Before her murder on Monday night, prosecutor Joan Kagezi had rejected armed bodyguards, the police disclosed yesterday. Kagezi, 48, the assistant director of public prosecutions in charge of international crimes, was gunned down around 7:15pm in the Kampala suburb of Kiwatule. Kagezi was the lead prosecutor in the trial of suspects in the July 2010 terrorism attacks that claimed at least 76 people in Kampala. But the police would not automatically link her murder to one of her high-profile assignments.
According to a police source, Kagezi had earlier said she was uncomfortable around armed guards. Another source in the DPP’s office said Kagezi had confided in a colleague on Monday that she did not feel safe after last week’s session of the ongoing trial of the 13 terrorism suspects in the High court.
Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson, told The Observer yesterday that police had been forced to provide armed protection for Kagezi in 2013, after she reported a threat to her life.
“The deceased had threats sometime back and we gave her security to protect her at home and [during] her movements, which she was uncomfortable with,” Enanga said. Still, he said, police was forced to deploy guards at her home.
According to police, Kagezi had stopped at a roadside stall to buy some fruits when two men riding on a motorcycle suddenly stopped next to her vehicle and shot her twice in the neck. Grace Akullo, the director of the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate (CIID), who was driving some distance behind her, was the first police officer on the scene.
Enanga said Kagezi’s assailants must have been aware that she had guards at home, which is why they ambushed her on the way. He said police are supposed to give protection to public officials and VIPs and aised other people to seek private security guards for protection at home and as escorts.
So far, Enanga said, the only clue they have about the suspects is their physical description from eye-witnesses. Besides the terrorism trial, Kagezi was also prosecuting Muslim clerics accused of being behind the murder of other clerics, in which assailants also used motorcycles to execute their mission. Asked whether Kagezi’s assailants could be linked to the recent killings of clerics, Enanga said no conclusions had been drawn yet – not to the clerics, not to the terror trial.
“We can only connect them when the suspects are arrested… and there is no terror group which has come up to claim responsibility [for Kagezi’s death], which terrorists normally do,” he said.
By last evening, the police had got an X-ray scan at Mulago hospital and found that bullets which got stuck inside Kagezi’s body caused her immediate death. Kagezi’s children, who were with her when she was shot, escaped unhurt. By press time, Kagezi’s body was still at Mulago mortuary for an autopsy. Police chief Kale Kayihura described Kagezi as hardworking.
“At the time of her tragic death, she was the lead prosecutor in the case of the 2010 terror suspects now before the High court. She was also working with the police in the prosecution of the suspects in the recent spate of murders, robberies and terrorism in Busoga sub-region and Kampala,” Kayihura said.
Kayihura urged the public to remain calm but vigilant, adding that the murder of Kagezi should only serve to “increase our resolve to hunt down and bring to justice all those elements bent on disturbing the security and development of our country.”
A police source said the investigators will keep an open mind to other possible motives of her killing. The source said the investigators will also dig up information related to Kagezi’s other cases she prosecuted to establish whether they can find a possible motive for her murder.
“Everyone is saying it is about the terrorism case but this could be a tactic to put us off track,” said the source.
FEAR FOR LIFE
Hours before she was killed, Kagezi recounted to a colleague Betty Khisa, an assistant DPP, how she had felt uncomfortable sitting in the same courtroom with the suspects.
She told Khisa that she had requested the judge to have the suspects locked up in the cells, a request roundly denied. She said one suspect looked at her menacingly during her submission.
“But it ended at that although you could see that she was bothered,” the source said.
Elias Kisawuzi, the judiciary spokesperson, spoke of the need for enhanced security for judicial officers.
“Much as police is investigating the cause of Kagezi’s death, the judiciary is going to beef up security as a priority both at work and at the residence of judicial officers. We’re also going to minimize the taking of photographs of judicial officers handling high-profile cases like the one of terrorism,” Kisawuzi said.
Source : The Observer