Uganda Minister killer had past discipline issues

Col (rtd) Charles Patrick Okello Engola- RIP

The soldier, who yesterday morning shot and killed State minister for Labour, Col (rtd) Charles Patrick Okello Engola, had a history of discipline problems and had been sent away from at least two previous postings as a close protection officer.

Security sources close to ongoing investigations into the unprecedented killing of a principal by his own guard in Uganda, indicated to the media that Pte Wilson Sabiiti had previously been deployed to guard two high profile persons.

Among the two was a military General (names withheld) reported to have worked under the army’s National Enterprise Corporation. He also was once assigned to vice chairperson of the ruling National Resistance Movement (Eastern region), Flight Captain Mike Mukula.

During either attachment, his deployment was reportedly cut short because of indiscipline, the sources told media in confidence.

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Ft Capt Mukula yesterday confirmed that Pte Sabiiti had discipline issues although he did not specify exactly what he was accused of.

“True,” Ft Capt. Mukula responded to our question about sending Pte Sabiiti back to the army for exhibiting tendencies of indiscipline.

The same soldier also fired and seriously injured the minister’s personal assistant, Lt Ronald Otim. 

He then walked away from the scene of his alleged crime, firing in the air, before forcing his way into a nearby salon, sitting down and placing the barrel of the same weapon under his chin before shooting himself dead.

The initial deadly shooting occurred in the compound of the retired colonel’s Kyanja home in Kawempe Division of Kampala Capital City just after 8am.

Both victims sustained gunshot wounds in the abdomen and legs.

Pte Sabiiti was deployed to Col Engola’s security team only a month ago after he had been sent away from Ft Capt Mukula’s detail because the team leader had detected acts of indiscipline in his conduct.

Deputy spokesperson at the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs, Col Deo Akiiki, however, maintained yesterday that the suspect was a well-trained soldier and that they couldn’t have deployed a person with questionable conduct to guard a minister. 

“Soldiers, who are deployed to guard high profile people are vetted before they are attached to them,” Col Akiiki said at the crime scene yesterday.

Both the military and police said they are still investigating the motive of the shooting.

Although Col Akiiki said they are not sure of the motive of the crime. He said the suspect’s role in the minister’s guard detail had been changed in line with routine security protocols.

Col Akiiki said the private had until recently been deployed as the primary bodyguard of the minister, but on Monday his role was changed and he joined the escorts who travelled in the lead car. 

The position of personal close protection bodyguard is considered by some to be a more privileged role than being part of the escort.

It isn’t clear whether this change in station upset Pte Sabiiti, causing him to snap and do what he did or not.

HICGI News Agency has learnt that the private appeared to be in good terms with minister. On Monday, the soldier had reportedly approached Engola in Namutumba where Labour Day celebrations were held and asked for financial assistance.

The minister reportedly directed that Shs140,000 be sent to the guard’s personal mobile number, but Sabiiti instead gave them another number to send the money to, saying he was indebted to the telecom company under his own number.

Police spokesperson Fred Enanga yesterday morning said investigations are still in the early stages, but they have a formidable team on ground to collect all the evidence needed. 

“The investigation is currently in the early stages of review. We also dispatched a team of crime scene experts who are using the most advanced forensic technology to get what exactly was the cause of this tragic murder. We don’t want to speculate on the motive of the shooting until we have confirmed,” Mr Enanga told journalists.

According to the Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, Col (rtd) Engola was heading for Tuesday’s cabinet meeting and Lt Otim had just opened the car door for the minister when Pte Sabiiti caught everybody unawares and started shooting.

“Pte Sabiiti first shot Ronald Otim in the legs and abdomen. He then went for the minister. The minister was shot in the legs and abdomen as he was escaping the shooting,” Dr Baryomunsi said.

The shooting prompted another unnamed bodyguard, who was not carrying his weapon, to run for his life. Pte Sabiiti pursued this bodyguard, but he was already out of his line of fire.

Pte Sabiiti then walked out of the compound with his gun, shooting volleys in the air. 

Former Member of Parliament of Kawempe North Latif Ssebagala said while he was heading to work, he found the guard walking from the minister’s residence shooting in the air. 

“When I saw him shooting in the air, I told the residents to take cover immediately. I saw him walking away toward the place he shot himself,” Mr Ssebagala said.

Several witnesses said the suspect shot in the air as he told them to get away from his path. 

A witness, who works near the salon, said he told them that he hadn’t been paid salary arrears of Shs4 million yet his wife was pregnant and his children were not studying due to lack of school fees. 

“He said the minister’s children were happily studying in school yet his were seated at home because of lack of school fees. He then told those in the salon to get out. When they got out, he shot himself in the head and died in a waiting chair,” she said. 

Col Akiiki ruled out that Pte Sabiiti’s alleged death declaration concerning unpaid salary as being truthful, saying soldiers are paid by the 27th day of every month. 

Recently, soldiers who returned from the Somalia peacekeeping mission complained about non-payment of their allowances, but the army attributed this to their funders. 

Last month, the Ministry of Defence requested Parliament to approve a Shs339.8 billion supplementary to address salaries shortfalls for Local Defence Forces, the paramilitary formation attached to the regular national army. 

Meanwhile, senior police detectives suspect that Pte Sabiiti wanted to target the minister’s wife, but was unable because the minister came out of the house when she had stepped out.

“After shooting the minister, he walked out to a salon. The suspect knew that the minister’s wife often plaited her hair in that salon. Luckily enough on the fateful day, she had gone to a nearby shop first to buy groceries and she would thereafter go to the same salon. The soldier arrived at the salon when the minister’s wife was in a shop a few metres away and didn’t see her,” a police source said.

The minister’s wife only came out of hiding after the soldier had killed himself. 

The eyewitnesses said they escorted her to their residence and she insisted on having a look at her loved one. 

“When she saw the body, she collapsed,” said an eyewitness, who identified herself as Agnes, a salon attendant.

Recent shootings

A number of high profile people in the country have been gunned down. Majority of these died on spot apart from the Minister of Transport and Works, Gen Edward Wamala who survived.

Gen Edward Katumba Wamala (June 1, 2021). Gen Wamala was attacked by gunmen  near Kisaasi, a Kampala suburb. The shooters opened fire on his vehicle, leaving his daughter Brenda Nantongo and driver dead. Gen Wamala and his bodyguard, Sgt Khalid Koboyoiti survived death.

Ibrahim Abiriga (June 8, 2018).

 The former Arua Municipality MP was shot dead alongside his brother Saidi Buga Kongo in Kawanda, Wakiso District.

Muhammad Kirumira (September 8, 2018).  The former Buyende District Police Commander, ASP Muhammad Kirumira was killed alongside his friend Resty Nalinya at Bulenge Trading Centre, Wakiso District.

AIGP Felix Kaweesi (March 17, 2017).Former Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi was brutally assassinated alongside his driver Godfrey Wambewo and bodyguard Kenneth Erau at Kulambiro outside Kampala just as he was being driven to work. 

Mohammed Kiggundu (November 26, 2016).

One of the former commanders of the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), Sheikh Maj Mohammed Kiggundu was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen at Masanafu, a Kampala suburb.

Sheikh Ibrahim Hassan Kirya (June 30, 2015).  The former spokesperson of the Kibuli Muslim faction was gunned down in Bweyogerere, Wakiso District.

Joan Kagezi (March 30, 2015).

The senior state prosecutor was gunned down in Kiwatule near St Mbaaga Tuzinde Catholic Church, about 2.7 kms from Gen Katumba’s home in Bulabira, Najjera in Wakiso District.

 Sheikh Mustafa Bahiga (December 25, 2014).  He was gunned down at Bwebajja Mosque on Entebbe Road.

Sheikh Muhammad Maganda (August 2012). Gunned down in Bugiri Town in August 2012.

Compiled by Damali Mukhaye

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