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Nantaba case: Police admits Ssebulime was executed, arrest officers

"We can now certainly say that, what was first reported as a typical police shooting story, where perceived dangerous suspects were shot at during a pursuit, has been established to be a straight forward case of murder," Police spokesperson Fred Enanga said.

MURDER | Ronald Ssebulime was executed by police officers after he surrendered and was cuffed, Uganda Police Force has said, adding in a major admission that the deceased had books and snacks in his backpack.

“We can now certainly say that, what was first reported as a typical police shooting story, where perceived dangerous suspects were shot at during a pursuit, has been established to be a straight forward case of murder,” Police spokesperson Fred Enanga said.

Ssebulime was headed to visit his children at St Andrew Kaggwa primary school and was late and on the rush, witnesses said, and Police confirmed.

Sendo Cleaners

Briefing the media on Sunday’s shock incident involving State minister for ICT, Idah Nantaba, Enanga retracted the previous statement that victimised the deceased as a suspected assassin who was trailing the minister

“We regret that our initial media release of Sunday, March 24, surrounding the drive-by threats by Minister Nantaba was not totally accurate,” Enanga said.

“It is true that the deceased was removed from the police pickup and instantly shot dead by our officer,” he added, an admission that is probably a first of its kind by the Force.

In the past, Police have worked on damage control and rarely gave the facts as pieced up by the court of public opinion, even where witnesses were aplenty, said Crime24 senior correspondent Jens Mukiibi.

But on Wednesday at Central Police Station, Enanga was not just out at saving the face of force he speaks for yet, in a way, he ultimately saved it and restored a degree of public confidence in the institution, Mukiibi added.

Enanga apologised to the public for the extra judicial killing, sent commiserations to the family of the deceased and left the impression that the force was working to right the wrongs committed by its officers on duty.

And the wrongs were many that Sunday.

Among them, the point-blank execution of a suspect who had handed himself in to custody, had already been cuffed and did not appear to pose any threat to anyone at that moment — according to witnesses. In fact, Ssebulime was running late for visitation day at school where he was delivering snacks and scholastic material to his children.

The other was the false reports the officers on patrol and the territorial police sent to their superiors at the headquarters that led to the victim being profiled. For this, Enanga said, the territorial commanders will be held liable.

He regretted that the officers , for trying to conceal the true facts of the events surrounding the killing of Ssebulime after they submitted false reports about what really happened upon intercepting the suspects at Nagojje Trading Centre.

“We have arrested the Patrol Police car commander and two members of his 999 crew,” Enanga said.

The arrested officers are Cpl Edward Ssali (No. 51543), who was the car commander, PC Ronald Opira (No. 50162), and PC Ronald Baganza (No. 5729 ).

Another member of the crew PC Robert Cherotich ( No. 62163 ) is at large and wanted as part of investigation into the murder.

Enanga did not indicate who among the officers had pulled the trigger but some sources in Police have intimated to this website that Cherotich could be the culprit and there are fears that he has gone on the run.

‘The truth’

In a statement, Enanga said the true facts are that on Sunday, Nantaba, while buying fruits at a roadside market around Ssinda, located 6km after Sezibwa bridge, saw a motorcycle rider who, from her instincts, appeared to be a dangerous person.

The rider was inquiring about the location of Kabimbiri, and had immediately after sped off toward Mukono. The minister, for some inexplicable reasons, gave chase up to Nagalama Police Station, where she alerted Police.

It also remains unclear why Nantaba’s statement indicates that she had dropped off her bodyguard, a member of Special Forces Command soldier — the elite unit tasked with guarding the president and his immediate family — and moved to give Ssebulime a further chase alone when she claims her instinct had alerted her that he could be dangerous.

On Sunday, the official statement had indicated that Ssebulime had trailed Nantaba for more than 40km from Kayunga and that when she stopped at a roadside market, the rider had done the same.

But witnesses had told different media that ride had come from the opposite direction and only stopped at the market to inquire for directions before leaving immediately.

There were also claims that there had been a shootout between the deceased and police officers, but Enanga has since clarified that there was no such plot to the incident.

He said Police in Mukono had responded to emergency call from Nagalama Police Station, intercepted the alleged suspects after they hit a road hump and lost control of the bike.

Ssebulime had been riding alone but had picked up a stranger to guide him to the school. The guide had evaded arrest at this point but Ssebulime had surrendered — a fatal surrender.

Enanga said the Force had since set up a joint team of investigators from Kampala Metropolitan East Region and homicide squad from CID headquarters, who upon further scrutiny of the incident established the new findings leading to conclusion of murder.

“We are now holding the officers accountable for murder, conspiracy and for professional misconduct,” he said.

“We once again extend our sympathies to the family of Ssebulime. The cause of his death was due to hemorrhage following gunshot wounds. The exhibits of a bag with eats and drinks belonging to the deceased; and the police guns have been recovered, to aid in our investigations.”

Enanga said Police does not condone any acts of extrajudicial nature, reason “we are holding the suspects accountable for the death of Ssebulime.”

He thanked the residents of Nagojje trading centre, most of who willingly offered their account of what happened to journalists investigating the incident, and the media for boldly bringing out the facts, about what really happened.

“Without their concern, this would have been one case where the narrative from our first responders could have defeated justice,” he said.

Ssebulime, a resident of Wakiso District, was a welder, a widower and father of four children. The 40-year-old was riding a Suzuki sports bike on the fateful day.

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