The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Justice Mike Chibita discontinued all charges against fugitive Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP)Siraje Bakaleke. The discontinued charges include abuse of office (three counts), embezzlement, obtaining money with false pretence, conspiracy to defraud, and kidnapping or abducting with intent to commit a felony (three counts). But apparently that is only limited reprieve and Bakaleke remains very much a wanted man.
In one case, Bakaleke was accused with eight others for defrauding Shs1.4 billion from three South Korean nationals. Charges against these eight have also been dropped.
The accused are a mix of police officers, businessmen and lawyers: Paul Mugoya Wanyoto, Samuel Nabeta Mulowooza, D/ASP Innocent Nuwagaba, D/ASP Robert Ray Asiimwe, PC Junior Amanya, PC Gastavas Babu and PC Kenneth Zirintusa.
Bakaleke remains wanted because of the alleged human rights abuses he committed when he had parts of Kampala in his menacing grip. The likes of Dr. Kizza Besigye, Erias Lukwago are some of those who incurred his wrath.
Ben Oyo Nyeko, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) in charge of Interpol, told EYALAMA reporter before the DPP issued the letter that the global policing body is actively “hunting” for Bakaleke.
He is still a wanted man. We are doing all we can to get him.”
Nyeko was guarded in his response about the former top police lieutenant during the reign of former Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura but sources say there is an active manhunt for him.
Usually regimes, especially revolutionary ones like the NRM government tend to pursue their own when they flee. Bakaleke was not one of the most critical officers but he played a part in Kayihura’s efforts to quell opposition assemblies in the city.
This is the reason some think that Bakaleke will be allowed to ‘re-appear’ when the situation has calmed down. This is cited as there is still a furore over Kayihura’s reign.
Human rights lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi tells us that most likely the state knows where Bakaleke is hiding. “They must be knowing where he is. At the same time, they are ashamed of him and they may want to protect him. They are playing those tricks.”
Rwakafuzi says the state usually knows many things. “He was very close to Kayihura and accomplished so many things for him so they must know.”
Rwakafuzi says he was also a victim of the fugitive officer when the latter was at the peak of his powers. He recalls a time Bakaleke barricaded his chambers with tanks and logged teargas around to prevent him from consulting with his client Besigye in 2017.
The disappearance of Bakaleke has vexed the current police administration led by Martins Okoth Ochola and activists who feel strongly about the need for Kayihura and his former henchmen to face justice.
Commandant of Police Professional Standards Unit, Senior Commissioner of Police (SCP)Joel Aguma; Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nixon Agasirwe, who is a former commander of Police Special Operations and Assistant Superintendent of Police James Magada (Crime Intelligence) have all appeared before the General Court Martial in a clean-up exercise of the Kayihura-era.
The most recent was Abdullah Kitatta, former leader of Boda Boda 2010, a militia that terrorised residents of Kampala, who was convicted by the General Court Martial and sentenced to eight years in jail.
Bakaleke and Kayihura’s former aide Jonathan Baroza have remained at large. “He was declared a deserter after absconding from duty. It’s a disciplinary offence,” says Fred Enanga, Police Spokesperson.
Section 59 of the Police Act, states: “A person who has been absent without authority for a continuous period of twenty-one days or more shall unless the contrary is proved be presumed to have deserted…”
The penalty upon conviction of desertion is one year imprisonment.
Nicholas Opiyo, another human rights lawyer who recalls handling several cases against Bakaleke says the reason given by the DPP for withdrawing charges is “not tenable”. The DPP in the letter said they had lost touch with the complainants, the South Koreans, and it is this that Opiyo finds fault with.
“They cannot claim that they have lost contact with the complainants. The South Koreans don’t have to be physically present since we are now using video links.” He adds, “The reasons are not very concrete. The South Koreans had lawyers in the country. They also made statements.” Opiyo said the Office of the DPP should have persisted.
According to Opiyo, if Bakaleke showed up in town, he would most likely not be touched because the DPP rendered the High Court’s arrest warrants null.
In April, one of Bakaleke’s lawyers asked the Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court to dismiss the cases against him for lack of evidence. James Byamukama, the lawyer was quoted as saying “It is not proper for the defence to manage the state’s case on whether to strike off someone from a charge sheet or not, all we can state is that the prosecution is not ready.”
He said there have been court appearances in vain without any witness coming forward since October 2018. “We have made applications in this case to have the witnesses’ statements but this has either been ignored or the State just refused,” he added.
One can sense the frustration of the state in dealing with this case. At the time of the lawyer’s entreaties to the court, there had been nine arrest warrants issued for Bakaleke but all in vain.
Solomon Muyita, the Public Relations Officer of the Judiciary futher tells this website that the efforts of the court were halted immediately by the directive of the DPP but says sometimes prosecutors use it as a ruse to get those on the run.
“The DPP can put instructions on his/her file giving instructions to the police to bring in a particular person for questioning, he adds, “It could also be a trick for Bakaleke to show up and he gets arrested.”
Muyita says though it is ultimately up to the DPP since he has the discretion to bring back the charges against one of the most notorious officers of the Uganda Police Force.
Witnesses are key
Jane Kajuga, the PRO of the Office of the DPP told this website that the office used all the available options to get justice in the Bakaleke case but there were impediments. “You have got to locate the witnesses in the country they are before they can testify before video link. All these options are available to us.”
She says that witnesses always leave behind contact information only that they have failed to contact them in all the ways they have explored.
Reacting to Opiyo’s statement, she says if the lawyers know where the Koreans are, they should volunteer this information. “We know how to trace offenders and if Bakaleke has crossed out of the country, we have the international mechanisms to apply to get him but we don’t know where he is.”
Kajuga says there is enough evidence for the charges but the case was hindered by the absence of witnesses, the Koreans, to testify in court.
She adds that there merely being statements by the witnesses left is not enough because the latter have to be cross examined in a court process. She says the idea that the charges could have been dropped to lure Bakaleke is no more than a “conspiracy theory”.
“We could not keep holding these other eight people. We have to be sensitive to them because they have continually honoured court appearances. It would be an abuse of their rights because everyone is entitled to a speedy trial.”
She says it is common practice for prosecutors to drop charges if they cannot sustain a case but stresses that the DPP is not playing any tactics. Stating that is not good to waste court’s time, she told this website that dropping of charges does not act as a bar to further proceedings.