Twelve years down the road, the depth and breadth to which the state went to bring sensational charges of rape against an opposition leader has been revealed by a son of a key state witness in the case that gripped the nation in 2006.
Now the son to the maid who testified against Dr Kizza Besigye in the notorious rape case wants government to pay for locking him up with his late mother and forcing her to lie in court. JOSEPH KIMBOWA brings you the story.
Besigye was sensationally accused of raping a one Joanita Kyakuwa twice; in 1997 and 1998, when the university student was living with his family in Luzira. It was into this scheme that Ayisha Kiguli was conscripted as a state witness.
The son, Kasimu Kibuule, says his mother was forced to spy after being planted at Besigye’s home and later compelled to tell lies in court as a state witness. For this, she was allegedly promised a good life by a high-profile government personality, an undertaking which never came to fruition.
The 31-year-old father of three says his mother, Ayisha Kiguli, did everything asked of her but state agents connived to rip her off in a devious plot which tragically ended in Kiguli’s suspicious death in August 2006. He now wants to be paid because his mother was a state witness who died in government hands.
HOW IT STARTED
Kibuule says that at the burial of his father, Umaru Mandeevu Bumaali, in the early 1990s, a certain man told his mother that her husband had been a state operative. The man reportedly claimed that government wanted to take care of the family.
He then told Kiguli to go to Kampala and meet one Jajja Marita [Namayanja] who would take her to a high-ranking government official. Along with young Kibuule, Kiguli came to Kampala and met Jajja Marita, who took them to this gentleman linked to State House.
Around this time, former regime insider Besigye had fallen out with the government, and was nursing presidential ambitions – which made him a prime target for surveillance.
After some prepping, Kiguli was somehow planted at Besigye’s home in Luzira as a maid. She reported directly to Jajja Marita.
“Since she was a spy, and uneducated, she had no official appointment letter or salary; but she did the job,” Kibuule says.
It is partly because there is no record of her engagement that Kibuule says he has found it hard to lodge a claim for compensation.
But towards the 2001 election campaign, in which Besigye first challenged Museveni for the presidency, Kiguli became close to the colonel’s family and eventually switched sides.
“She told me that she was the one that saved Besigye from state capture after the 2001 elections. She learnt of a plot to abduct him and immediately told him to leave the country,” Kibuule says.
Before fleeing into exile, Besigye took Kiguli to his Kasangati farm house where she remained in his employ as a caretaker. After completing primary education in 2002, Kibuule says he found his way to Kasangati to live with his mother. He enrolled at Tender Talent Magnet School, Kasangati, in 2003 for secondary education.
But then state operatives located his mother. They first claimed that some State House official wanted to talk to her about Besigye. But Kiguli told them to leave her alone. The next time they came to abduct her.
“In 2004, one day I returned from school and I was told my mother had been abducted by men in plainclothes. They told me the men came wielding pistols, grabbed her and put her in a car. I was left confused because I could not call anyone,” Kibuule says.
Four days later, Kibuule says he was abducted by the same men, riding in a silver Toyota Land Cruiser Prado with police number plates.
“I later found out that the car belonged to Elizabeth Kutesa, the then director of Criminal Investigations [Department],” he says.
When he approached the car, the occupants lowered the tinted windows.
“I saw my mother. She was sitting in the middle with three men around her. She called me in and I obliged,” he says.
Kibuule says Kutesa was not in the car but she would later, in January 2006, testify against Besigye. The car then sped off and ended up in the Naalya housing estate. They were taken to a house where they found two men dressed in military fatigues.
Mother and son were led into a tiny room with one bed and two mattresses. This would turn out to be their home for the next two years. They never went back to Kasangati.
“When they left us in there, my mother opened up to me and told me everything about her spy work and how she had been recruited by [a State House official],” says Kiguli’s only son.
He says she told him how they had tortured her into accepting to testify against Besigye if she wanted to save the lives of her four children: Rukia Nansikombi, Kasimu Kibuule, Salima Nakibuule and Mastulla Nakibuule.
The plan was to frustrate Besigye, who was scheduled to return to the country the following year to run for president in the 2006 elections.
As part of the state strategy, several cases would be slapped against Besigye, tying him down in court instead of campaigning. They also wanted to taint his reputation. This is where Kiguli came in. Her role would be to tell the world that Besigye is a rapist.
“She told me, ‘my son, I am going to do it [say Besigye is a rapist], but it is not true. Please don’t hate me, just understand my predicament’,” he says.
For the following two years, the two were held in this safe house and were not allowed to get out or communicate with anyone. They would, however, eat well and read newspapers every day. He says Kutesa occasionally visited the house and stopped at the gate to talk to his mother, but he never met her in person.
Kibuule and his mother eventually turned into Born-Again Christians, “to have some faith and hope.”
“When they realised that we were cooperating, they even allowed me to go back to school and they took me to the boarding section of Muyenga High. But they kept monitoring me,” he says.
When Besigye returned to a rapturous welcome in October 2005, he asked his lawyer, Sam Kalega Njuba (RIP), to petition court to compel government to produce Kiguli dead or alive, Kibuule says.
In court, state lawyers said the person they had was called Aisha Nakiguli, not Aisha Kiguli.
“This was a ploy by [a state agent] and a government lawyer (names withheld). One day I saw that lawyer come to the safe house and I overheard them discussing changing my mother’s name, and I think they forced her to sign it,” he says.
The habeas corpus petition collapsed at that point and Kiguli and her son remained under state ‘witness protection’.
It was around the same time that the state charged Besigye with rape. Kiguli (now Nakiguli) eventually testified against him.
“Before testifying, she told me that she went to Entebbe with Elizabeth Kutesa and was reassured that if she did a good job, she would get unlimited security, a house in the city and another one in the village, start a cattle farm and educate her children…,” he says.
But after this case, which was dismissed by High court judge John Bosco Katutsi as a “crude and amateurish” attempt to ruin the image of an otherwise upstanding man, and the declaration of Museveni as victor in the 2006 elections, things started to change.
Among others, Katutsi had also poured scorn on Kutesa’s purported testimony, noting how she had lied that police began investigating the alleged Kyakuwa rape in June 2001, which was a month before the complainant had even reported the alleged crime!
Kibuule says his fees continued to be paid and he would occasionally receive pocket money, but other benefits stopped coming.
He alleges that the state agent and Gideon Waiswa Isabirye got some money and bought a plot of land (measuring 40x100 feet) from Zedekia Ssentamu Lutakome at Shs 5 million in Nakwero, Gayaza, where they started building a two-bedroom house.
“My mother told me about the house and I even left school and visited the house,” he says.
After they complained that the plot was too small, the state operative organised for an extension of the plot. They paid Shs 1 million in cash and promised to pay the balance (Shs 700,000) soon. They never paid!
The construction, however, stopped at the wall-plate.
The operatives became hostile and even threw Kiguli out of the Naalya safe house, dumping her in an incomplete two-room house in the neighbourhood.
“My mother called me to this house and I could not believe it. There was only one bed, one mattress, one cup and one plate. That is all. The house was unfinished but they wanted us to shift there,” he recalls.
Soon after, Kibuule received a call [he had used his upkeep money to buy a phone] from his mother informing him that she was sick and admitted at Kadic hospital in Bukoto [where they used to get medical care].
He went to see her and she looked okay. But the following day, Kibuule received another call from his aunt, Betty Namukasa, notifying him that his mother had been taken to the Joint Clinical Research Centre in Mengo.
Kibuule found his mother on life support.
“She told me ‘my son, if you can run, please go. Things have changed. These people want us dead. I have been poisoned and I am not going to survive. Just say the last prayer for me and run’,” Kibuule remembers his mother’s last words.
According to Kibuule, there was a white doctor who claimed his mother’s medicine had been tampered with and a poisonous substance given to her. Kiguli died that night.
“The next morning, I found her belly had protruded and she had white foam coming from her nose and mouth,” Kibuule says.
According to Kibuule, the body was taken to Mbuya [Army Hospital] and thereafter to the village, Nabyewanga, Nkoni, near Masaka, for burial.
“I insisted on moving with them. They never allowed us to announce my mother’s death and the military financed all burial expenses,” he says.
Shockingly, when Kibuule was given his mother’s death certificate, it read that the deceased was called Kamya Marita, and her next of kin was Betty Kamya, people unknown to Kibuule’s family.
Although Kiguli’s voter’s card shows that she was born in 1969, her death certificate indicated that she had died on August 30, 2006, aged 41, implying she was born 1965.
On the certificate signed by Dr A Buruku of Joint Clinical Research Centre, the cause of death was lymphoma and respiratory failure. The other conditions leading to her death were moderate anemia and underlying immune suppression (HIV/ Aids).
“Everything they wrote there was a lie. My mother did not have Aids as far as I know. I am sure she was poisoned,” Kibuule insists.
According to Kibuule, Kiguli’s father was so shocked by his daughter’s death that he suffered a stroke which killed him a few years later. Kiguli’s mother is still alive, but lives in confusion and fear and vowed never to talk about her daughter again.
When The Observer visited her recently, she looked frail, under the care of two grandchildren and wept when the matter was mentioned.
“My son, Kaweesi [Andrew Felix] had a lot of guards and guns and he was killed. People are being killed every day. But look at me. Why do you want to reawaken those things? I am 80 years old and sick. I don’t want any riches or prominence. Just leave that matter alone. I lost my daughter and nothing will bring her back. Why do you want to risk the lives of my grandchildren?” she pleaded.
NEVER GIVE UP
Since he was in S4 and preparing to sit final exams, Kibuule went back to school after his mother’s burial. His other siblings stayed with his grandmother. After his O-level, he also joined his grandmother in Masaka (now Lwengo) in their two-room house and chose to live a quiet life.
“I sold my father’s land and I enrolled for A-level at St Joseph’s SS Nkoni,” he recalls.
But as he entered S6 in 2008, his mother’s tormentors came calling again. He says the agent (name withheld) informed one of his aunties that he wanted to take Kibuule for further education and that he would pick him on Wednesday. He then called Kibuule and told him he was coming for him that very day (Monday).
“When I saw the contradictions in this man’s statements, I sensed danger. I immediately ran out of school and went into hiding,” he says.
The agent, indeed, came to Kibuule’s home and even went to the school but did not find him. Kibuule hid for some time before returning to complete S6 after learning that the chase had ended.
But before this incident, Kibuule had contacted one Isabirye, a CID officer, and questioned him about the compensation he was promised.
“Isabirye told me that the only thing I could do was to sell the plot of land they had bought for us and use the money for something else. When I called the agent for the paperwork, he told me he was no longer in charge of our case and I should go to State House for help,” he says.
Kibuule then met the area chairman of Nakwero B, Lumano Mukasa, where the plot is located. He was shocked to learn that the land had been sold at just Shs 4 million.
Kibuule says he has tried to reach the concerned government officials in vain. He tried to go through the Masaka RDC’s office in 2009 but was referred to Captain Abbey Mukwaya, a senior presidential advisor sitting at Okello House in Kampala.
When he met Mukwaya, he promptly threw him out of his office and threatened to have him jailed if he ever saw him again. By resorting to the media, Kibuule wants one thing, to be given what is due to him.
He is also considering legal action against government because his mother, a state witness, died in their custody. When The Observer tried to reach the state agent on his known contact, a male voice said it was a wrong number as soon as we mentioned the name.
Elizabeth Kutesa couldn’t be reached for an interview for this story. She now lives in France, working for Interpol on secondment by government.
The Observer contacted Dr Besigye by email about Kiguli and he said this in reply:
“(Hajjat) Aisha was introduced to me by Marita Namayanja (commonly known as Mama Chaama) who I stayed with since 1983, during the war, up to 1986. Aisha worked and lived with us in our Luzira home from about 1994 to 2001.
“When in 2000, I decided to contest against Museveni, and refused advice from Marita to seek support of witchdoctors, she turned against me and joined Mr Museveni’s campaign.
“She then started to put pressure on Aisha to help her do some things within our home, which she resisted. When the pressure became unbearable, I shifted her to the farm in Kasangati. This is where she stayed until she was arrested and tortured, when I was in exile in South Africa.
“I also learnt what happened to her during the rape trial. I never got to meet or talk to her before her (mysterious) death.
“Aisha, herself, testified in court (under oath) about the deals she was given or promised by then Director CID, ACP Elizabeth Kutesa, for her to testify against me.
“That’s all I can say about the matter.”
When asked about Kiguli’s family living in fear since her death, Besigye said: “One of our leaders [in FDC] told me about it during the Kyotera district Woman MP election last year. However, I haven’t been able to meet any of the family members.”
THEY OWE ME
Interviewed for a comment, Mzee Zedekia Lutakome Ssentamu said, “I remember those men (the agents). They bought the kibanja in 2006 and they still owe me Shs 700,000.”
“Then before I knew it, they had sold the kibanja to someone else,” he added.
Lumano Mukasa, the chairman of Nakwero A, said in an interview: “Those things happened a long time ago. I remember two men were brought to me by a man called Kasule who had identified a plot of land being sold by Mzee Zedekia Lutakome. The two men looked like police officers, but the one whose name I remember was called Waiswa or Isabirye.
“I learnt that they were buying the land on behalf of a woman who had been working at Besigye’s home. I never saw this woman but at least her son later came claiming to be the rightful owner of the land.
“As a chairman, I signed off to the transaction after Mzee Zedekia agreed to sell. I don’t remember how much they bought the kibanja for. They immediately started building a house and we were told money was coming from State House.
“When the house reached the wall plate, they stopped. Then I heard that the plot had been sold to a businessman in Kampala. I did not witness the second transaction and those people concluded it in Kampala. I just saw the son of that said Muslim businessman come and finish the house and he had documents that the plot had been sold to him by the two men.
“Then Kibuule came claiming the land but did not have any supporting documents; and I think the other policemen had primarily bought the land in their names. So, I could not help him.”
WHAT JUSTICE KATUTSI SAID ABOUT NAKIGULI
The March 6, 2006 ruling by Justice John Bosco Katutsi that acquitted Besigye of the rape charges all but confirms Kibuule’s assertions. Here is what Katutsi partly said about Nakiguli (Kiguli).
I now turn to the testimony of Aisha Nakiguli (PW2) which prosecution sought to corroborate the evidence of the complainant. Here is a witness who twice refused to talk to the police about the accused.
She is arrested and taken to an unknown place, which she thought was CMI. I take ‘CMI’ to mean the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence. This is what she stated in her evidence:
“That day I was interrogated. I did not say anything. The following morning, I was taken somewhere, I think CMI.”
It is of note that as she described her ordeal, she broke down and cried…
After being humiliated into submission, Aisha was rewarded, as it were, with a house in the prime area of Nalya and a poultry business.
In justification of the reward, the learned DPP submitted. “…again to Aisha, to tackle the issue of the assistance and facilitation she was given…I realised from cross-examination of this witness by the defence [as] they were imputing, insinuating that Aisha was giving evidence to this court because she had been facilitated with chicken business and a [house]; correct, the witness was given chicken business and a house…they were (the police) duty bound to resettle her.
“Be that as it may and despite the oratory of the learned Deputy DPP, and while I do not go to the full length of imputing fraud on the part of police, I am with respect forced to observe that the circumstances of this case seem to me to suggest a course of conduct by the police to secure evidence using methods that seem to amount to an abuse of process. Let us call a spade a spade.
The largeness of the property offered to Aisha, the inadequacy of the alleged reasons for offering it and this in spite of the oratory of the learned Deputy DPP raises a lot of doubts as to the real intentions of the State in offering that property to Aisha Nakiguli. Can such evidence be free from suspicion?
It is tainted. It is disgraceful and unworthy of credit.”