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Joanita Kyakuwa: State loses interest in pursuing appeal against Besigye rape acquittal

The 'flimsy' charges of rape against Besigye were trashed by High Court in 2006 but the state appealed

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COURT–Joanita Kyakuwa might have disappeared from the scene as mysteriously as she arrived at the High Court 13 years ago, but the depth with which the state went to bring sensational charges of rape against Col (Rtd) Dr Kizza Besigye has only just been fully covered.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has said that the state is no longer interested in pursuing an appeal against retired Dr Besigye’s acquittal of the charges of rape his former maid Joanita Kyakuwa.

In a July 7 withdrawal notice, Senior Assistant DPP David Ndamurani-Ateenyi presented to the Assistant Registrar Court of Appeal, Ayebale Tumwebaze, that the DPP intends not to proceed with the prosecution of this appeal.

“Take notice that the Director of Public Prosecutions, appellant in CoA criminal appeal No.06 of 2006 arising from original high court criminal session case No.149/2005 intends not to proceed with the prosecution of this appeal pursuant to rule 70 (1) of the judicature (court appeal) directions,” Ateenyi noted.

In 2006, High Court judge John Bosco Katutsi acquitted Besigye who had been charged with rape of a maid, describing the police investigations led by former CID director Elizabeth Kuteesa and the prosecution as “crude and amateurish and clearly driven by ulterior motives” and that the state had presented insufficient evidence to convict Besigye of rape

Dr Besigye was accused of raping Kyakuwa on two separate occasions in 1997 and 1998. Kyakuwa first reported the matter to the Police in 2001.

Justice Katutsi said that although the State presented seven witnesses to testify against Besigye, only the evidence of one witness, Joanita Kyakuwa, could be used in the case. He ruled, however, that Kyakuwa’s evidence lacked credibility, noting a number of inconsistencies in her testimony.

He further pointed out that Kyakuwa could not remember the day or month that she claimed to have been raped or how old she was at the time.

The judge said there was no way Kyakuwa, who was an undergraduate student at the time of the alleged rape, could have forgotten the day and month she claims to have been assaulted. He added that Kyakuwa did not need to know arithmetic in order to figure out her age and said the inconsistency was suspicious.

He said that if she could tell a lie concerning this, there was no guarantee that she wasn’t lying in the rest of her testimony.

Dr Besigye arrives at the High Court for his rape trial in 2006 | GETTY IMAGE

In a highly sensational case that many political commentators saw as a blatant attempt by the state to sabotage Dr Besigye from challenging incumbent Yoweri Museveni in the 2006 presidential election, Kyakuwa told court that after she had been raped by Besigye the first time, he left the room and went to get a towel to help her clean herself.

But Judge Katutsi said it was highly improbable that a girl who had just experienced the trauma of rape would wait in an unguarded room for her alleged assaulter to bring her a towel.

Katutsi also poured scorn on the testimony of the Director of the Police Criminal Investigations Department, Elizabeth Kuteesa. He noted that the police begun its investigations into the alleged rape in June 2001, a month before the complainant, Joanita Kyakuwa, had even reported the matter to the authorities.

Judge Katutsi wondered at the extent to which the Police went to find further evidence against Besigye, questioning why they went as far as to provide alternative employment for his housemaid, who allegedly had knowledge of the rape in 1997.

Quoting Lord Brougham, Katutsi said: “The evidence before this court is inadequate even to prove a debt; impotent to deprive of a civil right; ridiculous for convicting of the pettiest offence; scandalous if brought forward to support a charge of any grave character; monstrous if to ruin the honour of a man who offered himself as a candidate for the highest office of this country.”

The trial was started around the time Besigye, who had just returned from self-imposed exile in South Africa, was seeking nomination as presidential candidate on FDC ticket to challenge Museveni’s ‘Kisanja’.

Besigye would eventually be nominated in absentia while on remand in Luzira prison and spend the better part of his campaigns running between the high court and the campaign trail.

After High Court trashed the charges as flimsy, the state appealed the lower court decision soon after but 12 years later, what is left of the maid who claimed rape and told court she kept leaving her hostel to Besigye’s home every weekend for sex is lost in many a Ugandan’s memory but not the sensational charges she brought against Dr Besigye.

Efforts to get a comment from Dr Besigye on the matter were not fruitful as the opposition strongman could not pick our repeated calls.

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