On the day the hopeful-turned-villain killed a ruling party registrar in Tororo, an agent of a minister was also killed in another blood-filled round of primary elections
Richard Ojore hoped to represent Tororo North constituency in Parliament this term, but he now has to serve 30 years in jail for killing a ruling party electoral registrar as tempers flared during the ruling party’s parliamentary elections primaries in September 2020.
The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party parliamentary elections primaries for that year, like those in the previous rounds of elections, were marred with violence as candidates alleged voting rigging claims.
In a murder trial that the High Court concluded only last week, Ojore and two others were convicted of murdering Sinambio Oketcho, the NRM party registrar for Mukuju Sub-county in Tororo District, who was overseeing the primaries in his area.
On the same day Ojore and his accomplices committed the murder, NRM primary elections were suspended in Bukono constituency, Namutumba District, because an of candidate Persis Namuganza, who at the time was a junior minister of Lands, was also killed.
Violence and other malpractices during primary elections is one problem the ruling party has still to find a solution to. The problem heightened in 2011 and has not abetted since. Perhaps the most important explanation for it is that because the ruling party routinely sweeps most of the country in parliamentary elections – whether by winning fairly or through rigging – contestants consider that getting its ticket in many instances means that one has moved more than half of the journey to Parliament.
In the case of Ojore, the prosecution went through with the case and secured a conviction and a semblance of justice for the family of the unfortunate 66-year-old Oketcho.
How Oketcho was murdered
During the trial, a boda- boda rider, informed court that he was transporting Oketcho to various polling stations as he inspected the polling process. As they approached Akowrot polling station, the boda-boda rider told Justice Esta Nambayo’s court, Ojore and his co-accused – Moses Emojong, and Geoffrey Imai – drove past them in a vehicle flying at breakneck speed, with full and hazard lights on.
Shortly after, the witness said, the vehicle made a U-turn and drove back in the direction it was coming from, blocking and intercepting the boda-boda the witness was riding. As the rider and his passenger – the NRM registrar Oketcho – were still in shock when Ojore jumped out of the vehicle and ordered the other occupants out of the vehicle too.
Oketcho was then target. Ojore, the losing candidate in the NRM primary, according to the witness, told Oketcho that he had sunk huge sums of money into the campaigns and that the loss meant that he too had died.
A brief exchange ensued, the boda-boda rider told court, with Oketcho asking Ojore what wrong he had done. This is what followed, according to the witness: “Accused number one (Ojore) got a club normally referred to as “a masi rungu” from his jacket and hit the deceased once on the right-hand side of the neck and the deceased fell down.”
When Oketcho got up, the boda-boda rider said, he began to stagger while moving away from the scene as people were cheering in Kiswahili, piga wajinga (beat the fools).
Oketcho died shortly after. Dr. Barnabas Rubanza, who did the postmortem, found that Oketcho’s neck had a compression of the discs of cervical bones but the chest, the lungs, and the heart were normal.
Dr. Rubanza told court that the cause of Oketcho’s death was the respiratory system had been compromised, which in turn affected the nerves. “When the said nerves are affected, breathing doesn’t take place and the victim dies within a short period of time,” Dr. Rubanza said, adding that the neck is very sensitive to the extent that a slight impact can cause death.
The medical report, the judge said, established the cause of Oketcho’s death was a spiral shock due to a blunt injury on the neck compromising the integrity of the cardiovascular and respiratory system. The findings of Dr. Rubanza, Justice Nambayo said, corroborated the evidence of the boda-boda rider that Oketcho was hit once on the neck.
The evidence of Mary Alupot, one of the defense witnesses, was also crucial. She told court that she had seen Oketcho supervising the polling process that morning, having voted from that station before proceeding to fetch water at a nearby well. Alupot said that later she was shocked to see Oketcho walking the footpath to the well with the motorcycle nowhere in sight. The deceased carried his hoes in hand, Alupot said
The Judge made the following deduction from Alupot’s evidence: “Defense witness six [Alupot] description of someone running away from danger. For a man 66 years old, a sub-county registrar who was being transported on a motorcycle monitoring the voting process, to be in such a state and place was indicative of trouble at the scene from
which he was fleeing.”
Alupot had told the court that she directed Oketcho away from the scene to the bridge. “It is at this very bridge that prosecution witness four picked the deceased to take him to the hospital, “the judge said.
The judge added: “Unfortunately, he was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. I find no reason to doubt the doctor’s finding that it is the injury that the deceased sustained on the neck that caused his death. I believe the evidence of Prosecution Witness Number Two [boda-boda rider] that it was accused one [Ojore] who hit the deceased once on the neck that caused his death.”
The judge then turned to Ojore’s co-conspirators – Emojong and Imai. She said though the duo didn’t participate in hitting Oketcho on the neck, which led to his death, they were at the scene of the crime since they moved with Ojore.
“They had been traveling with him in the car, moving to various polling stations,” she said. “They did not restrain Accused Number One (Ojore) from beating the deceased, neither did they assist the deceased in any way after they saw that Accused One had hit him badly and had fallen and lost balance. This was a 66-year-old man. In fact, Accused Number Three [Imai] complied with the instructions of Accused Number One [ Ojore] to seize prosecution witness number two [the boda-boda rider] for his beating.”
To find the two culpable for murder, Justice Nambayo invoked section 20 of the Penal Code Act, which stipulates, “When two or more persons form a common intention to prosecute an unlawful purpose in conjunction with one another and in the prosecution of that purpose an offense is committed of such a nature that its commission was a probable consequence of the prosecution of that purpose, each of them is deemed to have committed the offense.”
In addition, the judge cited the case of Kisegwa and another vs Uganda, in which the Court of Appeal held, “ In order to make the doctrine of common intention applicable, it must be shown that the accused had shared with the actor perpetrator of the crime a common intention to pursue a specific unlawful purpose which led to the commission of the offense…”
Ojore and his co-accused each got 30 years in jail.