After one hour and 57 minutes of closed-door deliberations yesterday, the Lt Gen Andrew Gutti-led seven-member General Court Martial returned with a sentence; eight years, eight months and six days for Abdullah Kitatta.
On Monday, the same court had found Kitatta guilty of illegal possession of rearms and ammunition. Kitatta, the flamboyant former patron of Boda Boda 2010 Association, has spent the last one year and four months on remand.
When Gen Gutti entered the jammed courtroom, he found Kitatta clad in a yellow T-shirt. He carried a green book and a white handkerchief, which he used to wipe beads of sweat 30 minutes into the reading of the verdict – which extensively explored the background to Kittata’s arrest.
Kitatta was arrested on January 20, 2018 at Vine Tea hotel in Wakaliga-Nateete, Lubaga division by operatives from Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and police. Delivering the sentence yesterday, Gen Gutti said he had been swayed by prosecution’s submission that use of illegal guns is rampant in the country and that nudged him to give Kitatta and his co-accused a deterrent sentence.
“...I chose to give you a maximum sentence of 10 years each, but with the sentence running concurrently, you will serve 10 years each but the one year and four months you two have spent on remand should be considered, meaning you are now each to serve eight years and eight months; you have a choice to appeal against both the sentence and the period given to you,” Gutti said.
Though the convicts have an appeal option, some lawyers interviewed said the new chairman of the General Court Martial of Appeal has not been appointed by the president, meaning the appeal may take some time. Though majority of Kitatta’s relatives and friends were crushed by the conviction and sentence, some two women who said were battered by Boda Boda 2010 operatives were in jubilant mood.
Kitatta and his former police bodyguard Sowali Ngobi were found guilty of illegal possession of an SMG rifle No UE4467 – 1998 and a pistol N0. UG-POL 00753421813 with 30 rounds of live ammunitions without a valid certificate. Midway the verdict, Kitatta lost his firm composure.
He was all teary and broken. He couldn’t stand straight. After the conviction, lead prosecutor Lt Col Raphael Mugisha prayed for a maximum sentence of 10 years. In mitigation, Shaban Sanywa, Kitatta’s lead counsel, prayed for a lenient sentence, arguing that on top of being a first offender, Kitatta was an NRM chairman for Lubaga division, who served the party diligently and had learnt hard lessons during his time on remand.
He said Kitatta had various wives and children to cater for as a sole breadwinner. After court adjourned, Sanywa told journalists that he had instructions to appeal the verdict and sentence.
“Our major ground is that court refused to take the said pistol for technical checking to prove that it was not a toy and court refused to give us an order to produce CCTV footage the state alleged showed Kitatta, who was fished out of a hotel toilet, holding the said pistol. Though court says it has not relied on the footage to convict my clients, it was proper to produce it on our request,” Sanywa said.