John Katuramu walked out of prison on September 11 after being jailed for 20 years for the murder of Prince Charles Kijanangoma to the delight of his family — and many people in Tooro Kingdom who had been pressing for his release.
Mr Katuramu, who was a prominent businessman at the time of his conviction, is now a free man and is enjoying life. But the man he murdered will never regain his life. He will never see his family; his family will never see him. All they see is his grave. And — apart from tending the grave, making sure it is not overgrown with weeds and suchlike — that is pretty much it.
There is something deeply troubling about someone convicted of murder being in prison for just 20 years. To the family and friends of the victim, it is injustice, not justice. That is why I think it is about time we changed our laws so that convicted murderers spend the rest of their lives in prison — or at the very least 100 years.
Human rights defenders will argue that custodial punishments seek to reform offenders, but murderers should not be allowed the luxury of freedom when those they murdered are lying in their graves. Killers should be ready to forfeit the right to freedom forever.
They can be allowed to live since sentencing them to death is, technically speaking, not a punishment. But allowing them to walk out of prison when they killed deliberately is totally unacceptable.
When jailing murderers and the corrupt, we should always remember this: There are millions of Ugandans who have never killed, never thought of killing, anyone — apart from insects that they have trampled to death, and they do not kill those insects deliberately. They know that murdering anyone is a terrible crime; they do not do it.
There are millions of Ugandans who are employed and self-employed and earn starvation wages, but they have never resorted to corruption to amass wealth. They can account for their earthly possessions, and they are proud of them. They do not have any criminal record.
It is against this background that some of us are bothered that Mr Katuramu can serve just 20 years for murder and walk out of prison to have fun. Murderers and corrupt Ugandans, even if they have been to prison, just do not sit well with law-abiding Ugandans.
From Sunday Monitor’s lead story about Mr Katuramu’s release, we could see that he was merely interested in power, yet he was already powerful and rich.
Motivated by greed, people deliberately choose to commit crimes, and they expect the law to be lenient. Coincidentally, two were convicted by retired Justice John Bosco Katutsi. Apart from Mr Katuramu, we had Teddy Ssezi Cheeye. He embezzled public funds and was jailed for six years. But Mr Cheeye was not looking for something to eat. He was a director with the Internal Security Organisation (ISO).
Then there was the case of businessman Johnson Kamya Wavamunno who, in 1996, waylaid a van in Kitoro taking money and fatally shot a policeman who was working as a guard before he grabbed the cash. He was not poor. Wanton disregard for human life brought on by greed is unforgivable. Messrs Katuramu and Wavamunno should be permanent residents of Luzira.
Mr Namiti is a journalist and former
Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk