MPs Ssegirinya, Ssewanyana finally sent to High Court for trial

MPs Muhammad Ssegirinya and Allan Ssewanyana appearing before Masaka Magistrates Court via zoom link from Kigo Prison

What you need to know:

  • Court heard that Ssewanyana, Ssegirinya, Ssenyonga and others still at large during the night of August 2, 2021 at Kisekka B Village in Lwengo District with malice aforethought, unlawfully killed Joseph Bwanika.

Court has finally committed jailed legislators Mr Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) and Muhammad Ssegirinya (Kawempe North) to High Court for trial in a case where they are accused of murder, aiding and abetting terrorism.

While appearing before Masaka Grade One Magistrate, Christine Nantegge, on Monday, the State Prosecutor Richard Birivumbuka told court that they deemed it fit to issue a production warrant for the accused persons after getting the legislators’ co- accused person Wilson Ssenyonga alias Nyonga Tony who they claim has been playing hide and seek with the authorities at Kitalya Prison for some time.

Mr Birivumbuka told court that State had made amendments in the charge sheet by adding Ssenyonga, who is a key suspect in the murder of Joseph Bwanika in August 2021 in Lwengo District.

“Court had allocated the case on April 6, 2022 for further mention of the case, but as we had earlier told court that investigations in this case were complete and committal exercise was only delayed by the presence of Ssenyonga another accused person in this case. Since we secured his attendance, we deemed it necessary to appear today because waiting until April 6 would be causing unnecessary and unwarranted delays to the legislators’ case,” he said.

Mr Birivumbuka told court that the committal papers were also ready and asked court to proceed with the process of committing the trio to the High Court for trial.

Consequently, the presiding magistrate read out the summary of the offense to the accused persons - with the two MPs following the proceedings via zoom from Kigo Prison while Ssenyonga was physically present in court.

Court heard that Ssewanyana, Ssegirinya, Ssenyonga and others still at large during the night of August 2, 2021 at Kisekka B Village in Lwengo District with malice aforethought, unlawfully killed Joseph Bwanika.

Court also heard that Ssenyonga who is a key suspect in the case is a porter and a resident of Kamazzi Village, Katoma Ward, Malongo Sub County in Lwengo District.

Records before court indicate that the deceased (Bwanika) was found in the coffee plantation, partially buried with the head covered and the lower part outside. The deceased was murdered on his way back home from work.

L-R: Defence lawyers, Erias Lukwago, Shamim Malende and some members of the National Unity Platform (NUP) look on as Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake (in white) tries to console Muhammad Ssegirinya's mother who was weeping after the court session. PHOTO | MALIK FAHAD JJINGO

Reading from the committal papers, Magistrate Nantegge said Ssenyonga on arrest confessed that he and his accomplices were recruited by Ssewanyana and Ssegirinya to murder Bwanika, and that they held meetings at Happy Boys Club in Ndeeba near Kabaka’s lake in Kampala City from where plans were drawn to kill people in Masaka sub region, as a way of sending a message to the government that they (National Unity Platform – NUP) were robbed of their 2021 general election victory.

Prosecution also states that a charge and caution statement and an extra judicial statement were recorded from Ssenyonga and this would be used as evidence during the trial.

Court also heard that police visited the crime scene where the sketch map was drawn and photographs taken and police also retrieved the accused persons’ s mobile telephone call data print outs which place the accused persons at Happy Boys where the meetings reportedly took place.

“The Central Circuit Television (CCTV) footage was retrieved and clearly shows the accused persons participated in the commission of the offense, and this will also be used as evidence at the trial,” the State further revealed.   

The defense team led by Mr Erias Lukwago, however, said they had been ambushed by the State.

“The committal papers presented are lacking various key issues that needs to be addressed before the trial can begin, issues like how much money was paid to Ssenyonga, who helped him in the murder, who helped him in the burial of Bwanika, Is Ssenyonga also an accused person or state witness?” He argued.  

Mr Lukwago said since investigations are now complete, they want court to handle the two pending bail applications –one filed in Court of Appeal and another at  High Court in Masaka since these were ignored on claims that the accused persons would interfere with police investigations.

 Ms Shamim Malende, another defense lawyer said that they need Ssenyonga to be examined to ensure that he is in sound mental state.

The two MPs, who have been on remand since September 20, 2021 were first accused of four counts of murder and one of attempted murder. Two more counts of aiding and abetting terrorism were later added. They were later granted bail, but re-arrested as they left the prison premises, and slapped with fresh charges.

The case has since been adjourned several times either due to the absence of the prosecutor or on the State’s request for more time.

In their requests for adjournment, the State has on several occasions argued that the evidence collected by police thus far is not sufficient for the MPs to be committed to the High Court for trial.