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Kyambogo defilement case: Frustration grows as police fail to nab fugitive don

Dr Lawrence Eron

Dr Lawrence Eron

Five months after his case file was sanctioned for aggravated defilement of a 16-year-old visually impaired girl, the whereabouts of Kyambogo University don, Dr Lawrence Eron, remain unknown.

Dr Eron, who was also found to be HIV-positive, absconded from police bond on December 14, 2023. The police tasked his three sureties—Lawrence Olobo, Gertrude Adoch and Paul Among—to produce him before the Division Police Commander (DPC) at Jinja Road police division on January 22, 2024.

Having failed to trace Dr Eron, the police recently arrested Olobo and Among, but the court released them on bail last week. The ministry of Education and Sports and the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU) have now expressed concern about the delay in investigating this “high-profile” case. Both NUDIPU and the ministry want the police to expedite their investigations into this matter, which has triggered widespread condemnation from disability organizations.

In a letter dated May 8, 2024, the First Lady and Education minister, Janet Museveni, wrote to Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka requesting further intervention in the case of Dr Eron. This followed her initial referral of the case to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) for investigation.

“This is to request you to intervene so this young girl can get justice,” Museveni stated in the letter. She also attached two 2023 letters written to her by the chairperson of the Uganda National Association of the Blind, Francis Kinubi, and the chief executive officer of the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU), Esther Kyozira, for further guidance.

Speaking to The Observer last week, the ministry of Education and Sports spokesman, Dr Denis Mugimba, expressed the ministry’s dissatisfaction with the progress of the investigation.

“We are not pleased with the investigations because they have not reached a logical conclusion. This is bad and unfortunate since the case involves the most vulnerable victim, a learner with special needs,” Mugimba said.

He further elaborated, “There’s still some laxity in the investigations. I am not aware of any updates from the police to the ministry because this matter has dragged yet justice needs to prevail. If a case is reported, the investigations should be expedited because justice delayed is justice denied, especially if someone suspected of committing a crime remains at large. This case should be addressed once and for all.”

Whereas Museveni has not yet received a response from Kiwanuka almost three weeks later, Mugimba said the ministry is still hopeful about receiving positive feedback from his office. He explained that the ministry does not intend to file a fresh case but noted, “It looks like someone is sleeping on their job in this investigation.”

Esther Kyozira, the CEO of NUDIPU, agreed with Mugimba on the slow progress of the case. “We are not satisfied with the pace at which investigations are conducted. The loophole lies with the police. If a file is sanctioned, we expect the police to follow up on the matter diligently. They have tried to arrest some sureties but releasing them on bail further complicates the case,” Kyozira said.

SHS 10M BOUNTY

“We don’t know if there is corruption at play because everything is frustrating. The police have all it takes to apprehend the suspect if they are interested in the matter. If not, police should come out openly to inform the public where they have hit a snag beyond telling us that they have failed to trace his whereabouts.”

As part of the investigation, police spokesman Fred Enanga recently appealed to anyone with credible information leading to the arrest of Dr Eron to pass it in confidence to the nearest police station or call 0741111333 at the CID headquarters in Kibuli. A cash reward of Shs 10 million awaits the successful informant.

“We believe the suspect is still hiding within the country, with the help of his closest relatives and friends. We want to warn anyone who is found harboring or aiding his escape that it is an offense. CID headquarters has processed a warrant of arrest and submitted it to Interpol to issue a Red Notice against him,” Enanga said. He reiterated that there is no hiding place out of reach for “wanted persons.”

Enanga urged the suspect to turn himself in and defend himself, while a “wanted poster” of him has been made available on the police website and social media platforms.

KYAMBOGO INVESTIGATIONS

Meanwhile, Kyambogo University vice chancellor Prof Eli Katunguka reported that internal investigations found Dr Eron culpable for gross misconduct, including sexual harassment, acts or omissions damaging to the university’s image and status, and unprofessional or unethical behavior. Additionally, charges of insubordination and abscondment of duty emerged.

“The willful insubordination arose after he was invited in writing through his personal lawyer and official email to appear before the committee. He didn’t come despite giving the investigators prior assurance that he would face them,” Katunguka said.

On May 30, 2024, Dr Eron was expected to appear before the board to respond to the committee’s findings, but he was a no-show. His summons had been received by one of his children.

Sources informed The Observer that neither his family nor his lawyer wrote to the board explaining his absence from the scheduled meeting. Nevertheless, the board meeting proceeded in his absence on Thursday last week.

PUBLIC SUMMONS

A source further revealed that the board has since agreed to publish Dr Eron’s summons in the papers “so that all options are exhausted before a final decision is reached.”

By making the summons public, the board will set a new date. If he doesn’t show up in this last chance after 14 days of the notice, the disciplinary rules allow the appointments board to take a decision ex parte based on the available evidence.

“The chances of him [Eron] surviving a dismissal are close to zero because he is not working and you can’t retire him since he didn’t request it. The public may conclude that the university is slow. Still, there’s a need to explore all options so that in the future, Kyambogo is not dragged to court for unfair dismissal from service,” a source privy to the investigations said.

The source insisted, “If the entire police, with all its mechanisms to hunt him down, has not yet apprehended him, how do they [public] expect Kyambogo to bring the culprit to book?”

Kyambogo University has withheld Dr Eron’s full salary since March 2024. His role as dean of the Faculty of Special Needs also ended in December 2023.

Esther Kyozira urged the victim’s parents not to accept bribes in any way to ensure justice takes its course. She said while such cases are tempting for the suspect, who may want to silence them, they should stand firm. NUDIPU has handled cases of defilement among minors with disabilities, but this is their first case involving a high-profile person.

Regarding the ministry’s stance, Dr. Denis Mugimba emphasized the need to intensify awareness campaigns among learners with disabilities on how to protect themselves in high-risk situations to deter potential abusers.

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