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Kayunga Shrine Murders: Whistleblower Convicted For Murder, Human Trafficking

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In his testimony, Ssebuyungo told the court that Wamala and his employee, Jamilu Kimbugwe who is still at large cut the deceased into two. Wamala pleaded not guilty to the charges with guidance from his then-lawyer, Gastone Kamugisha, Wamala, and proceeded with the full trial.
The Convict Muhammad Wamala in a dock at High Court
High Court in Mukono has convicted 45-year-old Muhamad Wamala, a witch doctor in Kayunga district for the murder of Zulaika Nansamba alias Mirembe and aggravated human trafficking. Justice Margret Mutonyi delivered the verdict after finding Wamala guilty of killing Mirembe in ritual practice and trafficking humans to the shrine of his colleague Wilber Ssebuyungo) in Kisoga, Nazigo Sub County in Kayunga district.

Court heard that in 2017 at Kisoga village, Wamala with malice aforethought murdered Nansamba by hitting her head with a pickaxe. The prosecution relied on a post-mortem report by Dr. Sam Kalungi, a pathologist at Mulago National Referral Hospital. The pathologist noted that the deceased had a cracked head indicating that she succumbed to blunt trauma.

 

In her judgment, Justice Mutonyi, said that Wamala’s in-law Wilber Ssebuyungo who pleaded guilty to the same offenses in 2019 in exchange for a lighter sentence, also implicated him on the murder charges when he testified as a prosecution witness.

In his testimony, Ssebuyungo told the court that Wamala and his employee, Jamilu Kimbugwe who is still at large cut the deceased into two. Wamala pleaded not guilty to the charges with guidance from his then-lawyer, Gastone Kamugisha, Wamala, and proceeded with the full trial.   The defense told the court that Wamala trained Ssebuyungo in herbal medicine and not human sacrifice. He also told the court he reported the incidents to the police, which didn’t handle the matter well prompting him to proceed to the Chieftaincy of the Military Intelligence-CMI. Wamala claimed that his information as a whistleblower led to the crackdown on the shrine and the recovery of several bodies. 

He also argued that Ssebuyungo and James Kibuuka turned against him for being a CMI whistleblower. Court then established that the items found in the shrine namely 2 pots with what is believed to be human blood, spears, 5 bodies, and a skull buried in the compound did not suggest that Ssebuyungo was trained to be a traditional healer but rather a witchdoctor.      State Attorney George Bigira also noted that at the time of their arrest, Ssebuyungo and James Kibuuka were locked up in different facilities and they did not know that Wamala was the whistleblower and therefore had no reason to get back at him. Bigira prayed to the court to find the accused guilty and hand him a life sentence on all charges, arguing that someone who has gone to great lengths of training others into human sacrifice should not be allowed in society.

Wamala’s current lawyer Emmanuel Turyomwe asked the court to his client lenient sentences, which should run concurrently, saying that he has had time to reflect on his actions and is remorseful.  Justice Mutonyi found Wamala found guilty of both crimes.   “The shrine is said to have been constructed by the accused and the items found in the shrine have nothing to do with traditional medicine but rather a human sacrifice. The accused has been masquerading as a traditional healer yet he is a witch doctor and took another step of training others as an expert in human sacrifice. For him to be a whistleblower is just an act of hypocrisy,” she said in her judgment. 

Adding that “Upon arresting the suspects, Ssebuyungo and Kibuuka were put in different facilities and they did not know that the accused was the whistleblower, therefore there is no way they could have given such a testimony to pay back.”  

She asked Wamala that since he had said through his lawyer that he is remorseful, to the people whose bodies were found in the shrine, saying this wouldn’t aggravate his sentence. He only named Zulaika Nansamba and one Oketch, whom he identified as Ssebuyongo’s employee. The judge then ordered the state to work with the police to release Oketch’s body and trace his relatives for proper burial. She adjourned the matter to Thursday, May 26 to deliver her sentence.    

Background

In 2017, police arrested six witch doctors in connection to the murder of Zulaika Nansamba alias Mirembe whose body was found in a shrine at Kisoga village in Kayunga District.  The suspects included Muhammad Wamala alias Vincent Paul, Joseph Kibuuka alias Junior, Isa Walakira alias Joseph, Wilber Ssebuyungo, James Lutwama, and Fred Kizza Ssemanda.

In November 2019, justice Margret Mutonyi acquitted Lutwama and  Ssemanda of six counts of murder and aggravated human trafficking. It came after the accused’s lawyers said that they were never mentioned during the cross-examination of Ssebuyungo who changed his plea from not guilty to guilty in a plea bargain session and testified against his accomplices.

Ssebuyungo implicated Wamala for masterminding the murder of Nasamba and Corporal Harriet Nabitaka. He also revealed that he only met James Lutwama and Fred Kizza Ssemanda in the police cells and had never worked with them before their arrest.

This prompted Justice Mutonyi to release the duo since there was no evidence incriminating them. “I find that there is no need to keep Lutwama and Ssemanda. It will be unfair to keep them on remand till the end of the case. They should be released unless they have other cases to answer,” Justice Mutonyi ruled in 2019.  She convicted Joseph Walakira to 5 years in jail after revising his charge to being an accessory to the murder.      

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