saturday, I approached the man and asked if he knew me? He frankly told me I am a young man for him to know. He told me that I didn’t know how long he had been there. I insisted that I know him and he said he came to prison long time ago,” he said.
The following day, Mutamba reveals that he again asked the prisoner (Masette) whether he knew him but the former insisted that he did not know the prisons officer, considering the time he had spent in prison.
“But I insisted that I knew him and I reminded him the time he was an inmate at Mbale Main Prison, commonly known as Maluku, and the incident that happened when he had been taken to court and that it is the same incident, which caused him to being in Condemn Section at Luzira,” Sgt Mutamba narrates.
He adds: “I told him that the man who was shot was my father and the man broke in tears. When I saw him in tears, I also got concerned and what came to my mind was that this man seemed to be remorseful. If a murderer can really break in tears, he must have reformed.”
Mutamba says this gave him and the convict chance to know more about each other.
According to Mutamba, Masette disclosed to him that he was an old boy of his father but he had been charged over possession of stolen car for which he was arrested and that on the fateful day they had gone to court for bail which was denied and he was angered.
“He revealed to me that he could not control his anger because all he wanted was to sleep out of jail that day. And that is what happened, indeed he slept out of jail but in an illegal way because he committed another offence (of murder) on top of what he was being charged,” says the prison officer.
Mutamba says: “I told him that I want us to reconcile. As an elder person, he asked me how I would start the process and whether my family would accept it. But I told him to leave the rest to me.”
He adds that he successfully convinced his siblings, mother and uncle to accept his mission of reconciliation.
“I told them that this was the only way to make us live freely and happily and as time went on, they accepted and we sat at Upper Prison and the officer in charge of Condemn Section was the one leading the reconciliation sessions,” he adds.
According to Mutamba, months after the reconciliation process, the convicted prisoner was later transferred from condemn section following the Supreme Court decision that outlawed mandatory death penalty and his punishment was reduced to life and subsequently released.
Mutamba was one of the people who testified as Uganda joined the rest of the world to commemorate the World Day Against Death Penalty hosted by Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) in Kampala.
He says the delay to implement the court order that warranted him to be executed was a turning point for him to guard a man who killed his father whom he later on reconciled with.
The Coalition Against the Death Penalty have asked the government to scrap the death penalty from Uganda’s law books because it is not an effective measure to curb heinous crimes.
Busiro East County MP Medard Lubega Sseggona argues that executing a person for murder denies parties an opportunity to make peace by way of reconciliation.
Parliament passed the proposal to remove death penalty as a punishment under the legal regime in Uganda. The Bill awaits President Museveni’s assenting to become law.