Businessman Abid Alam is unlikely to face murder charges after the office Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) revealed that witnesses to the alleged crime have given police conflicting accounts.
In a phone interview on Tuesday, Jane Kajuga Okuo, the DPP’s spokesperson, said that a file on the owner of Alam Group of Companies, which had been received from police, was closed a month ago because complainants and witnesses gave “incoherent statements”.
“People who were witnesses could say different things yet they say that they witnessed the same event at the same time, “Kajuga said.
“We had to send the file back to police,” adding that even the complainants were given an explanation as to why the charges couldn’t be preferred against Alam.
On November 12, the commission of inquiry into land matters headed by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire wrote to the DPP saying that Alam is under investigation for possible prosecution for murder, assault and grievous harm, inciting violence, disobedience of lawful orders and unlawful destruction of property, among others.
The alleged crimes are linked to violent evictions of locals from a large swathe of contested land in the central district of Mubende.
“To get to the bottom of the matter, joint investigations of the matter have since been launched by the police and the commission, supervised by the land crimes department in the office of the DPP,” a statement from the commission read in part.
“It is, therefore, diversionary for anyone to claim that Mr Alam’s arrest was politically motivated. It is the hope of the commission that the public, including those under investigations on land-related issues, should take the work and directives of the commission seriously.”
Four days earlier on November 8, the inquiry’s secretary, Olive Kazaarwe, had issued an arrest warrant for Alam to all police stations.
The disputed land measures about 12 square miles. It is located in Bukoba, Mubende and was donated to 350 World War II ex-servicemen by the Queen of England through the Kabaka of Buganda in 1954, according to information before the commission.
On November 1, the commission was told that Alam led a group of about 20 musclemen wielding clubs and machetes.
They started clearing the area and also descended on a Catholic Church structure under construction and razed it to the ground.
During the scuffle, it was alleged that one of Alam’s private security guards lost a gun. The police was called in, but arrived when the fighting had stopped and they only focused on recovering the lost gun
It is further alleged that Alam returned on November 5 with more than 50 young men armed with machetes, clubs, and iron bars to the Bukoba displaced persons camp. Alam allegedly ordered the men to forcefully evict the residents and destroy their residences and personal belongings. A fight ensued and many were injured on both sides.
Kajuga said that the DPP couldn’t proceed with charging Alam because the “evidence was highly contradictory.”
The DPP’s revelations came 24 hours after Alam lodged a petition in the Constitutional court challenging the arrest warrant against him which led to his detention on November 8.
Alam says his arrest was arbitrarily carried out in abuse of process; ultra vires the mandate of the commission, and, therefore, inconsistent with articles 2, 20, 23, 43,126 and 251 of the constitution.
“The act of the commission of inquiry of issuing an arrest warrant on November,7, 2017, and a detention instruction on November, 8, 2017, all against the first petitioner [Alam] resulting in his arrest and detention by the police on alleged charges of obstructing the work of, and disregarding the directives issued by the commission of inquiry was done in denial of his right to just and fair treatment expected from an administrative body and is inconsistent with articles 2,20,23,28,43,44,126 and 251.”
In his affidavit, Alam says that between November 1 and 5 he visited the land to supervise the clearing of some land in preparation for sugar cane growing. He says that he encountered “invaders” on the land who attacked his workers.
“I reported the above incident of assault and causing grievous bodily harm to Mubende police vide ref. number CRB128/17 and 1290/17. The said cases are still under investigation,”Alam says.
The commission of inquiry issued a warrant of arrest against Alam on November 7, requiring the police to apprehend and cause him to appear for an interview at the commission in respect to charges of obstructing and disregarding the work of the commission.
Alam wants court to issue a permanent injunction against the commission of inquiry, the police or any other government officers restraining them from committing the acts he has complained about.