The late Senior Principal State Attorney Joan Kagezi. PHOTOS/FILE


Could suspect in Joan Kagezi killing be hiding in Europe?

What you need to know:

  • At the time of her death, Joan Kagezi had been assigned one of the most sensitive tasks in her career. She was the lead prosecutor in the trial of those implicated in the 2010 Kampala bombings. The plausible theory suggests that regional jihadist networks had transferred funds to local terror cells to eliminate Kagezi. But what if there was another sinister plot hatched by conspirators who believed that they could rely on Kagezi’s role in the trial of the terror suspects as a red herring to blind sleuths to follow false leads? Seven years after she was killed, a number of theories continue to emerge. One suggests that one of the major suspects in the assassination of the former assistant Director of Public Prosecutions fled to Europe, writes Emmanuel Mutaizibwa and Frederic Musisi

A tall, light-skinned young man with a polite demeanour was adored behind the curtain walls of Luzira upper prison for his benevolence. The suspect had been remanded on two counts of murder and aggravated robbery.
At the time he was remanded, highly placed sources told this newspaper that the suspect bore a fresh wound around the neck presumably inflicted by his victims as they fended off his attack. 
The wound was stitched at Mulago National Referral Hospital where he received treatment and upon recovery, he returned to prison.


Concern as 68 people are killed in one week
Sources revealed that the prima-facie evidence against him was cogent and there was a likelihood that he would be found guilty, had he been tried at the High Court for the offences of murder and aggravated robbery whose maximum sentence is the death penalty.

However, the suspect was granted bail in December 2014 under unclear circumstances. Little was heard from him again until much later when his name and profile was listed among the prime suspects in the March 30, 2015 assassination of the assistant director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Joan Kagezi.

 A facial composite of the male suspect police released after Kagezi’s killing.

That evening, around 7:15pm,  barely after daylight drained away and dusk enveloped the skies, Kagezi was among  scores trapped in the traffic gridlock on the Kiwatule-Najjera road on the way home.
She stopped at a roadside stall in Kiwatule, a suburb in Kampala to buy fruits. 

The roadside fruit seller, one of the several witnesses later taken into protective custody, revealed that the deceased had been her customer for about year.
“She usually stopped, we chit-chatted for a bit, and she placed her order. As I looked the other way to get the stuff ready, I heard popping sounds, which I thought was the sound of a burst car tyre. Then I heard screams of children; our mother has been killed. When I turned to the road, I saw a boda boda speeding away,” the fruit vendor narrated. 
A gunman, who had trailed her and who was transported on a motorcycle, fired shots at her that shattered the window of her vehicle in the presence of her children.  
Barely after, she slumped on her seat and was pronounced dead. The suspect who appeared to be a skilled marksman, slipped away on the motorcycle.
Other eye-witnesses described the suspect as a light-skinned man.

The former director of Criminal Investigations Director, Ms Grace Akullo, who was held up in the same traffic on her way home, upon hearing the crack of gunfire told her driver that ‘those are bullets.’
“When we rushed to the scene, I saw children crying that our mother has been killed. I asked which mother. They said she is there in the car, Kagezi. I looked in the car; it was the [assistant] DPP,”  Ms Akullo told journalists that evening.
Police detectives immediately cordoned off and combed the crime scene for leads. 

The then Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, rushed to the scene alongside other heads of security agencies. Gen Kayihura promised to quickly bring the killers to book.
Those who were arrested were largely Muslims linked to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group, which has been fighting government since the 1990s and has bases in the restive eastern DR Congo. 

Hard to track. “...I think it seems the people who did this (Kagezi murder) were well organised. ...They were able to plan it and escape and ensure tracks are covered. When we looked through the evidence, we realised these people (suspects) could not have been the people. This is what made it hard,” Justice Mike Chibita

Security personnel raided a number of what they ostensibly claimed were local ADF cells that coordinated Kagezi’s assassination. But the evidence against them appeared to be flawed and could not sustain a conviction.
Police also raided a house in Busega, a Kampala suburb, where they arrested four suspects alleged to be linked to the shooting. 

All the four were later released without any charge. Counter Terrorism officers also arrested ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee, Jamal Kiyemba, for possible links to the shooting.
On January 11, 2002, four months after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the United States set up a high-security prison in its Guantanamo Bay base, Cuba.
Sulait Kiyemba, the wife of Kiyemba, told Daily Monitor that her husband, who is the Imam of Masjid Taqwa Zana in Makindye Ssabagabo Division, was arrested three days after the Kagezi assassination.
“We were here with him when the incident happened, I remember he was preparing to go to the Mosque. We were all shocked by the news. Kagezi had helped previously to get him out of jail [in 2012], then three days later, he was picked up,” Ms Kiyemba said.

Kiyemba has been arrested several times on suspected connections to Islamic extremism and acts of terror. 
In 1998, he was sent to the United Kingdom to pursue a degree in pharmacy but was later detained in Pakistan in 2002 in a US operatives-led sweep of suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists. 
He was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay until 2006 when he was released and compensated for wrongful detention. 
Kiyemba was rearrested in 2012 and later in 2015, barely after Kagezi was shot dead as a suspect. He was briefly detained and released. 
He was recently rearrested in January after he was linked to ADF. The Buganda Road Chief Magistrate Court last Friday remanded him until May 16.

“The government should tell us who killed Kagezi because our people are suffering for nothing. I don’t know what Muslims did to this government,” Ms Kiyemba said.
According to police sources, detectives tracked the phones of all those who were near the Kagezi crime scene. 
One of the persons whose phone was tracked was an evangelist based in Bweyogerere, Wakiso District. 

Upon his arrest, he told detectives that he had visited the area to pick up his piano he had earlier on taken for repair. He was later released.

Some of the witnesses were placed under the police witness protection programme and kept at a safe house in Kyengera for a year and were later freed.
After six years, the police CID last September sent the Kagezi case file to the Office of the Directorate for Public Prosecutions (ODPP) for perusal. 
The office, according to documents seen by this newspaper, sent the file back to police on September 13, 2021 as a result of unreliable evidence.
Seven years later, officials say the matter remains an open investigation after about 50 people were detained as suspects and later released.

Weaknesses in evidence
The ODPP spokesperson, Ms Jacquelyn Okui, told Daily Monitor that: “We sent the file back to police because the evidence was wanting. We pointed out to them areas that needed more work to be undertaken.” 
Ms Okui said all suspects were released on bail or bond pending investigations. 
“No suspect is in prison in regards to this case because we don’t have enough evidence yet to prosecute.”

The former DPP, who is now a Justice of the highest appellate court, Mike Chibita, during an April 12, 2018 address to journalists at the Uganda Media Centre said: “One of the greatest disappointments for a prosecutor” was the failure to identify and prosecute the killers of Kagezi.
“What has made it hard is that, I think it seems the people who did this were well organised. They were not your ordinary criminals. They were able to plan it and escape and ensure tracks are covered,” he said.

 “When we looked through the evidence, we realised these [50] people could not have been the people. This is what made it hard; the investigators followed the track which was not the right one,” Justice Chibita added.
So, who wanted Kagezi dead and what was the motive for killing her? Daily Monitor tried to piece together a number of leads to try and unravel those behind the assassination.
At the time of her death, Kagezi was the head of the ODPP’s war crimes and anti-terrorism division. 
She was the lead prosecutor in a high-profile terrorism case, involving suspects in the 2010 terrorist bombings in Kampala.

With a sharp prosecutorial wit, Kagezi was uncompromising in her pursuit of the truth. For this, she was lionised by her peers.
The American Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), sources familiar with the matter, which gave a support role to the Uganda security organs during the 2010 terrorist bombings probe, offered corresponding investigative support during the Kagezi investigations. 
At the commencement of the probe, the FBI and Ugandan security agencies attempted to draw the nexus between the 2010 terror attacks and Kagezi’s assassination as a criminal enterprise masterminded by the sponsors of the 2010 terror attacks.

Was Kagezi killed by a jihadist group keen to nip in the bud the trial of the suspects she was prosecuting for staging the deadly twin bombings that killed more than 80 people at Kyadondo rugby club and Ethiopian restaurant? This appears to be quite a plausible theory.
However, the are other theories that ought to be examined.
Did those who masterminded her assassination take advantage of Kagezi’s role in the high-profile terror trial to shadow their heinous act? 
Could this suspect, who was identified as a light-skinned man, fit the profile of a rogue criminal?
 He was remanded on murder and aggravated robbery charges but was freed on bail in December 2014.

 Police forensic team at the scene of then Senior Principal State Attorney Joan Kagezi’s killing in Kampala in March 2015. PHOTOS/FILE

Luzira prison suspect
Highly-placed sources say this suspect lived a lavish lifestyle during his incarceration behind the curtain walls of Luzira prison.
His clothes were always pressed and fellow inmates competed for his favours and upon doing his chores, they were feted with foodstuff and cash. The alleged suspect also sponsored football leagues in prison.
Asked about the matter, the prison’s spokesperson, Mr Frank Baine, was reluctant to comment.

“As prisons, we have nothing to do with that case. If the person [suspect] you are talking about had not been convicted then, that is an issue of police and the DPP,” Mr Baine said. 
“Also, when you say he lived a lavish lifestyle, I doubt that is true, because a prison is prison,” he added.
Highly-placed sources claim that the suspect later fled to a European country, where his girlfriend, who financed his bail fees, lives.
It has been established that Uganda does not have an extradition treaty with this European country we can’t mention for legal and security reasons.

Ms Okui declined to comment on our findings saying: “The case is under investigation and the ODPP does not discuss a matter under inquiry because it could be jeopardised.”
The embassy in Kampala of the said European country declined to comment on the matter. 
“They (killers) were seen clearly. Why not publicise it and embarrass those who are harbouring them? I heard one of them was living somewhere. Why not say if you cannot bring this person here then try him there?” Mr Museveni wondered.
The DPP, Justice Jane Abodo, argued that: “Sometimes [some countries] don’t want to extradite suspects here if you have a death penalty in your laws”, to which President Museveni responded ‘okay, then you try him there.’

The President’s disclosure appears to be premised on cogent evidence that intelligence and investigative agencies have established.
In June last year, the President said he would direct the then CID boss, Ms Akullo, to give the country a brief on all the high-profile murders and the progress of their investigations.
 He, however, did not reveal when this would be.
Ms Akullo was reassigned to Interpol as director in February,  and replaced by Mr Tom Magambo.

Then Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura addresses residents of Kyengera, Wakiso District, following the arrest of suspects in connection with the killing of Kagezi in 2015. PHOTOS/FILE

Other murders

In 2017, the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, was gunned down at Kulambiro within the same vicinity of Kagezi’s assassination.  On June 1 2021, assailants trailed the former Chief of Defence Forces and Works minister Gen Katumba Wamala and barely after his vehicle had driven through the Kulambiro ring-road, he was shot in a raid that resulted in the death of his daughter and driver. The attack was also within the same neighbourhood where Kagezi and Kaweesi were killed. These brazen killings have awakened the collective conscience of a country scarred by violence but until the culprits are found, tried and convicted in competent courts of law, the masterminds may be emboldened to stage other daring attacks.