Did Capt Olaka commit suicide or was he murdered?
What you need to know:
- The family of the former Operation Wealth Creation coordinator of Lira District say towards the end of his life, Olaka had become paranoid that colleagues at work were attempting to frame him for a crime he did not commit.
On February 28, 2022, Capt Charles Olaka Okola, the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) coordinator of Lira District abruptly halted a midmorning work trip to Lira Town and drove home on the edge of Dokolo Town.
Seated in the house’s living room, Capt Olaka appeared pensive and restless. At about midday, he spoke to his 22-year-old son, Joseph Owiny, who was at home. Owiny later drove to Atama Village, 7km from town to inspect a garden.
The rest of Capt Olaka’s children were at school.
An hour later, Capt Olaka asked his wife, Christine Olaka, who was engaged in kitchen chores, to give him a pen and paper.
Later that day, Owiny, who was returning from the garden and barely 150 metres away from his home, heard a gunshot.
When he reached the home, a crowd had gathered. Some were wailing as emotions ran like a fickle stream. His dad’s corpse lay motionless in a pool of blood with a bullet would on his head.
Police officers at Dokolo Central Police Station rushed to the scene and secured it before taking the deceased’s body for a postmortem at Dokolo Health Centre IV.
Police also recovered an AK47 rifle and three pieces of cartridges and an alleged suicide note.
The next day, police told the media that Capt Olaka committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with an AK47 rifle, which was reportedly assigned to him by the army.
Mr Anatoli Katugwensi, the North Kyoga Regional Police Commander (RPC), said: “It’s confirmed it is a suicide case because he wrote a suicide note notifying people about his death and why he is killing himself. The suicide note is with the police officers who are still investigating the case.”
He, however, declined to divulge more details about the contents of the suicide note because it was the subject of investigations.
“There is no need for arrest when someone has killed himself and has left a suicide note detailing why he is killing himself. So there is no suspect to be arrested,” Mr Katugwensi told Monitor.
This newspaper saw a copy of the suicide note and notebooks confiscated from the deceased’s house a day after the incident. What the deceased revealed in the suicide note he reportedly authored, remains a subject of speculation.
According to the note, the deceased accused his workmates of attempting to frame him because he refused to be involved in a graft deal.
“Those who had malicious intentions against me bewitched me with intentions of making me a lunatic so that I would say anything reckless about them or my job so that they would find a point to corner and get rid of me, from my workplace in Lira,” the note read in part, adding, “All this because I refused to sign for inputs that never existed. All this started in 2019 until now------the people I work with, they also know very well the kind of dilemma I am going through.”
It continues: “They kept calling me while I was home here, and I had informed my family members about whatever was happening. I struggled with this problem until it depressed me and my blood pressure shot up. All this resulted from a misunderstanding over the distribution of pineapple suckers at the office.”
The suicide note further read: “The 40,000 suckers that were procured and distributed for planting at Lira University, the following morning. It was a graduation day at the university….”
Capt Olaka singled out Mr Patrick Alip, the current Lira District Senior Production and Marketing Officer as one of his tormentors.
According to the family, the scene-of-crime detectives recovered Olaka’s body from a corridor between the living room and bedroom of his house.
His body lay on his belly with his shattered skull facing one of the bedrooms. His left hand firmly gripped the rifle and the brain matter from his skull spattered the wall and beddings inside another room.
According to call logs from the deceased’s phone which was recently returned to the family, moments before shooting himself, Olaka called several people including his uncle, Col Simon Agong, who is also the OWC coordinator for the Dokolo district, one of his seven sons, and other workmates.
The deceased pleaded with those he spoke to rush to his house as he wanted to discuss a sensitive matter.
Ms Olaka said moments before taking his life, her husband handed her an ATM card for Centenary Bank and a cheque book for Cairo Bank and asked her to take care of the children.
She said despite this, she did suspect that her husband was about to take his life.
“I asked him where he was going since he always asked me to take care of all his kids but he told me that I shouldn’t worry since people were looking for him and wanted to arrest him, torture him and kill him. aHe added that he did not want to be captured and tortured, he would rather disappear,” Ms Olaka said.
“It appears there were a lot of fights about the supply of inputs [planting materials] because he always told me that Alip tricked him into acknowledging fewer quantities of inputs yet requesting more three or four times. He told me that he reported to Brig Bosco Omure, the Lango Regional OWC coordinator, whom he accused of not doing much to come to his rescue,” she revealed.
Ms Olaka while weeping, claims that on the day he died, her husband narrated to her how his voice had been recorded by his workmate Alip and sent to State House to falsely implicate him and cause his arrest and torture.
“When the State House team came home here and asked me, I told them that I don’t know why they recorded him but I told them exactly what the deceased kept telling me including his challenges at the workplace. The State House people came here and recorded a statement from me and they told me that they would come back again,” Ms Olaka said.
Official documents indicate that between 2018 and 2019, the OWC in Lira procured and distributed farm inputs including planting materials to farmers across the district.
The deceased revealed in his suicide note that his relationship with his workmates turned frosty after he questioned some of the transactions.
One of the deceased’s relatives, who asked to not to be named for fear of reprisal, said during his work, Capt Olaka was forced to sign for the delivery and distribution of ghost pineapple suckers to eight sub-counties.
“The form showed that these suckers were distributed. Mr Alip brought it to the deceased and he told him that in his absence they had distributed the pineapple suckers. The deceased then signed the document but when he inspected the sub-counties a month later, he found out that no farmer was given these suckers,” the source revealed.
According to the source, Capt Olaka asked Mr Alip to make sure the suckers were delivered by the supplier and given to the farmers or else he would report him to his superiors.
“Since then, they were never at peace, [Mr Olaka] recorded numerous threats from Alip and he also started receiving phone calls from unknown numbers asking him whether he still wants the suckers, but when he called back the numbers would not go through,” the source said.
When asked about the alleged fraudulent deals, Mr Alip said: “This office is only about quality assurance, a very small component in the production chain. … we have not had any query by the government because we work together transparently with our stakeholders like the office of the CAO, RDC, politicians, etc,” Mr Alip told Monitor.
Mr Alip added that he was not aware that the deceased was being harassed at work.
“As an officer, I don’t think I would be able to say anything over this. As extension workers, we are trained to take up the task; we did not have any problem. Services have gone down to farmers and we continue to collaborate well, we have not experienced much of a problem,” Mr Alip revealed.
Mr Moses Opio, one of the sons of the deceased, revealed that their dad called him the night before his demise and confessed that he was tired of working with civilians and shared a premonition of his death.
“He told me that there were people who were looking for him to arrest him and that he was briefed on meetings that were going on to plan how to arrest him. When I asked which kind of people, he told me his workmates but he could not disclose except one, Mr Patrick Alip, his closest workmate,” Mr Opio recalls.
The family of the late Olaka has implored authorities to sanction a fresh probe into his death.
The family claims that Olaka’s death elicits suspicion and there are loopholes in the police’s rushed conclusion that the deceased committed suicide.
Mr Opio and other members of the family are challenging the police’s account in regard to the circumstances of the shooting in which a rifle belonging to the army was used. According to the family, there was no record showing that the gun belonged to the deceased.
Although, Ms Olaka says only one gunshot rang out, the neighbours told this newspaper that during the investigations, it was discovered that there were three bullet-sized holes in the iron sheets on the roof.
However, this theory has not been subjected to the scrutiny of a ballistic expert.
Another source, who requested not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, said while moving the deceased’s body for a postmortem, police recovered two bullet cartridges, but returned to search for the third cartridge the following day because the forensic details showed three holes in the roof.
“We are asking if only a gunshot was heard and only one bullet blew up his skull, how come the roof had three holes even when no improvised equipment or silencers was found by his dead body or during the search? This is where we suspect that third parties must have been in the house during the shooting,” the source said.
The accounts by police on the position in which the deceased’s body was found lying and where other body parts were recovered, is another mystery. Those casting doubt on this theory argue that the rifle would not have remained in the deceased’s hand after the shooting.
The source said: “No case is closed yet. Police can claim [Mr Olaka] committed suicide but there are so many questions including those that developed from the scene of the purported suicide itself. A lot of things do not add up and that is one thing we ask police not to run away from. They have more to do and if our father shot himself at the [corridor] point as police said, he wouldn’t have fallen in the direction he was found, the brain matter wouldn’t have splattered into the other room nor the cartridges and the holes in the roof could have been at a different point.”
Mr Bonny Ogwal, another son of the deceased, said: “There is a lot of drama around that shooting. There is something more to that. If my dad fired all three bullets himself, he wouldn’t have fallen and held the gun in his hands and I am sure the neighbours will have heard all three shots even if they were fired in a rapid pattern.”
A month after the incident, officers from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) reportedly visited the crime scene to conduct further investigations.
Sources at Dokolo CPS told this newspaper that the soldiers revealed that the gun found at the crime scene wasn’t assigned to the deceased.
Olaka’s family corroborated this citing a July 28, 2020 letter by the OWC chief staff officer, Brig F A Akiiki, addressed to all OWC regional coordinators and OWC liaison officers, ordering them to return all combat uniforms, guns and ammunition in their custody.
When contacted for a comment about the allegations raised regarding the gun, Mr Jimmy Patrick Okema, the North Kyoga Regional police spokesperson, said: “There is nothing I can say or share with you because there is no clear finding on that, unless you may get to the UPDF over the same. That note is in the custody of the army,” Okema told this publication.
He said the police can’t probe this matter any further.
“There was no case to investigate, and there is no way police can go ahead to investigate the matter because the person who would have given us information or helped in the investigations is dead.”
He added: “Let the healing wound heal for good. The family members are now forgetting but you now want to fix this thing back on them. This makes it disturbing for the family, let us save their peace.”
In August 2022, another UPDF officer, Capt Claver Bagabe, who was the OWC coordinator in charge of Bufumbira South Constituency in Kisoro District, reportedly committed suicide.
OWC/army speaks out
During a telephone interview, Brig Bosco Omure, the OWC regional coordinator for Lango, could not deny or admit whether the death of Olaka resulted from work-related grudges.
“I don’t think publishing it on media will help. It will just spoil things, office matters are not to be published in media and they cannot be discussed on the radio. If they want to get the answers let them go to OWC headquarters and/or to the police. Will publishing it on media help anything?” Brig Omure said.
Capt W.K. Agaba, the OWC spokesperson, told this newspaper that investigations into the matter were still progressing.
I don’t want to preempt or speculate what has so far been realised of that issue but the good thing is that the issue is still under investigation, so I am calling for patience, I am sure the investigations will be finished and a report will be made,” Capt Agaba said.
According to him, the findings will guide the army on the next course of action, “so, I appeal to the family and relatives of the deceased officer to be patient, and we assure them that justice will be served to Capt Olaka,” Mr Agaba said.