Kiruhura murders and how the suspect was tortured

Saturday May 2 2020

 

By Sylvester Onzivua

On August 30, 2013, in the evening hours, James Asiimwe, was arrested and subsequently charged with murder of a prominent farmer in Kiruhura District, alongside five of his workers.

Asiimwe told court that he was born in 1986 and was a cattle keeper. Prior to his arrest, he was a resident of Nyahasharaza Parish in Kiruhura District. He was arrested by a team of six people, who travelled in a white van.

The officers who arrested him first called him by phone, having, purportedly, got his phone number from the chairman of Kiruhura Trading Centre. The officers lured him in their van with a promise of a well paying job in Kampala, on the recommendation of the chairman.

While in the van, Asiimwe was handcuffed and interrogation kicked off. He was asked if in his life he had committed any offence, which he denied. He looked so weak and frail that the leader of the arresting team ordered his colleagues not to beat him. He even mentioned to the group that the young man could possibly not be aware of the offence he was arrested for.

The suspect had never been to Kampala before. There was a debate among the arresting team on whether to take him to the Central Police Station or a safe house in Ntinda. It was 1am when the team reached Kampala and opted to detain the young man in Ntinda, in a secluded room within the safe house.

At around 4am, a group of men in uniform (type not specified) brought in a dead body, dumped it in the room and told the suspect that he would end up the same way if he did not cooperate.

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Later that day, a man in a black uniform came with a letter from officers who arrested Asiimwe was handed over to him. The suspect was then taken to a torture chamber within the safe house, undressed and suspended from the feet with his head in a pit.

He was then beaten with an assortment of objects including batons, a metallic rod, a belt and his nail beds were pier ced using sharp needles. In the course of the torture, the suspect was asked about a one Grace Nuwamanya and Jovia (son and first wife respectively of the deceased farmer).

The suspect could not give them any information as he had no idea who these people he was being asked about were. He even had no knowledge of the deceased farmer. During the trial, the suspect removed his jacket and T-shirt and showed court the torture marks on his back, left arm and on the thumbs.

Asiimwe ended up telling the people interrogating him the names of two people in Kiruhura that he knew; Juju and Bujoro. He knew Juju because he was working at the home of Juju’s relative.

Asiimwe was later moved to another facility on top of a hill within Kampala that was guarded by women in a black uniform. He was brought to the women so that they could “work on him” as the first team could not get any useful information from him.

While beating him, these women asked him how he knew Juju. He repeated the same information he had told his first tormentors. The suspect was later driven back to Kiruhura in the car boot, to meet with one of the daughters of the deceased farmer.

This daughter wanted to know whether her mother and brother had given money (Shs800 million), to the suspect to deliver to the killers. The suspect denied knowing anything about such a huge amount money and payment.

One officer asked the suspect if he knew of the six people killed in Kacumbiro and the suspect denied knowledge of the killings and the location of the place. After this meeting, Asiimwe was driven back to Kampala and held in various police stations.

Later on, Asiimwe was taken to the officer who wrote the charge and caution statement. According to the suspect, the officer was given Shs100,00 to ensure that he, the suspect, signed the statement. The officer had a gun and a pistol and in the suspect’s words “I looked on as the officer wrote his papers. At that time I was in their hands, I had nothing to do.” The officer wrote on two pages and asked the suspect to sign. He confessed in court that he signed the papers without knowing what was in them because he was tired of being tortured.

One of the investigating officers requested the suspect to be a State witness and promised that the State would buy him a house in Kampala if he testified that he was given eight hundred million by the first wife of the deceased farmer and her children to deliver to the killers. He was instructed to tell court that he went together with the killers but did not participate in the killings but was only forced to defile the farmer’s grand-daughter.

The suspect was later remanded to Murchison Bay Prison in Luzira, where the Chief of Police himself visited and handed Asiimwe Shs500,000 for the suspect. The suspect told the Police Chief “Mzee, I do not know these people (family members of the deceased farmer). I am not related to them and I have never worked in their home. I only know Bujoro as a tipper driver and I know Juju.”

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