On their way back from International Labour Day celebrations in Namutumba district on Monday, Pte Wilson Sabiiti and other guards allegedly told their supervisor, Lt Ronald Otim, that their salary had not been paid.
Preliminary investigations indicate that Sabiiti, who was renting a oneroomed house in Kyanja Central zone, Nakawa division, told Otim that the landlord of the premises where his pregnant wife and children live was demanding rent arrears.
Sabiiti reportedly added that he also had school fees balances to pay. In an assuring tone, Otim is reported to have told Sabiiti that by Tuesday morning, before they embark on any other business, his challenges, together with those of the other three guards, would be handled.
Sources close to the investigations said yesterday morning, Sabiiti tried to remind Otim about the promises he had made during their indepth chat on Monday in Namutumba, but he gave him a deaf ear.
When Sabiiti insisted, a verbal exchange reportedly ensued. Sources said Otim allegedly told Sabiiti that he had been fired from his job as a minister’s guard. At the time, the state minister of employment and industrial relations, Col Charles Engola, was already in the car.
So, when Otim, who is also the aidedecamp of the minister, unfolded the flag on the minister’s car, ready to start the journey, hell broke loose. Sabiiti first fired at Otim, hitting him on the shoulders, and then the legs.
Upon hearing the gunshots and the bitter altercation between the guards, the minister reportedly disembarked from his vehicle. However, as he stepped out, investigators said, Sabiiti turned the gun on the minister.
It was around 8:00am.
After shooting the minister, Sabiiti walked out of the gate while firing in the air, moving towards Kyanja Ring Road.
Witnesses said when Sabiiti reached Katumba zone, he entered a nearby beauty salon and ordered the three people who were there to move out. Shocked by the presence of an armed soldier, the three used the back door to escape.
After a few minutes, Sabiiti also killed himself. Detectives said Engola was accorded five bodyguards, headed by Otim.
Others, sources said, were Jasper Otim, Alex Twinobusingye, Sabiiti and another guard only identified as Peter. However, not all the five bodyguards were present at the time of the shooting.
Preliminary investigations indicate that the guards stay in one rented room in Kyanja.
Sometimes, sources added, they would also stay in the three tents erected in the minister’s compound. It is alleged that being new on the team, the other guards agreed to front Sabiiti to demand their allowances, having spent months without being paid.
However, the deputy spokesperson of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, Col Deo Akiiki, ruled out delayed payment as one of the factors that could have forced Sabiiti to kill the minister.
Akiiki told journalists that soldiers’ salaries are paid on the 27th day of month. So, what could have made Sabiiti act the way he did?
According to the gender minister, Betty Amongi, during the Labour Day celebrations, Engola and his bodyguard, Sabiiti, sat together in the vehicle and thing “seemed” fine.
Although Sabiiti was deployed by the military guard brigade a month ago to the minister’s security detail, Amongi said: “The Sabiiti, who shot him, was with the minister in his car during Labour Day celebrations. That is why we don’t know what could have happened,” Amongi said.
Akiiki, on the other hand, added: “It is hard to fathom that our soldier, who is well-trained, can do such a thing. That is why we are investigating to establish what really transpired.”
A source close to the investigations yesterday told New Vision that Engola used to foot the rent bills of all his bodyguards through their supervisor, Otim, who detectives said is currently admitted at Mulago Hospital.
Some eyewitnesses said in his dying declaration, Sabiiti, who security sources said was servicing a hefty loan with PostBank, accused the minister of not paying his allowances well knowing that his wife was pregnant and his children had broken off for holidays without report cards due outstanding school fees balances.
The ICT and national guidance minister, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, said the matter was still under investigation to establish the veracity of the allegations.
Yesterday, a team of security chiefs, including the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Tumusiime Katsigazi; the Criminal Investigations Director, Tom Magambo; Charles Birungi of the army’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence and Lt Col Emmanuel Katabazi, the deputy director Internal Security Organisation, combed the minister’s home and nearby zones for clues behind the shooting.
The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Thomas Tayebwa, and a number of ministers also visited the minister’s home to commiserate with the family.
The shooting in the area comes hardly a year after gunmen riding on a motorcycle fired at officers deployed at Kensington Police post. At the time, assailants had scaled up attacks on Police posts across the country.
In 2021, another shooting was reported 8km away from the spot where Engola was gunned down. The assailants targeted the works and transport minister, Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala.
However, Katumba’s daughter Brenda Wamala Nantongo and driver were killed. In the same division (Nakawa), six years ago, former Police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi was shot dead. Kaweesi was shot dead on March 17, 2017, together with his bodyguard, Cpl Kenneth Erau, and driver, Cpl Godfrey Mambewa, as they left Kaweesi’s home in Kulambiro.
WHAT SECURITY OFFICERS SAID
The Police spokesperson, Fred Enanga, said Engola died on the spot, while his ADC, Otim, was rushed to the hospital.
On his part, Katsigazi, said: “We would like to extend heartfelt condolences to President Yoweri Museveni, cabinet ministers and the staff at the gender ministry. May the soul of Col. Charles Engola rest in eternal peace.”
The UPDF spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Felix Kulayigye, said: “We have come to learn of the unfortunate incident at Kyanja Ring Road, which led to the demise of Hon. Rtd. Col Charles Okello Engola this morning. We shall inform the public of the details as we jointly investigate the matter.”
The annual Police report indicates that a total of 279 cases of murder by shooting were reported in 2022 compared to 303 in 2021.