A 38-year-old Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) soldier has been jailed for life after pleading guilty to the murder of one civilian and the attempted murder of his colleague.
Private Hamis Walimbwa is alleged to have shot and killed one Zepherine Nizeyimana, 18, after a disagreement at an entertainment centre in Nyarubande Village, Rukundo Town Council, Kisoro district in June last year.
Walimbwa, who is attached to the Kibaya Army Detachment at the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo border also shot his colleague Private William Achia who was trying to restore order as tempers flared.
He was subsequently arrested and taken to the UPDF second Division headquarters in Mbarara until today when he appeared before a Field Court Martial held at Gatete Primary School playground in Kisoro District. Before the court presided over by Col. Rogers Kitwala, the chairman of the UPDF second division court martial, Walimbwa was charged with murder and attempted murder, counts to which he pleaded guilty.
The deceased’s lawyer Winfred Nakasinde told the court that Walimbwa’s act warrants him to be out of society for good because it is serious and grievous in nature. According to Nakasinde, Walimbwa contravened the roles of UPDF and the constitution which mandates soldiers to protect civilians and their property.
But, Walimbwa’s lawyer Mark Okondi pleaded with the court saying that by the time the act happened, both Walimbwa and Nizeyimana were intoxicated and asked that Walimbwa is given a lenient sentence since he is capable of reforming.
Walimbwa also asked the court to pardon him arguing that he accidentally released a bullet after Nizeyimana attempted to disarm him. He was asked to explain why he went to the bar with arms yet he had not been deployed to provide security there and why he frogged Niyeyimana before the shooting. However, he acknowledged that this was a mistake.
Col. Kitwala jailed him for life on murder charges and another life imprisonment on attempted murder charges, sentences which will be served concurrently at Ndorwa Government Prison in Kabale district.
Kitwala also apologized to locals on behalf of the army over the act.
But, immediately after the judgment was delivered, relatives of the deceased protested the ruling describing it as unfair since it does not involve compensation. Four of the relatives sat before the court-martial and asked the armed personnel to shoot them.
They argued that sentencing Walimbwa without dismissing him from the army means that his salary will continue to be released and received by his family yet Nizeyimana’s mother who would depend on money mobilized by his late son is now struggling. They demanded that the army hands over Walimbwa’s ATM card to them so that they start receiving his salary or else the army commit itself to compensating the deceased’s family.
Kisoro Resident District Commissioner Hajji Shafique Ssekandi tried to calm them down in vain, prompting him to call for an urgent closed-door meeting with the family. After the meeting, Ssekandi told our reporter that they have resolved that his office will sit with the family and write to the army requesting compensation.
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