Masaka killings: 40 suspects held without trial

Friday September 24 2021

Security officers at the hoemof one of the 26 people that were killed by machete-wielding assailants in the Masaka Sub-region. PHOTO/FILE

By Wilson Kutamba

At least 40 suspects, mostly youth aged between 20 and 35,   are being  kept incommunicado over  alleged involvement in the recent spate of killings in the Greater Masaka Sub-region.

Of the 78 arrested suspects, only 19, including two lawmakers Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West ) and Muhammad Ssegirinya (Kawempe North) have since  been charged.

Other suspects totaling to 40 are still in detention centres in Masaka City and Lwengo District, while the rest were released on bond , according to a police source .

Some suspects have been in detention since August 28 and have not been charged with any offence.
“The suspects were screened and some who had no connection to the murders were released,” a source said yesterday.

According to the law, a suspect is supposed to be held in police detention for a maximum of 48 hours after which they are either produced in court or released on police bond.

But Mr Muhammad Nsubuga, the southern regional police spokesperson, yesterday defended their continued detention, saying their cases are “unique” and require extensive investigations.


Long investigations
“We are fully recognizant of the law, but sometimes investigations into some capital cases take longer than anticipated. So, we cannot just release them or take them to court before completing our work ,”  he said.

However, he said investigations are almost complete and suspects who have spent a long time in detention will soon be arraigned in court.

Of the 19 accused persons, three, including Francis Kayemba, Peter Ochieng and Vincent Muwonge, alias Bbaale, a crime preventer in Masaka City, reportedly gave false information about the killings to Mr Paul Nkore, the southern regional police commander, which partly affected efforts to swiftly apprehend the killers.

Last week, the trio applied for bail, claiming they have illnesses which cannot be treated in prison, but the Masaka Grade One Magistrate, Mr Arthur Ziraba, rejected their application and further remanded them.

Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, who is also a lawyer, said even though he had instructions to secure bail for the two MPs [Ssegirinya and Ssewanyana] , all those  still in police cells are suspects, and holding them incommunicado is unconstitutional.

“Police are expected to arrest suspects when they have already gathered evidence against them. This growing culture of holding suspects incommunicado and lengthy pretrial detentions are unconstitutional,” he said.

According to Mr Peter Walubiri, another constitutional lawyer ,

the Constitution does not classify grave crimes and all suspects  have to be accorded  the same treatment  and presented before court after expiry of the mandatory  48 hours .

“…even suspects released on bail can be ordered to come back through court to reconstruct the scene of crime and other things police are talking about ,but not holding them incommunicado ,”he said

Mr Nsubuga said although peace has been restored in the sub region in the last three weeks, they are maintaining heavy deployment of both plain and clothed security operatives in the area.

“ In addition to that , we are also using unmanned aerial vehicles which many call drones  which have improved our surveillance in the area ,” he said

He said the drones, which are normally deployed at night have helped them track down suspicious elements. “ The information we gather using those drones have enabled us to quickly  rush to scenes in case we detect suspected criminals in a particular area ,”he said.