What you need to know:
- Police tracked down and arrested Sipapa in Tororo District after they took in his wife in whose bag they said they recovered $70,000 (Shs266m) of what they believed to be part of the stolen $429,000 (Shs1.6b).
The police have taken city socialite Charles Sunday Olim, alias Sipapa, into custody at Kabalagala Station in Kampala to assist with investigations into alleged robbery of Shs1.6b, phones and other electronic gadgets.
Detectives identified the victim-cum-complainant as South Sudanese army officer Jacob Nul, a resident of Bunga in the capital’s Makindye Division.
Police’s Directorate of Crime Intelligence (CI) tracked down and arrested Sipapa in Tororo District after law enforcement took in his wife in whose bag detectives said they recovered $70,000 (Shs266m) of what they believed to be part of the stolen $429,000 (Shs1.6b).
The Force spokesperson Fred Enanga, on behalf of their leadership, commended the “tireless efforts of the CID (criminal investigations) and CI (crime intelligence) task teams” for the arrest.
According to detectives, the suspects gained unauthorised access into the house of Mr Nul, identified yesterday as a military officer in South Sudan, and sedated the family members before fleeing with Shs1.6b, mobile phone handsets and laptops on the night of August 28.
Some of the greenbacks were allegedly found in the bedroom of Sipapa’s house alongside some of the missing mobile handsets, and detectives are inquiring how the money and gadgets got there in the first place.
In the search at Sipapa’s house, investigators also retrieved two high-end cars and other vehicle accessories and unused registration number plates.
The details about the source of Sipapa’s wealth, who relatives say dropped out of school at Kampala High School, remain sketchy.
He enjoys round-the-clock security and holds out as a philanthropist and a staunch supporter of, and campaigner for, the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.
Connections cultivated over the years have landed Sipapa as a guest of President Museveni.
Sipapa was born in the eastern Tororo District and is aged 42, according to his uncle and Kirewa Sub-county chairman Joseph Kasolo.
The family says Sipapa, born Charles Olimi, studied and took Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) at Kirewa Primary School in present-day Soni Sub-county in 1993 and dropped out at Kampala High School.
These version of accounts varies with what Sipapa himself offered to Ms Faridah Nakazibwe, the host of the Mwasuze Mutya programme on our sister television station, NTV, in September 2020. Then, he said he was 31-years-old, meaning he would presently be 33.
He said then that he started formal education at Kayinja Primary in Tororo District, but moved to Kampala with his father John Owino, alias Ongok, and stepmother, cutting his teeth into city life.
“I only met my mother when I was old. I want[ed] to see what she look[ed] like,” Sipapa told Ms Nakazibwe.
Without parental care, it affected Sipapa. At a tender age, he recalled that he was mistreated by his stepmother.
“My father loved my stepmother so much that he cared less about how I was treated. But my father believed in my stepmother so much,” he said.
The treatment at home pushed him to spend most of his time away to avoid punishment. It was the contacts he made when out of home that he started collecting garbage from homes for a fee to partly fend for himself.
Sipapa said he used to collect garbage from areas of Kabalagala in Makindye Division where the alleged robbery that yesterday took him into police custody happened.
On the 2020 NTV programme, he said at one time his stepmother alleged that he had stolen a facial mirror.
His father summoned him for a hearing. Sipapa denied stealing the mirror.
“He [father] told me that I must bring back the mirror. I promised to get the money and refund for the lost mirror,” he said.
The future “celebrity” went straight to collect garbage that fateful day and took Shs9,000 out of Shs10,000 that he made to his father.
“When I gave my father Shs9,000, he was so angry that he threatened to spear me dead. I took off,” he said.
At 14, Sipapa said he began living independently.
The first night was a tough one. He spent it in an incomplete house.
He went to a friend, who gave him a bed sheet. While having a sleep in an unfinished house near Canopy in Kasokoso in Kira Municipality, Wakiso District, which is 10kms away from their home, Sipapa said a guard detected.
He was chased after he was suspected to be a thief. He was arrested and beaten badly.
“Two people knew my father, but I didn’t identify myself. One woman looked at me and said ‘this boy looks like the son of the man (Owino), who often passes here.’ I confirmed. They called my father on mobile phone, but he responded that he doesn’t have a child called Sunday,” he recalled.
Sipapa said it hurt him so much and he knew he was alone in this world.
They took him to the police, where he was released.
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Sipapa went back to his normal life where he would collect garbage and then spend a night in an unfinished house. By his account, another time, he crossed paths with death when he was found entering an incomplete house. He was chased and his pursuer cut him on the head.
While fleeing from his pursuers, he fell into an incomplete pit latrine, which was many feet deep. Those who were pursuing him lost contact.
After he was sure that no one was pursuing him, he climbed to the top and walked away.
“I was so weak that when I went to the unfinished house for a sleep, I overslept. I woke up in the morning to the people surrounding me. I was bleeding. I just stood up and walked away, to their surprise,” he said.
Sipapa still wanted to continue with his education and said he used the earnings from garbage collections to fund his education and completed Primary Seven.
It was the last academic class he attended, contrary to what his uncle Kasolo told us yesterday.
During the day, the channel at Kasokoso was his laundry room. He would also rest on its banks. Often while asleep, criminals stole his clothes that he hanged on the banks.
He said one night, it rained heavily that he woke up when engulfed by storm water. He sought refuge in the toilet at his grandfather’s home in Kasokoso as he waited for the night to pass.
Early in the morning, as he was escaping before he could be detected, his grandfather, who was rushing to answer nature’s call, bumped into him.
“He looked at me and grieved. He offered me shelter. I didn’t take it,” he said.
His escape from hardship arrived when he befriended a one Ssemanda. Sipapa had helped Ssemanda repair electricity connection in his house.
Ssemanda introduced Sipapa to his father, Patrick Kulabako, who had a school.
Mr Kulabako gave him an assignment to wire the house, which he did well.
It impressed Mr Kulabako, connecting him to other people, who needed the same services.
Sipapa had got a new home. He would lodge at the home during the day and also eat free meals there, but return to a night vagabond. He didn’t disclose to his hosts that he had all along been homeless.
One day, he had just left Mr Kulabako’s home and felt that he couldn’t bear the cold night looking for an incomplete house to spend a night in. He chose to sleep in an empty classroom at Mr Kulabako’s school.
Unfortunately, he saw Ssemanda opening a window and focusing on the classroom. In no time, Ssemanda and his father, armed with sharp spears, started pursuing a “thief”. He took off.
“They didn’t notice that it was me. In the morning, when I visited them, they told me the story of how they pursued a “thief”, who wanted to steal school property,” he recounted on the NTV programme hosted by Ms Nakazibwe.
One of the contacts Mr Kulabako connected him to, was a businessman only identified as Wafula. Sipapa helped Wafula with wiring in his video library.
Sipapa would later learn using a computer in the same library, paying Shs1,000 to use the machine a day.
Although the friendship with Wafula blossomed, it landed him into trouble.
“Dying” for a friend
One morning, Mr Wafula visited Mr Kulabako and told him that he wanted to see Sipapa. He told Mr Kulabako that if he sees Sipapa, he should alert him (Wafula). Mr Kulabako did as told.
In October 2008, Wafula picked Sipapa and took him to the library to fix a lamp.
“As I inserted it, a police officer jerked me,” he said in accounts of the NTV programme.
Sipapa claimed he was accused of stealing a laptop. He alleged that Wafula told him that he had lost a laptop of a client, but he needed him to admit to the crime to save him. He said he innocently agreed.
Sipapa said he was taken to the police and ended up at Nakawa Chief Magistrate’s court where he was charged with theft. He said he entered a guilty plea.
He was sentenced to two years in prison.
“Prison is good and bad. I learnt many things in prison. It hardened me. We spent a lot of time tilling in Jinja District. At one time, I used my contacts and called my father. He just evaded me,” he said.
On April 27, 2010, he was released from prison. Sipapa returned to Kabalagala, a Kampala outskirt in Makindye Division, without shelter or a workplace.
His old job – as garbage collector – gave him hope.
Although he was hard pressed, human nature made him unsettled. He got a girlfriend. They fell in love. The girlfriend demanded to visit him at home.
“At first, I took her to my father’s home,” he said. When she insisted on taking him to his home, he disclosed his homelessness.
The girlfriend didn’t stop the relationship. He collected every penny he got and entrusted it with the girlfriend to keep it until they raised enough money to rent a house.
“She kept the money. She even contributed some money. We raised Shs600,000. I was able to pay rent for a single room in Mutungo (another city suburb) for six months,” he said on the NTV programme.
A friend took him to the central business district of Kampala where he had gone to repair a laptop.
In the repair shop, he learnt that people would bring old laptops and other electronics for sale. Using his meagre resources, he also started to deal in that business.
He said it was the business that gave him a stable income.
The 2011 General Elections boosted his prospects.
“People started hiring my music equipment for campaigns. At one point, I had over five sets of equipment,” he said.
After the campaigns, he was advised by a one DJ Black to join music promotion.
He agreed and didn’t turn back.
He was able to promote top musicians, including Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, Joseph Mayanja, alias Jose Chameleon, among others.
He, however, can’t explain how he was able to make millions of shillings in such a short time.
Case of mistaken identity?
Around that time, he claims he was driving to Ntinda, a Kampala outskirt, and his car developed a mechanic condition.
He claims to have seen two men running past him and later saw another man armed with a gun shooting at them.
In his story, he said the trio, for unexplained reason, turned on him.
“They beat me up, accusing me of being a thief,” he said. He was saved by the police. However, the police narrative is that he and two others had gone to break into a house at night.
He was beaten so badly that he ended up at Mulago National Referral Hospital where he was admitted. Sipapa remained a handcuffed patient while receiving treatment.
After recovering, he was taken to court and charged with house breaking. The case later failed due to lack of evidence.
After his release, he disappeared in public sphere. He only turned up later driving expensive cars.
Sipapa said an unnamed South Sudanese national introduced him to deal in gold, which turned into his treasure trove.
His chains of poverty snapped. Wealth liberated and gave him a name and new connections.
In the 2021 General Election, he even joined the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party campaign trail.
President Museveni invited him twice to State House where he thanked him for the support.
He was given security guards that even shot at National Unity Platform supporters at the party headquarters during a road rage.
Soon after the campaigns, he was arrested on allegations of illegal possession of a firearm. He was released after two weeks. The police didn’t recover the said gun.
He is a family man. Although he says he doesn’t care about his brush with the law and multiple booking into police custody, he is bothered by how it will harm his children in the future.