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MPs Namujju, Mutembuli Committed To High Court For Trial :: Uganda Radionetwork

MPs Namujju, Mutembuli Committed To High Court For Trial

The Prosecution alleges that the trio on May 13th, 2024 at Hotel Africana in Kampala solicited from Mariam Wangadya the Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission an undue advantage of 20 percent of the anticipated Budget of the UHRC for the Financial Year 2024/2025.
MPs Yusuf Mutembuli and Cissy Namujju Dionizia appearing before the Anti corruption court.
The Anti Corruption Chief Magistrate's Court has declined to hear the bail applications for two members of Parliament accused of corruption arising from their alleged involvement in soliciting bribes to influence the passing of the Uganda Human Rights Commission budget.

The MPs are Cissy Namujju, the Lwengo Woman MP, and Yusuf Mutembuli, the Bunyole East MP who were denied bail on Friday for lack of substantial sureties and advised to return to Court on Monday. They are jointly charged with their Busiki constituency counterpart, Paul Akamba who was granted bail at 13 million Shillings but was rearrested within court premises after fulfilling bail conditions.

The Prosecution alleges that the trio on May 13th, 2024 at Hotel Africana in Kampala solicited from Mariam Wangadya the Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission an undue advantage of 20 percent of the anticipated Budget of the UHRC for the Financial Year 2024/2025. 

This was reportedly done by asserting that the MPs were able to exert improper influence over the decision-making of the Budget Committee of the Parliament of Uganda to increase the UHRC budget, in consideration of the said undue advantage. However, on Monday when the matter came up before the court presided over by Chief Magistrate Joan Aciro, the Prosecution amended the charges against the accused and informed the Court that investigations were complete.

As a result,  Namujju and Mutembuli took a plea afresh and denied the charges against them. They are also expected to make a fresh bail application after lengthy submissions before the Court. However, they were taken by surprise when the Prosecution's Chief State Attorney  Jonathan Muwaganya told the Court that the investigations were complete and prayed to commit the accused persons to the High Court for trial. 

In response, Namujju 's lawyer Kandeebe Ntabwirweki opposed the committal saying that the Prosecution needs to first account for the whereabouts of Akamba since he is jointly charged with the two MPs in court. Kandeebe added that an accused person cannot be committed in his absence because this is procedurally wrong, and amounts to abuse of court process. According to Kandeebe, the Prosecution either had to first seek a warrant of arrest or seek a production warrant through courts directing the commissioner General to present him.

Otherwise, Kandeebe argued that they cannot commit an accused person whose whereabouts are unknown. He emphasized that the proceedings of today were adjourned for purposes of bail application but not for committal and also to fix a hearing date. He thus asked the Court to overrule the request to commit her client  Namujju and Mutembuli, to first present Akamba or they first deal with the bail application for which the adjournment for today was made.

On his part, Akamba's lawyer Richard  Rugambwa told the Court that his client was abducted by operatives he described as goons. The court heard that Akamba's constitutional rights have been violated following his detention for more than 48 hours without production in court, not allowed to be accessed by his lawyers, doctors, and family members and they are therefore worried if he is still alive.

Rugambwa added that Akamba is a member of Parliament,  and the Uganda Law Society, and therefore Prosecution should be tasked to account for his whereabouts before the Court proceeds to handle any other matter. He noted it's an abuse of the court process to present an amended charge sheet without the courtesy of telling the court where Akamba is. However, the Prosecution's Muwaganya clarified to the court that his submissions had been pre-empted because he wanted only MPs Namujju and Mutembuli committed and therefore cannot commit someone absent.

Muwaganya told the Court that he expected all accused persons to be in court, including Akamba to be committed. He said that he had just learned that Akamba was rearrested and he wants to verify that information, and believes that it will be easier for him to know where Akamba is since lawyer Rugambwa has some information. According to Muwaganya, the rules provide for the committal of the accused persons in the absence of one of them. 

He said the procedure is clear and doesn't require notifying the Court first, and therefore their application is not by way of ambush as the defense lawyers claimed. The prosecution thus asked the Court to commit  Cissy Namujju and Mutembuli to the High Court for trial and he could address the Court regarding issues of Akamba afterwards.

In her ruling, Chief Magistrate Aciro agreed with the MP's lawyers the purpose of the sitting was for the bail application of Namujju and Mutembuli, and for the prosecution to be given a hearing date. Aciro thus noted that she had considered Muwaganya's submissions not to be an application by the Prosecution but information for her court to act on. 

She then went ahead to explain that Section  169 of the Magistrates Court Act gives the powers of the DPP to determine the offenses to be committed to the High Court. And that it is within the jurisdiction of the DPP to decide which cases to send to the High Court. Aciro rules that no law bars the committal of the accused persons in the absence of their colleague and therefore,  there will not be any procedural error in having Namujju and Mutembuli committed to the High Court without Akamba.

Consequently, she said the hearing of the bail application has been overtaken by events following the completion of investigations and request for committal. Regarding Akamba's whereabouts, the Court ruled that no evidence to show whether he was rearrested regarding this case or a new matter. She added that Akamba's lawyers know where to look for him from, but not through this court. ( They are supposed to petition the Civil court).

She thus overruled this objection as well saying Namujju and Mutembuli will apply for bail in the High Court. After these proceedings, the Court then went ahead to read a summary of  11 pages of evidence which the DPP wants to rely on to ask the court to convict Namujju, Akamba, and Mutembuli on corruption charges.

In the summary of the evidence, the Court has heard that in the year 2023, Mutembuli asked for the contact of the complainant Wangadya shortly after UHRC management members had appeared before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, where they had presented their Policy Statement and Budget  Framework.

Afterward, Wangadya interacted with Mutembuli the Vice Chairperson of the Legal Committee and they exchanged contacts before, she was later called that Mutembuli wanted to meet him to solve the financial problems of the commission. In their conversation, Mutembuli allegedly insisted that he wanted 5 percent of the UHRC budget, but the Accounting officer said it was not possible in the physical meeting that was held in Naguru. 

But Mutembuli allegedly said that it would not be possible for them to pass the budget as well if the Commission doesn't give them their percentage to exert influence on their budget. Later, the Court heard that Wangadya reported the issues to the President who promised to act.

Later on May 13th, 2024,  Mutembuli allegedly called Wangadya to meet him immediately at Hotel Africana, and she asked her security to give her a recording device. She then proceeded to Elgon Restaurant and met there Mutembuli who was with Akamba after turning on her recorder, and these explained to her that they were going to help her with her budget issues. 

The court heard that they were waiting for Cissy Namujju to join them as they kept discussing Budget issues. The evidence before the Court shows that  Mutembuli said Namujju was the crucial person they were waiting for. Further,   Namujju then asked Wangadya how much money they were going to give them (MPs) and also asked how much they wanted for the budget, and Wangadya's secretary sent the documenters ion her WhatsApp.

After perusal of the documents Namujju then told Wangadya the amount they would want for its approval, and this was   20 percent of the Commission's budget. However, evidence shows that Wangadya said she had not travelled with cash and then Namujju cautioned her to always move with cash during the budgeting period. According to court records, MPs Namujju, Akamba, and Mutembuli explained that the percentage was to facilitate officials at the finance ministry, and also not to question the Commission's budget when it comes to Parliament.

"That all the above discussions were captured on the recording device, which Ms Wangadya has placed on the table, and after the meeting, she returned it to the security personnel, who had given it to her. It was the basis upon which investigations in their case were commenced," reads the court documents. During investigations, CCTV footage was extracted d by police from Hotel Africana confirming the meeting in issue. 

Evidence further states that when they were going for a meeting at Hotel Africana, Mutembuli arrived driving vehicle registration number UAQ 444A  vehicle and at around 2 pm,  Akamba also arrived and went to the same table with Mutembuli.  And later at 16:31hrs, Namujju arrived at Hotel Africana with her vehicle registration number Hon NCD. The Court has heard that the police extracted their conversations through Know Your Customer and it was established that they were in one place.

A Forensic analysis of Akamba's phone showed that Akamba had installed an app to interfere with his communication, shortly after he had been summoned to police. That he later went with a new mobile phone to the CID Headquarters for interrogation. Further,   Namujju also went with a different phone, not the one she used on the fateful day. The audios of their recorded conversations were translated by an expert at Uganda Broadcasting Corporation -UBC.

According to the Prosecution, during the trial, they will tender an application to retrieve CCTV footage, analytical report, police request for forensic examination of phones for imaging, those of the MPs and those of Wangadya, Audio recordings, applications and court orders to extract the said information from the phones,  call data printouts for their phones and Wangadya's consent, digital forensics of Wangadya phone, MP's vehicles used to travel to Africana as evidence. 

The Prosecution concludes that they will then ask the Court to convict the accused MPs because they have no defense whatsoever. For now, the MPs have been remanded until such unknown time when the High Court will handle their matters. The prosecution asked for a criminal summons to be issued against Akamba.

Accordingly, the summons was issued requiring Akamba to be produced in Court on June 21st, 2024. Proceedings took place in a fully packed courtroom with hundreds of voters and dozens of politicians watching. Security was also heightened in and outside the Court Premises both armed and nonarmed officers counterterrorism and field Force Unit personnel of Police.

Trouble for the accused persons started last week after President of Uganda General Yoweri Kaguta Museveni held the State of the Nation Address where he disclosed that he has overwhelming evidence of the corrupt public officials. Museveni said the MPs allegedly colluded with accounting officers, the Ministry of Finance, and the Bank of Uganda to make allocations of Public resources in exchange for kickbacks (bribes) and promised to crush them. 

The President revealed that the facts before him confirmed long-standing rumors he had of corruption at the heart of government, especially during the annual appropriation of tax payers money. He plotted an idea of possible Amnesty for the corrupt MPS but the majority of the legislators interrupted his speech such that he didn't name and shame them in public.

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