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Minister Kabafunzaki co-accused vanishes from Butabika, court told

Bruce Lubowa, who had be certified as mentally ill due to depression and admitted to Butabika Hospital, has since vanished and Judge Margret Tibulya, of the Anti-Corruption Court, says his surety Sunday Kizirimpa must produce him on Wednesday or face the wrath of the law.

CORRUPTION | A man jointly charged with suspended junior labour minister Herbert Kabafunzaki has vanished from National Psychiatric Hospital, Butabika where he had been admitted with depression-related complications, court heard Monday.

Bruce Lubowa, an interior designer from Wakiso District, was expected to take to the dock alongside Kabafunzaki and his political assistant Brian Mugabo when the case resumed Monday, but he was no where to be seen by the time Julius Byansi, a police officer, took to the stand to testify.

Justice Margret Tibulya did not query the absence of Lubowa since its public knowledge that he had been admitted to Butabika mental hospital following a diagnosis that indicated that he was afflicted with secondary depression, and had “suicidal thoughts.”

Secondary depression, which Lubowa is suffering from — as explained to the court — happens once someone has one or more illnesses and then is diagnosed with depression. It’s said that the primary illness may be a mental disorder or a chronic disease which illness leads to a depression. Secondary depression apparently comes in as a response to being sick of that chronic disease.

Kabafunzaki is accused of receiving Shs5 million bribe from Aya Group chairman Hamid Mohammed Mohammed, in exchange for clearing his name over the sexual harassment allegations that had been brought against him by his former female employee at the then Hilton Hotel last year.

At the Anti-Corruption Court in Kololo on Monday, Byansi was through with his testimony when Barbra Kawuma, a prosecutor from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), informed Judge Tibulya that she had got information that Lubowa had “vanished.”

Reacting to this, Judge Tibulya summoned Sunday Kizirimpa, one of the sureties for Lubowa, to produce the suspect before the court as the law on standing surety dictates.

According to the law, the core responsibility of the surety is to ensure that the accused person goes to court on time and on the right dates after he/she is granted bail. On defaulting, the surety is arrested and suffers the fate of the offender until found.

Kizirimpa, in a brief explanation, said he simply did not know where Lubowa was anymore.

“He ran away from Butabika sometime in May, “ he said to the visibly irritated judge. “He was seen in Mbarara [western Uganda], we tried to arrest him but police failed and now we don’t know what to do.”

Surety risks arrest on Wednesday

Though Kizirimpa looked helpless and sincere, Kawuma moved to trigger Section 21 (1) of the Trial and Indictment Act–which would have led to the detention of Kizirimpa and one Ssempijja, his co-surety.

Supported by Maxim Elizooba , Kawuma said that the version of story she has is to the effect that in May, Lubowa asked to be discharged from Butabika on grounds that he couldn’t afford the medical expenses at the mental facility.

However, Tibulya stopped Kawuma in her tracks, telling her to hold fire and instead swear an affidavit and put in all information she has therein, as court will start on that very issue on Wednesday.

“You know well what this means,” Judge Tibulya told Kizirimpa who bubbled incoherent words, “If you fail to produce the accused on Wednesday you know what will happen to you.”

The case was brought to public attention in April 8 last year when a CCTV recording captured an alleged bribery incident at a hotel.

Video extracts obtained from Kampala Serena Hotel’s CCTV camera footage that captured the alleged bribery acts show how ]Mugabo hiding the Shs5 million bribe under a carpet behind curtains in the corridors leading to the guest rooms.

Kabafunzaki, also the Rukiga county MP, was charged with two counts of corruption contrary to provisions of the Anti-Corruption Act and one count of conspiracy contrary to the Penal Code Act.

Prosecution alleges that Kabafunzaki directly solicited for a bribe of Shs15 million in return to clear the image of Muhammed from allegations of sexual harassment lodged against him by a former employee at the Nakasero-based Hilton hotel.

The female employee had filed complaints with both police and with Kabafunzaki, in his capacity as the labour minister.

Kabafunzaki maintains his innocence, saying he was being framed, while Mugabo, who initially pleaded guilty, has since changed his statement saying he had not read the charges properly.

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