Kitatta: The man who flew too close to the sun - Daily Monitor

Kitatta: The man who flew too close to the sun

Monday February 11 2019

Turn of events. Not so long ago, when Kitatta

Turn of events. Not so long ago, when Kitatta cried, people died. If he even cringed, someone paid for his anger with their life. But now when Kitatta cries, everyone laughs, writes Emmanuel Mutaizibwa. 

By Emmanuel Mutaizibwa

At the peak of his powers, Abdullah Kitatta’s spoken word to his acolytes was obeyed like the law of the land.
During a crisis, he calmed his legions like meek lambs listening to their master.

But at his hour of reckoning, Kitatta’s dejected and humble demeanour offers a timely lesson. In cloak and dagger games, one carries his own cross.

Shackled in chains today, he is now a captive of the law he thought he was above.

So how did Kitatta end up facing these charges that if found guilty, he will face the death penalty?
Born in the humble hamlet of Kisanjufu Village in Mukono District, Kitatta’s lack of privilege did not prevent him from charting his own path.

“Kitatta in the beginning was a humble boy. I got to know Kitatta when he was working with a charismatic mobliser Reuben Kibazo. Kitatta used to be his driver,” says Grace Bukenya.

Bukenya is a member of the Nalufenya Survivors Association after he was detained in Nalufenya Police Station, Jinja largely reserved for hard-core criminals and later released without any charge.

“The late Assistant IGP (Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix) Kaweesi, introduced him to the IGP Gen Kale Kayihura. From there, Kitatta became a powerful person because by that time, he could access the President, ministers, generals,” reveals Bukenya.

As an NRM (National Resistance Movement) leader in Rubaga, Kitatta briefed the police leadership that there was need to disband Kampala Union Boda Boda Cyclist Association.

In his view, this cyclist association had embraced hooligans who burnt Nateete’s Police Station during the walk-to-work protests.

He replaced this association with the Boda Boda 2010, a thuggish-militia outfit serving as its patron after a hastily arranged election.

Kitatta’s rise to prominence came at the time the Opposition doyen Kizza Besigye attempted to galvanise his supporters for a street uprising, shortly after the 2011 General Election.

A mobiliser, Kitatta created an alternative grassroots network to diffuse the threat of street insurrections.

This endeared him to the President and other senior government officials. Yet this was a double-edged sword.
“I think he grew horns and then he was not guided by his superiors. By that time, he could do whatever he wished. He could handle issues in a chaotic or peaceful manner,” says Bukenya.

He also clashed with the then Security Minister, Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde.
“The Security minister does not have powers to decide the leaders of the boda boda fraternity. I appeal to the President to train his ministers on the limit of their roles so that everyone can know his or her role,” Kitatta told a fervent crowd barely after Gen Tumukunde had vowed to restore sanity among boda boda motorists.

Crushing pockets of dissent gave his outfit leverage to operate with its own rules of engagement outside the scrutiny of the law.

“With the rise of the boda-boda industry and the rise of Opposition politicians using protests on the streets as a way of challenging the status-quo, there had to be a counter force. Now the best counter-force are people who actually work on the streets,” says Yusuf Serunkuma Kajura, a researcher.

Serunkuma further argues that: “You have to have someone who is rough and willing to do anything dirty to counter protests. So you have prop up someone. I can tell you that after the disappearance of Kitatta, we will have another character with the exact qualities as him.”

Bukenya recalls that Kitatta with the backing of Gen Kayihura, became so powerful that he gave instructions to police commanders.
“Kitatta was so powerful. He could change a police commander. Police officers feared him because of Boda Boda 2010. They only watched without any action because they feared to lose their jobs if they spoke out or tried to arrest him. There are so many files in court [against Kitaata], which eventually got lost,” says Bukenya.

She adds: “Kitatta would change an OC [officer-in-charge] and he would take two weeks to inform the IGP.”

We could not independently verify these claims.

What we know is that although not an army officer, Kitatta wore the regalia of a military officer.
He gave orders to civilians and police commanders.

He rewarded those with blinding loyalty and severely punished those he disagreed with.
He instigated conflicts that left his rivals in other boda boda associations either battered, bruised or dead.

Survivor speaks out
Dezederio Byamukama, 29, is lucky to be alive. He was hacked to near death by members of Boda Boda 2010.
“When we reached, they asked for my card. When I reached for my pockets, they cut my head. I said: ‘Please spare my life and take the boda’. They cut me again. I became helpless and surrendered my hand and they cut me again,” says Byamukama.
“They took my motorcycle and I crawled as people tried to rescue me. I was taken to Mulago hospital and by the time I regained consciousness, the doctors said I need surgery,” reveals Byamukama.

However, It is not determined whether Kitatta was responsible or complicit by such collective actions of the Boda Boda 2010.
Many allege that Kitatta committed offences because he felt he was above the law and would be protected by his superiors.
Of the many accusations Kitatta faced, is the land dispute between him and his neighbour Nelson Wajja. Wajja says in March 2016 he met Kitatta, who was conducting a tour with surveyors over a recently acquired piece of land.

Kitatta expressed interest in buying two acres of Wajja’s land but he (Wajja) declined the offer. On May 22, 2016, Wajja learnt that his piece of land had been fenced off.
“One of Kitatta’s employees told me ‘Mzee, power is stronger than the law,” Wajja says.

Serunkuma tested Kitatta’s wrath when he tried to help his uncle Wajja. On July 1, 2016, he travelled with Daily Monitor’s editor Eriasa Mukiibi to this contested piece of land. Both Serunkuma and Mukiibi were arrested.
“When the team to arrest us came, my uncle took off because he had been arrested before. Eriasa [Mukiibi] was very confident because he had done this before. So we were taken to Nakasaja Police Post, which is the closest police post [to the disputed piece of land]. As we tried to record our statements, we were stopped midway and told that Kitatta wants to speak to us,” Serunkuma says.

He adds that Kitatta later changed his mind and issued instructions that we should be taken to Naggalama Police Station.
“While heading to Naggalama, we didn’t drive in the police car but rather in one of Kitatta’s cars. That entire police post shut down. All the officers sat with us in Kitatta’s car to drive to Naggalama,” Serunkuma recalls.

However, his sister Nassimbwa Hamidah says Kitatta is being framed.
“You get pangas (machetes), uniforms and guns to kill people? And again when you are in court you don’t bring the pangas and uniforms and even you don’t bring the person who picked those uniforms because those people you are seeing in court testifying against Kitaata were not in the operation that arrested Kitaata,” Nassimbwa says.

Bukenya says Kitatta was given guns by his superiors to carry out regime duties.
“The high-profile people should not shy away, they are supposed to be charged equally. I don’t blame Kitatta. These are the people who misled him and after using him, he was dumped,” says Bukenya.

Different levels
Nassimbwa asks: “Where is Kayihura, doesn’t he know Kitatta? Now this is why I say I don’t want to plead with these wolves of this regime. Kayihura is out free. Kitatta and his boys are in prison. What kind of country is this?”

Nassimbwa says Kitatta is being punished for being loyal.
“The President used to directly contact him when there are political issues in Kampala and around. At times, he called him in my presence,” reveals Nassimbwa.
“I am in things. Some of you have looked at me as a mere patron of boda bodas. But I am now closer to the President,” Kitatta once told his disciples.

The deputy NRM secretary general, Mr Richard Todwong, says although Kitatta was a good mobiliser and cadre, he was not above the law.
“Whether you are a party leader or party supporter, as long as you are a criminal, we don’t compromise with you because that we only tarnish the good well-earned reputation of the revolution, which we don’t comprise with,” Mr Todwong says.

He, however, says until Kitatta is found guilty by court, he is still innocent.

Kitatta is being tried in the General Court Martial under Section 119 of the UPDF Act, which states that every person found in unlawful possession of arms, ammunition or equipment ordinarily being monopoly of the defence forces, becomes subject to military law.

Kitatta and his co-accused face charges of unlawful possession of firearms and military stores, contrary to Section 161 of the UPDF.

The prosecution team is building its case around a Golden-plated pistol. His defence team argues that it was planted on him.
He remains holed up in military cells and his fate, for now, lies in the hands of the General Court Martial, which must accord him an impartial, free and fair trial.

At his trial recently, his head slumped as his eyes welled up with tears, perhaps getting to grips that life is at stake.

UNDER THE LAW
Until Kitatta is found guilty by court, he is still innocent. He is being tried in the General Court Martial under Section 119 of the UPDF Act, which states that every person found in unlawful possession of arms, ammunition or equipment ordinarily being monopoly of the defence forces, becomes subject to military law.

Kitatta and his co-accused face charges of unlawful possession of firearms and military stores, contrary to Section 161 of the UPDF. It is also not determined whether Kitatta was responsible or complicit by such collective actions of the Boda Boda 2010.

The prosecution team is building its case around a Golden-plated pistol. His defence team argues that it was planted on him.

Watch the NTV Panorama video:The rise and fall of Abdallah Kitatta

Advertisement