By Our Reporter
Twenty-eight-year-old John Kugonza, a Boda Boda man, left his six-month pregnant wife Racheal Basemera taking a shower at home.
He dashed to ferry passengers, promising that he would return to take her for antenatal.
Ms Jenifer Namara, 21, hired Kugonza to transport her from Bunyangabu across the border to Mugusu health facility in Kabarole District at Shs2,000. He agreed.
Despite the inter-district travel ban, the duo managed to cross the border until about 200 metres into Kabarole when they ran into a roadblock mounted by police and soldiers.
Kugonza, according to multiple accounts, ignored security operatives who waved him down. He sped past the roadblock before a soldier on the other side shot him in the head, killing him instantly.
The motorbike veered off the road. Namara fell, sustaining bruises. The shocked the peer leader at Mugusu Health Centre III dragged herself from the ground and limped to the roadside where she sat, disconsolate.
The involvement of a soldier and a recalcitrant civilian in the Monday tragedy has generated contrasting narrative about what happened.
Whereas Kabarole RDC Julian Sara Ayesiga, and Mr Vincent Twesige, the Rwenzori West Police spokesperson, argue that the deceased provoked his shooting when he allegedly knocked the soldier, two witnesses say Kugonza was shot for disobeying orders to stop.
The UPDF soldier who allegedly shot the Boda Boda man has been named as Pte Denis Ogulo.
“We were together on the boda boda, both masked. He was not riding at high speed, but when we reached the checkpoint he was stopped and refused to stop. I also told him to stop but he refused. When we crossed the checkpoint, I saw another armed officer who was in front of us. He also stopped him and he refused and the soldier shot him in the head. He (Kugonza) did not knock him,” said Ms Namara.
The shooting happened at Kibede Trading Centre, almost equidistant between the Mahooma border bridge and Mugusu Health Centre III.
On June 6, President Museveni banned inter-district travel for 42 days, alongside a plethora of other measures, to stem the Covid-19 spread.
Ms. Topista Nyakwera, another witness, said security operatives had attempted to stop many boda-bodas before the fatal encounter.
“I saw two Boda Boda riders who came and they were stopped and [they] refused to stop at the checkpoint and security officer chased them and they managed to run away. Another Boda Boda was arrested when he refused to stop at the checkpoint,” Ms. Nyakwera said.
She added: “ He (Kugonza) was stopped at the checkpoint and he refused and after crossing [the border], he met another officer and he shot him dead. He (Kugonza) did not knock him.”
The widow, Ms. Basemera, said: “ I was still at home [when] I saw his sister coming to tell me that he has been shot dead,” Ms. Basemera narrated.
She said her husband, with who they have three children, had worked as a boda body for only 4 months.
“I want the government to compensate his life and have my children go to school and accord my husband a decent burial,” the widow said.
Ms Restituta Kunihira, the deceased’s mother, echoed similar demands. “I want the government to look after his family,” she said.
The controversy surrounding Kugonza’s demise, which witnesses categorised as bordering on extrajudicial killing, manifested in his burial which had to deferred yesterday.
His remains were due to be interred at the mother’s home, but the mourners turned chaotic after a long wait when police failed to bring the body by 3 pm. The mourners were later told to return today, which enraged them.
“They killed our son [and] now they don’t want us to bury him, where is the body? We don’t want any security officer to come here for the burial,” one mourner, who declined to disclose his name, shouted.
Police’s Twesige maintains that the deceased was speeding and refused to stop at a checkpoint and proceeded to knock a soldier who, Mr. Twesige said, shot the Boda Boda in “self-defense”.
The soldier was being treated as a victim, according to spokesman Twesige, and was reported yesterday to be receiving treatment at Muhoti barracks.