Ninety-six hours after ASP Muhammad Kirumira was shot dead in Kampala, a senior colleague yesterday expressed a deep sense of fear that he could be next to fall to an assassin’s bullet.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Siraje Bakaleke told The Observer that he could turn up as the next victim off an alleged kill list of high-profile targets. He, however, did not say who could be after him.
“Since I started challenging my case at the Anti-Corruption court, I started receiving threatening messages on my phone and these messages through WhatsApp and SMS have persisted after the death of Kirumira,” Bakaleke said by telephone last evening.
These threats to his life are recorded at CPS Kampala under reference GF 075/20/2018, the officer said.
“I have decided to keep at my residence. I know it is because of my hard work that I am haunted; I have served my country diligently; I have sacrificed my family because I don’t sleep while solving people’s problem only to be paid with malicious uncompleted charges just to pull me down,” Bakaleke said.
Bakaleke is currently out of office, having been suspended from his influential posting as regional police commander for Kampala South on April 17 after being charged with the unlawful arrest of three South Korean nationals from whom he allegedly grabbed Shs 1.4 billion.
His interdiction came around the time several top police officers were being picked up in a wave of arrests by military intelligence and the Internal Security Organisation.
The arrested police officers were detained amidst suspicion of engaging in espionage, and a crackdown on suspected collusion between criminal gangs and high- level police personnel reportedly said to be close to former police chief, Gen Kale Kayihura.
They remain in military custody and face, among others, charges of abduction and forced return of Rwandan nationals reportedly fleeing political persecution back home. Some are undergoing trial before the Army General Court Martial.
Before he fell in a hail of bullets fired by two hit men who used high-powered motorbikes to get away last Saturday night, Kirumira had appealed a demotion in rank resulting from a police disciplinary court ruling.
Agitating for a massive clean-up, Kirumira’s troubles in the force are believed to have been aggravated by his loud criticism of Kayihura’s policing methods and management style.
He had also become very outspoken, denouncing what he referred to as rogue elements in the senior hierarchy of the police whom he said were deliberately fuelling the rising crime in the country.
The last time Bakaleke was seen in public was on Sunday when he attended the Kirumira send-off prayers at Gaddafi mosque. Inside the mosque, he stood up and declared to fellow mourners that he too was on the list of those to be killed.
He did not attend High court yesterday where his petition against trial in the Anti-Corruption court came up before Judge Musa Ssekaana.
His lawyer, Robert Senfuka, also did not attend but after court adjourned, the lawyer told journalists that his client had called and said he would not come to court because he feared for his life.
“He told me his life has been in danger since he started challenging the case before him. He started receiving threatening sms and WhatsApp messages on his phone,” Senfuka said.
Deputy police spokesman Patrick Onyango last evening said that as a senior police officer, Bakaleke knows the procedure to follow when one’s life is threatened.
“The first thing is to report to the nearest police station and then go to his bosses and brief them about that alleged threat, and also ask for security which is guaranteed at his rank,” Onyango said. “This is better than going to the press”.
In March 2017, AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi died when twin hitmen, also riding on motorcycles, ambushed his convoy and pumped several rounds into his body. Kaweesi, a Kirumira mentor and close friend, died together with his bodyguard Kenneth Erau and driver Godfrey Mambewa.
During the Tuesday interview with The Observer, Bakaleke said that save for a service pistol he still carries, the police force has not taken extra measures to secure him since he reported his fears.
Bakaleke’s co-accused in the Korean affair include city lawyer Paul Wanyoto, Samuel Nabeeta Mulowooza, D/ASP Innocent Munerezo, D/ASP innocent Nuwagaba, D/AIP Robert Ray Asiimwe, PC Junior Amanya, PC Gastavas Babu and Kenneth Zirintusa.