Kampala- On the night of April 12, 2012, residents of Kayanja Zone in Rubaga Division, Kampala District, found a brutalised Ezekiel Wambuzi lying at the roadside. Wambuzi was bleeding profusely from the head and mouth. They offered their help.
When he had gained his senses back, he groped around the ground, but he could neither find his bag that contained his laptop nor other valuables that he had been carrying in his pocket.
The residents transported him to the nearest clinic where the medics stopped the bleeding and also administer treatment.
Wambuzi told his helpers that he had been attacked by iron bar criminals who hit him on the head and he became unconscious.
His helpers were so touched by Wambuzi’s story and became concerned about the security situation in the area. They knew that one time, they could also fall victim to the same thugs waylaying innocent pedestrians and robbing them of their property.
Between 2010 and that time, incidents of iron bar thugs attacking unsuspected pedestrians at night were at their highest, but successes in arresting suspects were minimal and investigations were never concluded.
At least 30 cases involving iron bar wielding thugs had been registered in the same area. No one had been punished for the crime.
They called in the police to continue with the investigations, but the suspects had long disappeared.
Wambuzi was taken to hospital where his jaw was operated on to bring it back to its former position. When he was out danger, Wambuzi went to police to open up a case. Detective Corporal Jannet Nanfuka was assigned to follow up the case.
Wambuzi told D/Cpl Nanfuka in a police statement that he was walking when he saw the first man, who appeared to be drunk, walking toward him. He said the man was dressed in a red T-shirt which had white letters on the front side.
“I asked him why he was blocking my way. He didn’t respond,” he told the officer, according to police records.
He said he was able to see that the man had an object in his hand. He told D/Cpl Nanfuka that the man walked directly to him.
In the process of giving way to an errant and armed pedestrian, another well-built man dressed in a blue T-shirt and jean trousers blocked him from the side. As he turned to talk to the well-built man, he was hit with an iron bar on the head by one of the assailants.
“That was the last thing I had,” he told the detective.
The detective started her investigations from a low point given the fact that she had no clue to who the suspects were. The usual investigations tricks of picking exhibits at the scene couldn’t work because they had left nothing worth using in the investigations.
D/Cpl Nanfuka talked to several people around the area, but none of his descriptions could fit in the people the residents knew. The file was left on the shelf.
Resident tips police
Then luck came a few days later, Ivan Rwigyema, a resident near the place where Wambuzi was hit, went to police with a tip.
D/Cpl Nanfuka welcomed him. Rwigyema told the detective that he suspected that the two people who had assaulted Wambuzi were his friends.
He said on the same night, he had met the two people in the same spot. They even asked him for some money. He said he gave them money before he continued with his errand. But a few minutes later, when he returned, he was told that two men had attacked someone and hit him with an iron bar before robbing him of his valuables.
He told her that he shared his experience with a friend who told him that the same people had been moving from one shop to another vending a laptop around Kibuye Roundabout.
He asked the detective to follow up the case. D/Cpl Nanfuka asked Rwigyema how the two men were dressed when he met them. He gave her the same description the victim had given.
The detective had hit a jackpot. The arrest of iron bar wielding thugs and prosecuting them would go a long way to calming residents’ fears.
She immediately started a manhunt for the two men who were identified as Haruna Bwanika and Moses Kalema. It didn’t take time for the police detectives to arrest them. They had long put the incident behind them since no one had seen them carrying out the attack.
At the police station, D/Cpl Nanfuka summoned Rwigyema again. The two suspects denied any involvement in the crime.
Bwanika told detectives that he was at his home when the incident happened. Kalema said he was with his friends far away from the scene. Both insisted that they were not in the area that evening.
They were sure that none had seen them at the time of the incident. Detective Assistant Inspector of Police, Bernard Odyek, carried out a suspects’ parade. Rwigyema was brought in to identify those he saw at the scene.
He identified both suspects as the persons he saw at the scene before the victim was attacked. Wambuzi was also summoned and insisted the two were the ones who beat and robbed him of his property.
He identified Bwanika as the man who first approached him then Kalema as the one who joined in the assault.
With identification parade registering positive results, the police officers had got one of the most important elements in investigations.
D/Cpl Nanfuka asked the suspects whether they knew Rwigyema; each said it was the first time to see him. Asked whether they had asked him for any money at the crime scene, they again denied this.
The officers then took the two suspects to their homes to carry out searches in hope of recovering the stolen items. The suspects had already sold the items.
The officers moved to shops at Kibuye where they suspected the suspects to have sold the items, but their efforts were futile. Although they failed to recover the stolen items, they depended on the statements of the victim and Rwigyema.
The police slapped charges of aggravated robbery on the two suspects. The police took the file to the Resident State Attorney where it was sanctioned and the suspects were taken to the magistrate’s court where they were remanded to prison since capital offences are only heard by the High Court.
In 2013, the two accused persons appeared before the High Court in Kampala where they denied the charges of aggravated robbery.
The prosecutor had to prove three ingredients if he was to secure a conviction of the accused. He had to prove that there was theft of Wambuzi’s property; that Kalema and Bwanika used violence to take Wambuzi’s property; and lastly that they participated in the commission of the aggravated robbery.
On the issue of theft, the prosecutor presented Wambuzi who confirmed that his laptop, mobile phone and other items were stolen.
The trial judge Joseph Murangira based on his evidence and agreed that indeed his property was stolen.
Wambuzi also presented medical forms that indicated that he spent six days in hospital undergoing treatment and he had been operated on the jaws because of the injuries he sustained in the attack. Again the trial judge believed him.
On the last ingredient of aggravated robbery, the trial judge relied on evidence by Wambuzi that he was able to see the suspects because the area was well lighted by two sources of lights and that he first had an altercation with the prime suspect.
The trial judge also used Rwigyema’s evidence that he had seen the two accused at the scene a few minutes before the attack, to agree that the accused participated in the attack.
“In the premises, and in agreement with the assessors, I hold that the prosecution has proved the ingredient of participation of each accused person in the said robbery beyond reasonable doubt,” Judge Murangira said.
Judge Murangira convicted both of them of aggravated robbery. “Each accused person is found guilty of the charged offence and convicted of the same charged offence,” he said in his judgment on November 10, 2015.
Judge Mulangira sentenced Bwanika and Kalema to 16 years and six months in jail each and ordered each to compensate Wambuzi with Shs5m.