The men convicted for the murder of Tooro prince Charles Happy Kijanangoma have been released from prison after serving their 20-year sentence.
Saturday marked 20 years since former Tooro Kingdom Prime Minister John Sanyu Katuramu and his accomplices were convicted and sentenced to death by the High Court.
In 2009, Katuramu and others, got some reprieve when their death sentences, which had been confirmed by the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, were commuted to life in prison for 20 years.
But on Saturday, social media was awash with news that the former premier had been released. Sources confirmed to Sunday Monitor that Mr Katuramu had walked out of Luzira on Saturday morning. We were also informed that his accomplices were released from Kigo-prison where they were serving the remainder of their sentences.
However, when contacted, the Luzira Prisons authorities through their spokesperson, Mr Frank Baine, first denied being in the know about the development.
“I’m not aware of that; I don’t know. That’s not the official position. I don’t know,” Baine told Saturday Monitor during a phone interview.
But family sources confirmed that by midday the former premier was, indeed, out of prison and was relaxing at his home in Mbuya, Kampala.
Section 46 (3) of the Prisons Act states that “All prisoners shall be discharged before noon on the date on which they are entitled to be released, but should that date fall on a Sunday or any public holiday, they shall be released before noon on the day preceding the Sunday or public holiday.”
Katuramu was convicted in September 2001 by now-retired High Court Judge John Bosco Katutsi for the murder of the Tooro prince.
Justice Katusti was convinced that on March 25, 1999, Katuramu ﬁnanced the murder of the prince and his guard, Stephen Kaganda, at Palace View Bar in the western town of Fort Portal, Kabarole District.
Katuramu’s nephew, Patrick Kwezi, and Alex Twinomugisha, a former Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldier, were also sentenced to death.
Kwezi was sentenced for transferring the cash to the killers while Twinomugisha, a former UPDF kadogo or child soldier, was convicted for pulling the trigger. Katuramu has unsuccessfully appealed against the conviction in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Since then, there have been several unsuccessful attempts to have the former Tooro premier released. When he was traversing Tooro during the 2016 general election campaigns, Museveni was made to make a comment on the of thorny issue of Katuramu’s incarceration.
Katuramu’s supporters had designed T-shirts and posters demanding Museveni to pardon their man, but Museveni said he couldn’t do it at a political rally and also the families of Katuramu and Kijanangoma have to first reconcile.
“Issues of Katuramu can’t be solved at a rally. I need to sort it out with the families but not at a rally. So if the two families settled (agreed), I have no problem with releasing Katuramu,” Mr Museveni said. “I advised the wife of Katuramu to go and meet the offended (deceased’s) family and reconcile. I have powers to pardon Katuramu, but I don’t want to release him when the two parties are not agreeing,” the president then said.
During the trial, the motive behind the murder of the Kijanangoma came to the fore. After the death of the Omukama of Tooro kingdom, Patrick Olimi Kaboyo, in 1995, the court was told that differences rocked the monarchy over the management of the kingdom’s property.
The subsequent battle pitted Katuramu against the royals, principally Kijanangoma and Princess Elizabeth Bagaya.
The royals dashed to court seeking revocation of Katuramu’s powers to manage the kingdom properties. They alleged that the premier was having an incorrect affair with the Queen Mother, Best Kemigisa. Kijanangoma , it is said, was marshalling the royal clan to move a vote of no confidence against Katuramu. His position in the kingdom was now in doubt.
The court was told that in order to obstruct the move to have him removed from office, he procured Kijanangoma ’s assassination.
Since his jailing, there have been several attempts to see that Kijanangoma ’s family forgives the premier but they have not come to anything as the late prince’s family have insisted they can’t let bygones be bygone.
In 1993, the Omukama of Tooro Kaboyo appointed Katuramu prime minister at the behest of Princess.
Before his appointment, Katuramu was known for his business acumen and owning a line of businesses, including Oxford Airways, Voice of Tooro, Rwenkuba Ranchers and a plethora of other real estate properties.
When Omukama Kaboyo died in 1995, Katuramu was retained as prime minister and was also named one of the regents of the new three-year-old king, Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV.
This did not go down well with some members of the royal family and kingdom officials as rumours spread like wildfire that Katuramu may have had a hand in the king died.
Katuramu again vehemently denied the allegations.
Katuramu was born on June 20, 1955, in Kabale Village, Kibiito Sub-county, Kabarole District.
He went to Mvara Secondary School in Arua for his O-Level and Nyakasura School in Fort Portal City for his A-level. Katuramu then did a diploma at the National College of Business Studies in Nakawa, now Makerere University Business School.
He then went into business and started the Give and Take Group of Companies. He also owned Oxford Airways, Voice of Tooro, Rwenkuba Ranchers and several real estate properties. Katuramu supported the NRA Bush War struggle in the Kabarole area. In 1993, the Omukama of Tooro, Patrick Olimi Kaboyo appointed Katuramu the Omuhikirwa, (prime minister) of the kingdom.
1999: Katuramu was arrested in connection with the killing of Charles Happy Kijanangoma and his guard, Stephen Kaganda at Palace View Bar in Fort Portal, Kabarole district.
In 2001, Katuramu and two others were convicted and sentenced to death on September 11, 2001, for masterminding the murder of Kijanangoma .
The others are Patrick Kwezi, who was convicted for transmitting the cash to the killers, and Alex Twinomugisha, a former UPDF kadogo who pulled the trigger.
He then unsuccessfully appealed his sentence in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court By the time he was arrested, Katuramu had about 10 children, including five from his official wife.
Katuramu’s wife, Gertrude, is the daughter of Can James Rabwoni, the late Brig Noble Mayombo’s father.