The trial magistrate and defence lawyer in the Pastor Robert Kayanja sodomy case lost their tempers and exchanged sharp words, nearly bringing hearing of the case to a standstill.
Four pastors led by Solomon Male of Arising for Christ ministries, and two other people on Monday appeared in court yet again, charged with tarnishing Kayanja’s name by alleging that he had homosexual relations with some members of his congregation. Kayanja heads Rubaga Miracle Centre, the largest Pentecostal church in Uganda.
The other accused are pastors, Martin Ssempa of Makerere Community Church, Michael Kyazze and Robert Kayiira of Omega Healing Centre. Also accused are Dorothy Kyomuhendo, a businesswoman and David Mukalazi, a musician.
Prosecution led by Steven Asada alleges that between 2008 and 2009, at various places in Kampala, the accused “conspired to cause injury to Kayanja’s person and reputation”.
As Brian Ntwatwa, a witness, was being examined, one of the defence lawyers, Edward Akankwasa, asked him to tell court how long he had spent on remand at Luzira prison before he was brought to testify in the case.
But the magistrate, John Patrick Wekesa, taking exception of the question, warned Akankwasa to stop wasting court’s time by repeatedly asking “unnecessary questions”. However, the lawyer insisted that he wanted Ntwatwa’s response recorded to confirm something he said would lead him to the next question.
“You should not expect that whatever gasiya [rubbish] you say, I will record. What are you confirming? I am the one who remanded him to Luzira and brought him to court to testify,” Wekesa said.
“Your honour, if what I’m saying is gasiya, then I cannot proceed,” Akankwasa replied, prompting Wekesa to invoke his judicial authority.
“Can you respect court?” the magistrate asked.
“Court should also respect its officers,” Akankwasa shot back, annoying Wekesa even more.
“I’m here to guide court. Can you stop arguing with me? It would amount to contempt of court. Can you get out?” Wekesa said.
It was at this time that Akankwasa’s colleagues, Sekabanja Kato and David Mukiibi Semakula, interjected to cool tempers of the two learned friends. Ntatwa finally answered that he spent six days and seven nights at Luzira prison before he was brought to testify as an ‘independent’ witness. Wekesa agreed to record the response.
Ntwatwa, who is said to have been among the youth that accused Kayanja of being homosexual, first made the allegations in a 45-minute audio recording in which he ‘confessed’ to Male in 2009, that Kayanja had attempted to sodomise him in 2006 at the Intercontinental hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.
Ntwatwa repeated the allegations, jointly with other youth, Ivan Akankwasa, Samson Mukasa and Robinson Matovu, in a statement at the CID offices in Kibuli on April 6, 2009. He, however, later retracted the statement on May 2 and again on May 30, 2009 at the Central Police Station in Kampala.
On Monday, defence lawyer, Sekabanja Kato, put it to the witness that he had retracted the statement because Kayanja promised to pay him, an allegation Ntwatwa denied.
Asked why he had betrayed Kayanja, with whom he had lived since 2003, and decided to go along with pastors he had only met in 2008, Ntwatwa, who joined Male to fight homosexuality under the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign, told court: “It depends on one’s bargaining power”.
This prompted Sekabanja to ask him: “In light of the Bible and scriptures, would I be right to refer to you as Judas Iscariot who betrayed his master, Jesus Christ?”
“My master is God, but I made a mistake of lying about Kayanja and tarnishing his name,” Ntwatwa, who is still on remand, told the packed court.
When Asada informed Wekesa that prosecution had closed its case on Tuesday, the magistrate seemed relieved.
“I want this case disposed of so that I can get some breathing space,” Wekesa said, before adjourning the case to December 8, to allow the defence side to submit their written submissions. He said prosecution will respond on December 13 before he gives his ruling, on December 15.