Nantaba planned Ssebulime execution and must pay the price

The minister should be charged with premeditated murder of Ronald Ssebulime, the man she trailed like a jilted lover who has lost all reason and sense of responsibility, until she saw lying in a pool of blood in the back of a Police Patrol pickup.

OUR STAND | State minister for ICT Idah Nantaba is at the centre of Sunday’s execution of Ronald Ssebulime, a 40-year-old father of four who was rushing to St Andrew Kaggwa Primary School for visitation day. Nantaba has given a string of conflicting statements since the incident, and while Police has arrested its own officers for the murder, the controversial minister is ensconced under warm duvet, her victim cold in the earth. She belongs nowhere but in jail — if at least to bear the bite of the cold floor.

Police should move to arrest Idah Nantaba. The minister should be charged with premeditated murder of Ronald Ssebulime, the man she trailed like a jilted lover who has lost all reason and sense of responsibility, until she saw lying in a pool of blood in the back of a Police Patrol pickup.

Also read: Police admit Ssebulime was executed, arrest officers

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Presently, it appears Police cannot move to effect her arrest and would be waiting for political directives from “above” on what to do with the minister. IGP Martins Okoth Ochola and his deputy Maj Gen Sabiiti Muzeyi need to brief President Museveni on what happened and seek authorisation to proceed with charges against the minister.

In another world, Police wouldn’t be waiting on directives from the president. Nantaba would have resigned from government and been taken into custody. But in a country where justice is determined by the head of state, it is a tall order. But not entirely a lost one, for Police have done a rare one by arresting their own and apologising for their action in the murder.

Cpl Edward Ssali, commander of the Patrol Police pickup, PC Ronald Opira and PC Ronald Baganza face murder charges alongside PC Robert Cherotich, who is still at large. The officers responded to 999 emergency alert, but the story of the coldblooded murder of Ssebulime started way before these officers joined the bloodthirsty party.

On Sunday, Nantaba told Police that two suspected assassins trailed her car for over 40 kilometres from Kayunga en route to Mukono. Apparently, Ssebulime would overtake her car and pull back for all the 40-plus kilometres. He also apparently stopped and pretended to ask for directions from vendors at a roadside market where the minister had stopped.

Nantaba claimed that Ssebulime and his partner wore hoods and were armed. For the shooting incident,, probably relayed by the arrested officers, they claimed that the suspects returned gunfire in a shootout until one of them was felled. The other fled.

But in a later statement, Nantaba boasted to have ordered the SFC soldier attached to her security to shoot the biker dead. But he refused. This narration shows the viciousness of a public official who is not remorseful that she has orphaned four children.

While on Sunday she claimed Ssebulime had been trailing her, it has since emerged that she was the one who gave chase amid protests from her bodyguard that she ceases the pursuit and move on. Enraged by her bodyguard’s attitude, she decided to abandon him at Nagalama Police Station and took the law in her own hands and bosom.

What kind of demon possesses a woman whose “instincts told her the biker was dangerous” to pursue the same dangerous man? The demon even convinced her that if her well trained and armed bodyguard wasn’t willing to pull the trigger, then she had to drop him off and go it herself. To think that just minutes earlier on the road from Kayunga she was fearing for her life and yet had grown so bold that she had to confront assassins is some special thesis in the science of the dumb.

Except that no one was dumb here. Not even Nantaba. She was calculative, manipulative and she knew what she was doing. By all means the biker had to die.

Ssebulime could have been shot during the alleged pursuit or after the fall. Yes, before he had been cuffed and subdued, but it wasn’t the case. He was picked up and taken into custody. With handcuffs on, he was executed. A callous, inhumane act of premeditated murder.

But who pulled the trigger? Witness accounts show one of the policemen did. They have to pay for their crime and the culprit should have thought of James Peter Aurien, an officer who towered above the 999 officers in rank, but now winding down his wrinkles and greying hair behind the high rise walls of Luzira Prison for pulling the trigger after losing his head.

Aurien was Mukono District Police Commander when, on April 19, 2008, he used his own service pistol to end the life of his wife Christine Alupot. He is serving 40 years in jail — reduced on appeal from life sentence.

But even if the officers pulled the trigger without being compelled by Nantaba, she is still as guilty as them. First, she abused Section 64 of Police Act that punishes a person who knowingly gives false information to Police, on which Police takes action, with imprisonment of up to one year.

The lies about black hoods, being armed and trailing her all gave the impression that Patrol Police were dealing with one of the most deadly assassins in recent history of the country. Ugandans have watched several government officials, including then second highest ranked police officer, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, gunned down in broad daylight by assassins riding on motorcycle.

Nantaba’s description of Ssebulime left little for the officers to take chances. Her paranoia led her into creating motives in her own mind and serving it on the barrel of the weapons the police officers were armed with.

While the officers carried out the execution, Nantaba was the sole architect and planner of the coldblooded murder of man who was rushing against time to beat the visitation day deadline at his children’s school.

A vicious woman who feels that snacks and scholastic materials carried in backpack are high calibre assault rifles of a assassin has no place in a free society — she belongs to jail, if not awaiting the gallows.

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