Family of woman killed by soldier seeks justice

Ms Rebecca Masika. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Rebecca Masika, who was five months pregnant, was shot dead by UPDF soldier in Ndaiga Sub-county, Kagadi District.

On May 4, police officers and soldiers stormed Kamina Landing Site on the shores of Lake Albert in Ndaiga Sub-county, Kagadi District and arrested Mr Darlington Nsamba, aka Brandy Wine, a local musician.

Mr Nsamba had reportedly been summoned to record a statement at  Ndaiga Police Post over his alleged involvement in malicious damage of property, but he declined to go.

Mr Nsamba and seven others were accused of illegally removing poles of a fence on a disputed land in Ndaiga Sub-county.

Witnesses who spoke to Monitor, said after his arrest at 8am, Mr Nsamba was taken to the home of the chairperson of the landing site, Mr Dennis Ochirchan, where he was held for more than one hour.

A group of residents later went to Mr Ochirchan’s home and demanded that Mr Nsamba should be released, saying he had done nothing wrong.

However, the security personnel refused to release Mr Nsamba and frogmarched him to Ndaiga Police Post and later transferred him to Kagadi Central Police Station.

A solider only identified as Juma, remained behind at the home of Mr Ochirchan where he was later joined by two other soldiers.

They then ordered the crowd to leave Mr Ochirchan’s home but the residents defied them.
At this point, Corporal Mugume fired two bullets from his gun and shot dead Rebecca Masika, a neighbour of Mr Ochirchan.

Witnesses said the 37-year-old mother of four was not part of the crowd that had gathered at Mr Ochirchan’s home.
Mr Ivan Tugume, who was party of the crowd, was injured and rushed to Kitebere Health Centre.

Mr Wilson Mukonyezi, the husband of Masika, told Saturday Monitor that she was shot dead as she was returning from the pit-latrine.

The deceased, who was five months pregnant, was a fishmonger who had been in the business for more than 10 years.

Her husband said: “When our village chairman told us that [Mr]  Nsamba was arrested and he was being taken to the police [post], the residents protested it but the security personnel declined to listen. Shortly after he was taken, some of the soldiers who had remained behind, tried to disperse the crowd. One soldier fired bullets directly, shooting my wife who was coming from the toilet.”

He said the family has not received any compensation from the government, despite numerous efforts.

Mr Mukonyezi also said neither the army nor the district authorities contributed towards the burial of his wife, who was laid to rest in Kasese District on May 5.

He said justice should be served, adding: “My wife was not involved in any chaos at all, she was shot dead as she was coming from our toilet and was going to our house. She was shot from behind and a bullet passed through her chest, she died on the spot. We need justice, the soldier should be arrested and prosecuted. My wife was a breadwinner, she has left four children and I want the government to pay their fees and cater for the family.”

The parents of the deceased, Mr Amos Muhindo and Ms Joselin Mbambu also demanded that the accused soldier should be brought to book.

Mr Mukonyezi said his efforts to have the killer soldier prosecuted have hit a snag, accusing the police and the army of dragging their feet.

However, the police, army and the resident district commissioner (RDC) of Kagadi, Mr Nicholas Kamukama, said they are following due process.

The UPDF spokesperson, Brig Felix Kulaigye, told Saturday Monitor: “The incident happened in Kagadi and our regional officers handed it accordingly. If the UPDF soldier who committed the offence was not punished for the act, we are going to follow up and find out why he has not been punished for the incident.”

The Albertine Region Police spokesperson, Mr Julius Hakiza, said investigations are ongoing.
He urged the family of the deceased to contact the Attorney General for compensation.

Mr Hakiza also blamed residents for the incident, saying the soldier fired his gun after they attempted to disarm him.

“The incident that happened was after police had withdrawn from the scene after arresting the suspect. But the local people who had gathered at the scene, including the deceased, provoked the armed soldiers. They tried to disarm a soldier and he released the bullet which killed her,” he said.

However, residents who spoke to Monitor denied the claims, saying their protest was peaceful.

The Kagadi RDC, Mr Kamukama, said the government gave the family of the deceased Shs4 million as contribution towards burial expenses. 

He also said the accused soldier, who is a member of the UPDF marines deployed on Lake Albert, was   remanded.

Mr Kamukama added: “We want to ask the public not to resist arrest by our security forces and also not provoke the armed forces.” 

However, Mr Latiff Baguma, an uncle of the deceased, dismissed claims that they had received money from the government. He said all burial expenses were incurred by the family.

“We have never received any financial support from the government or UPDF, what they are saying is a lie. We transported the body to Kasese District for burial at our own cost and raised money for the casket and other burial expenses,” he said.

About land conflict 

The disputed land covers Ndaiga, Mpefu and Kyaterekera sub-counties.

The Ndaiga Sub-county chairman, Mr Oscar Cwinyai, said the land was sold to Mr Willy Rwamwojo by Mr David Tikasimire, Mr Kasilve Atwooki and Mr Xavier Kiiza.

 “I don’t know how the other three people came to own the land they sold to him. We have been involved in a land conflict since 2012. We have visited President Museveni two times and the issue has never been resolved,” he said.
Ms Salama Tuhaise, a councillor, said last year, Mr Rwamwojo told residents that he was the rightful owner of the land and ordered them to leave.
She said he compensated some residents and embarked on fencing the disputed land and planting trees on it.
   “We arranged an appointment with Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja in January and she directed no eviction should take place until she sends the minister for Lands to address our issues. But her orders were not obeyed,” she said. “We have been on this land for over 30 years. This land has no land title, it has been no man’s land for all these years, for himto  tell us that he has a title, we fail to understand him. We want the government to intervene in this matter,” she added.
Efforts to get a comment from the Mr Rwamwojo, the Kagadi District Land Board and the Office of the Prime Minister were futile by press time.

*Additional reporting by Karim Muyombo