Beaten, intimidated and outraged by the wanton land grabbing excesses of Michael Mukhono aka Musayi, a powerful pastor in the eastern Elgon area, residents have taken to public denunciations of police and military officials.
The unrelenting public bribe-taking accusations have cast a harsh spotlight on several top police officials in the Elgon area. Security officials are accused of accepting gifts from Pastor Musayi and deliberately ignoring his rather very violent land grabbing tendencies in the Bugisu sub-region.
For the last six years, writes JULIUS ODEKE, the pastor has allegedly used police bodyguards to grab land and insulate himself from attacks.
“We have seen them being given gifts by Pastor Michael Mukhono aka Pastor Musayi, a man who has caused a lot of havoc in Mbale,” says Michael Kimune, 49, a resident of Namabasha Zone III lower in Namabasha sub-county.
According to Kimune, the gifts are meant to facilitate the killing of evidence and a cover-up of the numerous atrocities committed by Pastor Musayi.
The police reluctance to arrest Pastor Musayi has given ammunition to arguments by some victims of assault like Margaret Wamboga, Michael Kimune, 49, Fred Makabayi, 42, and Martin Wabutwa, 37, that the force’s indifference constitutes a possible case of obstruction of justice.
Pastor Musayi is the leader of Mount Elgon Believers Baptist Independent Mission. Together with his gang, the pastor is accused of beating and cutting people in Namabasa village on July 15, 2019. The case was lodged at Mbale Central Police Station but according to the complainants none of the perpetrators was arrested.
“This has been going on for close to six years and we have never received any justice at all…,” said Fred Makabayi.
Makabayi’s house was allegedly torched and his five acres of land grabbed by Pastor Musayi in Namabasa sub-county. Makabayi and his three colleagues were interviewed by this writer on July 9, 2020. They carried documents chronicling all the ugliest incidents visited on them by Pastor Musayi and his police and military bodyguards.
The victims and other residents in Mbale district point an accusing finger at Brigadier Mike Ochuka Opio, the commanding officer of Bugema military barracks in Mbale city.
Interviewed, Brigadier Mike Ochuka Opio said by telephone, “What I know is that there is an issue of land between Pastor Musayi and the complainants but to say we have armed Pastor Musayi is totally baseless.”
Asked why Pastor Musayi is not under arrest, Brigadier Opio said, “For me, I am a soldier; I am not mandated in any way to arrest anybody. It’s the police who are supposed to do that; why they have failed to arrest him, I also don’t know.”
The complainants, however, allege that Pastor Musayi is guarded by five UPDF soldiers and sometimes by policemen.
“The man is a big man, he has even pocketed the security apparatus in this country because we have boldly reported this matter to police and other relevant authorities in the district but nothing has been done to the perpetrators,” Fred Makabayi said.
The torment, complainants claim, started in 2013, when Pastor Musayi began luring their wives into sexual relationships before grabbing their land. Pastor Musayi owns about 100 acres of land in one area, grabbed from residents in Namabasa. Namabasa is about six kilometers from Mbale city.
According to victims whose houses, land, maize, banana plantations and planted forests have been slashed by Pastor Musayi, security officials are always given gifts to kill cases against the pastor. The victims claim the pastor has constructed structures on their land including his church.
The evictions gathered momentum when police and UPDF gave Pastor Musayi armed bodyguards. Interviewed for a comment recently, the resident district commissioner, Sulaiman Barasa Ogajo said, “Arming and providing guards for Pastor Musayi is impossible since all security agencies in the district are looking for him in order to arrest him.”
“What I know for a fact is that Pastor Musayi is a mafia and we were challenged when President Yoweri Museveni locked down the country due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in March, so we could not do much but right now we are pursuing him,” he said.
In June 27, 2019, the area LC-1 chairman wrote a letter titled: Insecurity in Namabasa Zone III and Namabasa Zone IV. He wrote to the regional police commander, Elgon zone requesting him to intervene.
In the letter, the LC-1 boss said the insecurity stemmed from the commercialization of land disputes between Pastor Michael Mukhono (Musayi) and the people living around his Elgon Mission.
“He has become a threat to the public and there are some roadblocks, which have been mounted illegally with an aim of terrorizing residents and road users,” the letter reads in part.
He said a number of houses had been razed. Pastor Musayi allegedly pours acid on people’s iron-sheet roofs and slashes banana plantations, maize crops and poisons domestic animals, he said. According to the letter, houses belonging to Fred Makabayi and Martin Wabutwa were torched. The owners and their families were forced to shift to Bugema.
The LC1 chairman urged the office of the Regional Police Commander (RPC) to intervene and calm the situation.
According to Martin Wabutwa, Pastor Musayi refused to recognize the area LC-I authority. He created a parallel administration.
To create his stooge LC-1 administration, Pastor Musayi first approached the Namabasa sub-county LC-III chairperson, Khalidi Sebujjo. He asked him to allow members of his church to become the LC-1 executive, a request Sebujjo rejected out right saying, “There is no way Pastor Musayi can create an LC-1 administration yet there is an existing council elected by people in May 2018.”
Pastor Musayi then approached the RDC, Barasa Ogajo, and asked him to recognize his church members as a separate LC-I committee. He said the committee would be managed by members of Mount Elgon Believers Baptist Independent Mission.
Ogajo without hesitation gave Pastor Musayi express powers to create his own Local Council system.
Interviewed, Ogajo said, “This is an autonomous village that was created by government and they had to have their own independent LC system.”
However, people in Namabasa say the RDC’s claim is totally false because Pastor Musayi’s LC-I system operates within an existing council administration. The RDC-approved parallel LC-1 executive has John Masaka, a co-pastor of Musayi, as the chairperson, Vincent Mataya is the vice chairperson and Julius Mutsuma is secretary for defence, among others.
“These are all members of Pastor Musayi’s church and now are in possession of an illegal stamp for the same area operating an LC-I system,” says Martin Wabutwa.
Wabutwa says: “Pastor Musayi runs a village health facility which operates without any qualified medical personnel and on many occasions treats patients using veterinary medicine. And this has caused a big health problem in Namabasa.”
Interviewed for this story, one senior police officer said, “Locals in Namabasa are falsely accusing Pastor Musayi and when you ask them to record official statements with police, nobody turns up,” he said.
“It’s only Margaret Wamboga and three men [Kimune, Makabayi and Wabutwa] who have recorded statements with police and we shall handle that matter soon,” the senior police officer said.
However, the LC-I boss for Namabasa Zone III “A”, Bonofasi Lukholele, in his letter to O/C Mbale CPS dated 25/06/2019, said; “Mr Makabayi reported to the office of LC last night on 24/06/2019 that his house was burnt using acid and salt that was poured on top of the iron sheets.”
Makabayi claims no police investigations were opened. In a six-page petition to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in Kampala, a copy of which was lodged with Mbale police, residents of Namabasa laid bare Pastor Musayi’s long catalogue of excesses, which included vandalizing of the Umeme meter and service wires that served the area on June 25, 2019 and the matter was reported to CPS Mbale RE: SD 145/26/06/2019.
Gabriel Odatin, the Umeme manager in Mbale, told this writer recently; “It’s true that a company car was vandalized by Pastor Musayi and his gangsters as our staff were on duty and some of the Umeme staff were badly injured but we reported the matter to police and we are waiting for their response.”
“On the side of the company car, since it was insured, it has been repaired and it’s back on the road,” he added.
“On 2nd July, a group of the mission believers led by Pastor Musayi moved around the villages of Namabasa Zone IV Lower and Zone III beating residents at 3am,” the petition reads further.
The petition also claims that the victims were then confined in Pastor Musayi’s private office at his church before they were taken to Namabasa police post in the morning and falsely accused.
“It took the intervention of the community to have the five people out,” the petition partly reads.
This happened after Wamboga and Makabayi who are Pastor Musayi’s immediate neighbors sued him for grabbing their land.
And on July, 15 2019 at around 8am while trying to enter his home in the company of Michael Kimune, the trio was attacked. Kimune sustained three deep cut wounds on his head, inflicted by machete-welding men.
The victims were rushed to Mbale regional referral hospital in critical condition. Kimune was later referred to Cure Hospital for special attention since he was to undergo a surgical operation on his head. The LC-III chairperson for Namabasa sub-county Khalid Sebujjo in his letter to the RDC Ogajo dated June 26, 2019 detailed the insecurity within his sub-county.
In his letter, Sebujjo writes: “This is to inform your office that there is a lot of insecurity in this area, some residents have experienced threats of murder by unknown people who even pour acid on people’s houses. Therefore, we call upon you to investigate this matter wisely so as to avoid bloodshed.”
In the petition to IGP, the people of Namabasa said: “We want to state clearly to you that Pastor Michael Mukhono aka Pastor Musayi is a powerful person in our district, he has money to give to the security personnel to keep our residents in police cells.”
The residents accuse a driver of a police patrol van only known as Opolot of consistently tipping off Pastor Musayi whenever there’s an impending arrest.
Makabyi says, “By the time the police patrol van reaches the scene, Pastor Musayi will have already fled…”
However, a senior police officer said; “It is the coronavirus-19 outbreak that brought everything to a halt; otherwise, police was steadily and swiftly moving to have Pastor Musayi and his allies arrested.”
On the issue of police corruption, he said, “I have heard about those allegations and I am now beginning to believe them because people have said so many times that police in Mbale are corrupt and openly demand for bribes, but we shall sort this mess.”
Pastor Musayi came to Namabasa in 2013 to operate a church. He drew a big congregation but after two years he annoyed some followers when he quietly started having sexual encounters with their wives. Pastor Musayi also held several Passover ceremonies in Namabasa on December 13, every year.
“These celebrations were used to extend bribes to security officials in the district. He invites them and gives them hefty gifts. This is meant to insulate him from any arrests,” Kimune said.
But the RDC Ogajo said, “I have never attended those celebrations but I remember the LC-V boss telling me that he attended.” When I discussed with him at length, I realized that Bernard Mujasi is a member in Pastor Musayi’s church.
As we speak, Pastor Musayi is fully guarded by police and military and anybody who points an accusing finger at him is walloped, said Martin Wabutwa, who once worked closely with Pastor Musayi.
Wabutwa said, “The Passover festival is conducted on 13th December every year and gifts like; matoke, money and chicken are given to the top district officers and this has really caused havoc in this district.”
“It’s only when these security officials stop receiving bribes from people like Pastor Musayi and his associates, that Mbale residents will have a semblance of sanity,” he added.
In a handwritten letter to the IGP, Margaret Wamboga, a resident of Zone IV Lower cell, claims Pastor Musayi grabbed her 50 acres of land and police has not acted yet she reported the matter to Mbale Central police station.
“The total silence by the police in Mbale has given Pastor Musayi an upper hand to beat and maim residents in the area who oppose his selfish moves of grabbing people’s land and even wives,” said Wabutwa.
Kimune, who sustained three deep cut wounds, says he spent two weeks in the hospital.
“I used Shs 3.7 million to treat myself,” he told this writer, adding, “To-date, I am still living in fear that any time these armed civilians can come back and inflict pain and injuries on me because police has shown no interest in these atrocities committed by Pastor Musayi.”
Silas Etieku Opolot, the principal administrative secretary for Adapt International Organization (AIO), a local organization based in the nearby sub-county of Nakaloke, says, “Many people have been tortured, beaten, displaced and injured and all this untold agony has been perpetuated by members aligned to Mount Elgon Believers Baptist Independent Mission led by Pastor Musayi who has become a security threat to the entire community in Namabasa.”
Opolot says the locals in Zone 3, Zone 4 Upper and Lower in Namabasa accuse Pastor Musayi of using gangs to torment villages.
“We have tried to handle these issues from the grassroots to the regional level. But it has not yielded any positive results,” Opolot says.
District Police Commander Fred Mchanga Ahimbisibwe declined an interview on July 10.
“As police, we have a protocol that we follow. Can you go and talk to the Regional Police Public Relations Officer?” Ahimbisibwe told this writer.
Richard Wangolo, 33, says Pastor Musayi took his wife and used her.
“When I tried to intervene…Pastor Musayi and his associates attempted to beat me but I escaped…,” Wangolo said.
Henry Wambedde, 36, also claimed his wife and three children were taken by Pastor Musayi and haven’t returned to-date. Interviewed, the district CID officer, Musa Kazibwe Ziiwa, said; “I have so many cases against Pastor Musayi. If you can take me to where he is, I will have him arrested now.” “I have given my bosses all the reports but I don’t know why it has taken long for Pastor Musayi to be apprehended.”