Last Friday, armed men riding on a boda bodas rained bullets on Arua Municipality MP Col Ibrahim Abiriga, 62, and his brother killing them instantly in a small trading centre near Kawanda in the city’s northern suburbs.
The material information carried in the police blotter signed by the police spokesperson, SSP Emilian Kayima, stated that AK-47 submachine guns were used. In the Abiriga case, no information exists speculating whether the deceased persons may have known their assailants. The President stated that the two gunmen were lurking in the area with helmets, a safety apparel that boda boda cyclists reluctantly don to comply with road safety regulations, and thus their faces were invisible to the camera.
The execution of Col Abiriga comes 14 months after former AIGP Felix Kaweesi, an upcoming police officer in the ranks, was brutally executed near his home in Kulambiro, a Kampala suburb in March 2017. Abiriga, a freshman lawmaker from Arua Municipality and former Resident District Commissioner in Arua and Yumbe districts, was infamously nominated on a presidential order.
Presidential orders carry a lot of weight in Uganda’s notoriously garbled legal and governance framework. It is routine for the President to direct an independent body like the IGG, Bank of Uganda, and in Abiriga’s case, the Electoral Commission, whose independence is written into the law to take a specified action whether or not it is permitted by the law.
In fact, Abiriga’s nomination to Parliament was being challenged on the grounds that he did not meet the constitutional requirements specifying an A-Level minimum to be nominated. Abiriga’s election soon illustrated the special interest in him. The Ugandan public was introduced to a rebranded former soldier, dressed from head to toe in yellow, the colours of the ruling National Resistance Movement.
Soft spoken, Abiriga took the fore to move for the infamous amendment of the Constitution last year to remove the presidential age limit even though the actual tabling in Parliament was by another MP with a checkered history, Raphael Magyezi from Igara West. Magyezi and his neighbour, Michael Mawanda, recently re-elected in Igara East after a successful election petition, were one time corralled into a prolonged stay in India in the throes of a deal gone bad prompting a high level intervention that rescued them.
In and outside of Parliament, Abiriga turned playwright emotionally preparing the Ugandan public to accept the inevitable that Uganda’s Constitution would be amended. After the deed was done, it wasn’t clear what Abiriga’s next role would be.
Abiriga famously complained that the people in the “palace” had blocked his access to the President. He endured a nuisance charge of urinating in one of the city gardens, an act for which he was prosecuted, convicted and had to pay a fine.
He had at least a couple of minor altercations with two of his colleagues in Parliament. Moses Atiku, the Independent MP from Ayivu County, which surrounds Arua Municipality and Betty Bakireke Nambooze, a maverick DP MP from Mukono Municipality, who once before the cameras snatched part of his yellow attire.
Abiriga’s execution by the green men is perhaps the third or fourth assassination in such style. Joan Kagezi, Felix Kaweesi are the notable others. The use of boda boda hitmen once again sheds light on Kampala’s most reliable form of transport, yet it hints that the ghosts of the underworld that thrived during the tenure of former IGP Kale Kayihura are yet to be put to sleep. Boda boda 2010 Association’s Abdallah Kitatta is facing trial in a military court for running one of the most bloody gangs in Uganda under the cover of supporting NRM.
Little has been said about Abiriga’s companion. Saidi “Kongo” Butele, 57, who was wearing an army uniform on the fateful day. In Uganda, matters security are a maze, very little details. Butele is more associated with Madi Okollo in the south of the district. Maybe a little more will be gathered of this gentleman, who died with the big man. RIP Abiriga.
Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate. [email protected]