Brilliance tainted by a criminal life

Humphrey Rugambanengwe had the world at his feet after emerging the fourth best A-Level arts student in 1993. But it somehow disintegrated as soon as he arrived at Makerere University, writes Benon Herbert Oluka.

The story of Humphrey Rugambanengwe, the fourth best A-Level arts student in 1993, still perplexes even his friends.

For a student who excelled at nearly every post-tertiary level, Mr Rugambanengwe stepped into Makerere University with the wrong foot.

“He got supplementaries right from first year,” said a former classmate, who declined to be named so he could speak freely. “He ran for guild president in 1994 and failed but became a guild minister for constitutional affairs.”

That is when the downward spiral started; he secured a job as a State attorney before completing his bar course but was later dismissed. Then he started Rugambanengwe & Company Advocates, from where he pressed the self-destruct button so often and so hard that within about 10 years, he was barred from practising law.

In December 2006, the disciplinary committee of the Law Council found Mr Rugambanengwe guilty of extorting Shs14m from Benon Tushemereirwa – claiming it was a judge’s “fees” to resolve a case.
He had also previously been arrested for allegedly extorting Shs15 million from Topher Kafuure, after allegedly framing him as a People’s Redemption Army (PRA) suspect.

“The advocate has tarnished the image of the legal profession grossly. The committee owes the public, such as the complainants, a duty to ensure it jealously guards and maintains the reputation of the profession and sustains public confidence in the profession’s integrity,” says the ruling.

But old habits die hard. Mr Rugambanengwe was again arrested in April 2009 for allegedly impersonating the President’s legal adviser and demanding Shs30m from Dr Tamale Ssali to get him Kitante Primary School land for a fertility clinic.

Police Spokesperson Judith Nabakooba noted then that Mr Rubanganengwe had previously been implicated in a racket of conmen extorting money from MPs with promises to include them in a new cabinet.
Between 2000 and 2006, Mr Rugambanengwe played the political prostitute with ease.

In September 2004, when Reform Agenda merged with the Parliamentary Advocacy Forum and the National Democrats Forum to form FDC, he was among Reform Agenda supporters who broke ranks and registered the rival Reform Party. They accused their leaders of deviating from the original Reform Agenda ideals.
Yet ironically, when the government organised the 2005 referendum, Mr Rugambanengwe was one of the most vocal supporters for the retention of the Movement system. He registered a political group, Front for the Movement Party, to campaign against a return to multi-party democracy.

Despite his dubious record, Mr Rugambanangwe has maintained significant links within government. In 2008, he was the emissary sent by State House to persuade renegade army officer, Lt. Col. Anthony Kyakabale, to return home after about eight years in exile.

Upon return from Sweden, Mr Rugambanangwe claimed Col. Kyakabale had asked for Shs1b to settle debts and resettle men allegedly belonging to his rebel group before his return. In a November 20, 2008 letter, the Principal Private Secretary to President Museveni, Ms Amelia Kyambadde, told him to conclude the deal with External Security Organisation boss Robert Masolo.

However, even the smartest cat’s nine lives eventually run out. Today, Mr Rugambanangwe is a fugitive, wanted by police for allegedly conning Dr Richard Heard into investing Shs30m in a non-existent deal.

In 2007, he allegedly deceived Dr Heard, whose wife and his are cousins, that he would secure a contract from the government to draft the Regional Tier Bill in return for $120,000 (about Shs240 million). Dr Heard was allegedly promised half the money as shareholder’s profits.

While Rugambanangwe was not available to give his side of the story, his story confirms that good grades are not everything and must be matched by hard work and personal discipline.