Kampala. Former patron of the Boda Boda 2010 Association Abdallah Kitatta was yesterday convicted for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition after one year and four months in jail since his arrest.
Kitatta was the chairperson of the ruling NRM party for Rubaga Division at the time of his arrest on January 20 last year. He was arrested at Vine Tea Hotel in Wakaliga, Rubaga.
His detention came after a group of people attempted to block the arrest of his brother Huzairu Kiwalabye, who was charged with the murder of former Case Hospital accountant Francis Ekalungar.
Kitatta was arrested and charged jointly with 11 others among them a police detective, Sowali Ngobi.
Born in Kisanjufu Village in Mukono District, Kitatta’s lack of privilege did not prevent him from charting his own path.
He is reported to have used his position as an NRM leader in Rubaga to convince the police leadership at that time headed by Gen Kale Kayihura that there was need to disband Kampala Union Boda Boda Cyclists Association.
Gen Kayihura is also facing trial in the same military court on separate charges.
In Kitatta’s view, the Kampala association had embraced hooligans who burnt Nateete Police Station during the Opposition’s Walk-to-Work protests in 2011.
He created his own body Boda Boda 2010 Association to replace the Kampala one.
Kitatta’s association took a semblance of a militia outfit, which he headed as patron after a hastily arranged election.
Kitatta’s rise to prominence came at the time Opposition leader Kizza Besigye attempted to rally his supporters into mass street protests shortly after the 2011 general election, which he lost to President Museveni.
A mobiliser for Mr Museveni at the time, Kitatta created an alternative grassroots network to defuse the Opposition threat, which move endeared him to the State.
Kitatta reportedly had the backing of Gen Kayihura and openly clashed with the then Security minister, Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde.
He told Lt Gen Tumukunde that as Security minister, he did not have powers to decide leaders of the boda-boda fraternity.
Kitatta appealed to the President to train his ministers on the limit of their roles.
His brutality against political dissent gave his outfit leverage to operate on its own rules outside the established law without security agencies probing his activities.
Reaction on Kitatta conviction
Lt Col Raphael Mugisha, prosecutor: “The charges of unlawful possession of firearms and ammunitions carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. We pray that court consider the prevalence of unlawful possession of firearms because they have caused mayhem to innocent society. We pray for a punishment that would sound a warning to would be offenders.”
Shaban Sanywa, defence lawyer:
“Kitatta is the chairman of NRM in Rubaga Division and has done a lot for the current government. He is a victim of circumstances because authorities did not issue him certificates. It is still unfair because of lack of CCTV footage which we requested. I have instructions to appeal against the conviction and sentence.”
Abudu Ssenkungu, Kitatta’s friend: “It is true that they have authority to convict someone but looking at the acquittals and the court’s observations, the problem was lack of certificates. It is proper to sentence them to a caution because they have been on remand for long. But also important to note, it is the authority to blame for not issuing the certificates.”
Hussein Mulamula, Kitatta’s elder brother: “What Kitatta is going through is victimisation not because he is a criminal and everyone knows that. We come from poor family and we are poor to afford a golden pistol costing more than Shs25 million. It is government imprisoning Kitatta yet he has been working for it and because he declined to make any apology, saying he did not commit any wrong.”
Gorette Mukisa, wife of Hussein Mugema, one of the accused:
“It has not been easy because my husband left me in a rented house with a two months pregnancy and five other children. But in all, God has been so gracious to us up to this day. We pray that the release is effected.”
Compiled by Ephraim Kasozi, Juliet Kigongo & Abubaker Lubowa