How soldiers shot at traffic officer towing army vehicle

Police constable Robert Mukebezi being assisted by his colleague Christine Kabarungi (left) and wife Barbara Niinsiima at Mulago Hospital Causality Ward yesterday. PHOTO / STEPHEN OTAGE

What you need to know:

  • The traffic officer was escorting a towed military vehicle, a Toyota Prado TX, to Kira Road Police Station where he is attached to.

At about 6am yesterday, unidentified soldiers on a military double cabin pickup truck intercepted Police Constable (PC) Robert Mukebezi at Ntinda Traffic lights in Kampala.

The traffic officer was escorting a towed military vehicle, a Toyota Prado TX, to Kira Road Police Station where he is attached to.

According to police sources, the armed soldiers cocked their guns and ordered the traffic officer to hand over the vehicle which had knocked Kobil Petrol Station signpost on Kisaasi road, but Mukebezi refused since he was acting in accordance with the Police Act.

The law empowers traffic officers to impound any vehicle involved in an accident. The armed men allegedly shot and injured the traffic officer in the right leg. They then hijacked the damaged military vehicle and took it to Mbuya area, a Kampala suburb.  

A Uganda People’s Defence Forces vehicle knocks a fuel station price signage in Ntinda, Kampala.   

The soldiers dumped the wounded police officer on the road and drove off with the Toyota Prado TX, a vehicle which is often used by military officers at or above the rank of Colonel.

By press time, UPDF had not yet handed over the vehicle to the police, the two vehicles or soldiers who were involved in the shooting of the policeman.

Daily Monitor went to Mulago National Referral Hospital and found Mukebezi admitted. 

UPDF statement

UPDF acting spokesperson Lt Col Ronald Kakurungu in a statement yesterday said the soldiers, who shot Mukebezi, were on the run and that theywere hunting them. The army spokesperson, however, didn’t disclose any details about the soldiers.

A traffic police officer on duty at dawn arrives at the scene with a tow vehicle. 

Unlike previous incidents against their officers by politicians or criminals, the Uganda Police Force didn’t issue an official statement about the shooting of their officer or condemn the act. 

Senior police officers, who are supposed to be aware of such investigations, said the military hadn’t cooperated with them to recover the vehicles that were involved in both incidents for forensic examination.

The officers also said the UPDF hadn’t given identities of the occupants of both military vehicles.

Efforts to get a comment from Lt Col Kakurungu about the police’s failure to access exhibits involved in the incident were futile. Our repeated calls went unanswered.

By press time, Mukebezi was still in hospital and the medics didn’t allow visitors other than his colleagues and family members to interact with him.

As he tows away the damaged car, a group of officers driving a double cabin pick-up truck belonging to the UPDF intercept him. An argument ensues. 

His colleague, who visited him at hospital, said he was responding well to treatment.

“If there is one humble and non-confrontational person I know of, it is him. He told us that he wasn’t given a chance to leave the tow vehicle,” said a colleague, who preferred anonymity.

Police sources suspect the occupants of the Toyota Prado TX must have ordered the soldiers to shoot at the traffic officer to get the car by force. 

CCTV footage

Police officers retrieved CCTV footage from the scene and vowed to get to the bottom of the incident.

Incidents of security personnel misusing their powers and firearms have increased in the country, but in some incidents they are defended by their superiors or given light sentences. 

In some insistence, like the blocking of Land Commission led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire and senior police officers from a piece of land in Mutungo, the soldiers were given medals for their actions.

In the Ntinda incident, Mr Ezra Sekanabo, a boda boda rider, said he found the military vehicle being towed at around 5am.

“A guard at Kobil told us that the vehicle had three occupants and they all appeared drunk. The guard said they didn’t confront them because they feared being shot at, but they contacted the police,” Mr Sekanabo said.

The soldiers shoot in the air before shooting at the traffic officer. After injuring him they dump him by the roadside before reclaiming the damaged vehicle.  Illustrations /
Chrisogon Atukwasize

He added that the guard told him the three occupants left the scene before the traffic police officer arrived.

Mr Mukebezi arrived alone at the scene and then invited another vehicle to tow the military car to the police station.

“The military vehicle was towed without any problem,” he said.

He said minutes later, a military double cabin pick-up truck with soldiers arrived at the petrol station and talked to the pump attendants and onlookers.

“They were told that the police had towed the vehicle to the police station. The soldiers then followed it,” he said.

The military double cabin later caught up with the tow vehicle at Ntinda traffic lights. PC Mukebezi narrated to his colleague that they were blocked and stopped.

“He said the soldiers got out of their pick up truck and rushed to him. He said they asked him where he was taking the vehicle. He said he told them that he was heading to the police station,” his colleague added.

PC Mukebezi told his colleague that the soldiers ordered him to drive to Mbuya, but he pleaded with them to first reach the police station where he would hand over the wreckage and make a formal procedure.

“He said one of the soldiers shot in the air and another shot at him while he was seated in the passenger seat of the tow vehicle,” his colleague said.

The victim also told his colleague that the soldiers forced him out of the car before they ordered the tow vehicle driver to drive in the direction of their choice.

The driver obliged. The injured traffic officer was left at the scene bleeding and was helped by passers-by and later on by his colleagues, who rushed him to hospital for treatment.

Kampala Metropolitan Police deputy spokesman Luke Owoyesigyire said the police have opened attempted murder and obstruction charges against soldiers that shot Mukebezi.

“The detectives will record PC Mukebezi’s statement after his health situation has stabilised,” Mr Owoyesigyire said.

Previous incident

On November 26, 2021, a soldier shot dead an Officer-in-Charge of Lorengecora Police Post, detective corporal John Osema, in Napak District as he was responding to a fire incident.

abagalaug.nationmedia.com

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