GABULA’S GIGANTIC GAFFE

By Jolly Gwari

Below is Tony Geoffrey Owana’s opinion on Bright Africa Ronald Gabula’s gigantic ironical false move that has been puzzling the Country; enjoy the read.

Bright Africa Gabula or Ronald Gabula, the only 17-year old Ugandan ever to be charged with treason and convicted by civil courts has returned to the news with another complaint of gross injustice. Now known as Evans Gabula, he has mesmerized some Members of Parliament with a harrowing account of torture in safe-houses reportedly run by the Internal Security Organization.

Overwhelmed by compassion, if not overjoyed at discovering the rare witness who could eloquently testify on the brutalities of the NRM government, some MPs broke down and wept as they listened to Gabula’s heart-rending narrative.

As had happened when a team of MPs visited Hon Robert Kyagulanyi in Makindye Barracks last year and simply filed all his claims of torture as their findings, MPs did not ask Gabula any probing questions. To them, his dramatic presentation was so convincing that it did not require validation. However, Bright Africa Ronald Evans Gabula is enigmatic.

In Daily Monitor of 22 August, Misaeri Thembo Kahungu writes that “A 60-year-old man claiming to have spent more than two months in a safe house at Kyengera in Wakiso District has narrated the circumstances under which detainees are treated. Mr. Evans Gabula, also known as Africa Bright, who testified before the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights…” 

Is Evans Gabula also Africa Bright Gabula who was in Luzira Prison for over 20 years? Gabula claims to have been arrested in 1987 when he was 17 years old and charged with treason. This suggests he was born in 1970. But if the same person is 60 years old in 2019, then he must have been born in 1959. And if the 60-year old victim joined Makerere University in 1987 he was already 28 years old, not 17. Could the discrepancy be a typo-error by Daily Monitor? It can be corrected.

This is not the first time Mr. Gabula’s story has wowed Ugandan journalists. Writing in The New Vision of 29 October 2012, my old comrade Elvis Basudde dropped his well-known professional guard to Gabula’s tale. Had Basudde scratched a little below the surface he would have made a better story. In 2012, I tried to make sense out of the otherwise titillating and harrowing tale and found a few interesting facts in the yarn Gabula spun for Basudde.

First, Gabula was not arrested in 1987 at the age of 17 as alleged. According to his own sworn statement, he was arrested on 23rd September 1989 “at the source of the Nile, where I was found reading…” He was then known as Gabula Bright Africa. Did Makerere University admit Ronald Gabula or Gabula Bright Africa? Was he 17 or 28? To which faculty or hall of residence was he admitted? Let us take age 17 for starters.

Born in 1970, he allegedly skipped two primary classes of an un-named school, “because he was very bright”. Assuming he started P1 at age 6 and skipped two classes, he was 10 in P7. He completed S4 at age 14 in an un-named school and HSC at 16 in Busoga College Mwiri. Improbable as it may sound, all this is possible.

Ronald Gabula or Evans Gabula Bright Africa claims to have been the last of 22 suspects charged with treason as members of the late Dr. Apollo Milton Obote’s rebel outfit, the ‘9th October Movement’ (NOM). He says he first met the group in Kirinya Prison. However, court records available give him considerable prominence in the treason plot as Accused No. 3 of a total of 9, not 22. On several NOM documents tendered as evidence against him, Gabula signs as ‘Field Commander Muzeyi’.

His co-accused were; Sheik Amis Ndifuna Kinyiri, Willy Mukama Lugoko, Ngobi Willy, Adinadi Buwedeyo, Willy Mukama, Wadidi Simon, George Ntende, and Awazi Bwana. They were referred to at the trial as Al, A2, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8 and A9 respectively. The particulars were that Gabula, his co-accused, and others still at large, between March 1987 and October 1989, in various places in Busoga and Nairobi, Kenya, contrived a plot and expressed the plot, by overt acts in order by force of arms to overturn the Government of Uganda by law established. Of the 19 overt acts alleged, only four implicated Gabula in treason.

Retired Justice C. Kato acquitted George Ntende and Awazi Bwana because the prosecution had not made out a case against them. However, he ruled that a prima facie case existed against Gabula and six others. 

On 19th October 1993, Justice Kato acquitted Willy Ngobi, Adinadi Buwedeyo, and Simon Wadida. He also acquitted Sheik Amis Ndifuna Kinyiri and Willy Lugoko of treason, but convicted them on misprision of treason and sentenced them to two years’ imprisonment each. They did not appeal. 

Only Bright Africa Gabula was convicted of treason and sentenced to death because the prosecution had proved that during October 1989 in Jinja, Gabula made reports on the activities and achievements of NOM and also drew a document showing the military strength of government forces. 

The prosecution also proved that between July and October 1989 in Jinja town, Gabula Bright Africa and others held NOM meetings, discussing how to overthrow the NRM government and return Dr. Milton Obote to power. Decisions were taken on how to facilitate NOM fighters in Kagoma, Budonia, Buyala, Busiki, and Bugobi sub-counties. If my colleague Elvis Basudde had not been overwhelmed by sympathy he would have for instance found that ‘Justice Eronget’ who allegedly ordered Gabula produced in court is unknown in the annals of Uganda’s judiciary since independence. Any research on this mysterious judge only brings Basudde’s story on Gabula, nothing else! And how could any judge order habeas corpus for Gabula in 1988 when Gabula himself testified in court that he was arrested in 1989? 

The judicial officers who heard Gabula’s case were the late Margaret Kireju in Jinja and Justice Christopher Kato who sentenced Gabula to death. Gabula’s appeal was heard by former Deputy Chief Justice Seth Manyindo, late Justice Arthur Oder and Justice John Wilson Tsekooko. On 5th May 1995, they dismissed his appeal. All these records are freely available. Moreover, Justice Manyindo and Justice Tsekooko who dismissed Gabula’s appeal are still alive.

Basudde continues, “Ever since he was charged with treason, Gabula has resolutely maintained his innocence, claiming a confession was coerced out of him by a now-deceased lieutenant then in charge of Political Affairs in the Internal Security Organisation (ISO).” Gabula insists that he was convicted solely on evidence extracted from him under torture by Lt. Kamukama and a witness he describes as “my sister”. This “sister” is Christine Tindiwegi who gave vital evidence against the plotters as Principal Witness 8. Throughout the investigations, Gabula does not describe Tindiwegi as his sister. Basudde did not also interest himself in finding out why Gabula’s sister should do all this to him.

Had he read the court records, Basudde would have found that Gabula was not convicted on the basis of a confession but on the evidence adduced and that the said ISO lieutenant appears as Principal Witness 10 in the trial. In 1987, Kamukama was not in charge of Political Affairs at ISO but the DISO of Jinja where the offenses were committed and he was not a lieutenant because NRA ranks had not been formalized. Lt. Kamukama told the court that he first knew of Gabula in 1989 which Gabula never disputed. Gabula’s claim that he was only produced in court after action by the International Red Cross made us search ‘ICRC for Gabula’. The search only returns us to Basudde’s story.

On the internet, PEP FORUM tells the following astonishing lie. “In a flawed trial devoid of any rules of civility, before a villainous Prosecutor devoid of human feelings save for the promotion of his career, where the Judge postponed trial on the day Gabula principal witness flew in from the US ‘sine die’ that’s indefinitely, only for him to call Gabula for trial the following Monday with only a days’ notice, and thereafter audaciously reprimanded Gabula for allegedly wasting court’s time yet he was the same Judge who had on Thursday three days before adjourned court indefinitely. He obviously was working on the fingertips of the office who robbed the ‘States Union’ money. He sentenced Gabula to death and it took Gabula ages to find justice.” 

Apart from insulting the internationally respected and retired Justice Kato, they also abuse the integrity of another highly-reputed lawyer, Edward Elue, probably because he is dead and can’t respond. Claiming that he was Gabula’s lawyer who had flown to the USA to get evidence when the judge acted so unfairly, they make it appear that the tough Elue simply let matters rest as they were! Can Uganda Law Society defend the now voiceless Elue from this posthumous charge of Criminal Professional Negligence?

And PEP’s claim that it took Gabula ages to find justice also amazes. The truth is that he was not hanged because President Yoweri Museveni did not endorse his death with his signature. It is also because, in 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that death row prisoners who had not been executed three years after exhausting the appellate process should have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment—defined as 20 years without remission by the Prisons Act. Thanks for this ruling also go to Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), using the famous Susan Kigula case.

How about this BBC prize-winning essay that earned the writer millions and made him a target for an ISO rogue? All Gabula Disciples write that it was a brilliant idea on the false economics impoverishing Africa but nothing more.

Googling ‘Ronald Gabula on BBC’ only yields Basudde’s story and nothing about the great essay he is supposed to have written. Searching ‘Gabula wins BBC essay’ takes us back to Basudde’s story. We are also being asked to imagine that the BBC did not publish the essay anywhere, but this will rest if the BBC not only owns but republishes this great essay. The story further claims that Gabula was invited to BBC headquarters in London to collect his prize and present the essay. Was he going to present the winning essay to BBC again? Do BBC essay awards winners have to travel to Bush House London to collect? Hmmm!

Again, Gabula’s non-governmental organization, ‘States Union’ returns us to Basudde’s story. The Uganda Government does not have any record of its registration. Even more newsworthy would be the registration of an NGO by a person below 18, who is 17-year old Gabula in this case.

Remember it is to ‘States Union’ that the Americans (again unnamed) allegedly donated $1.2 million, which they seem to have forwarded after Gabula returned to Uganda, assuming he traveled at all. It appears they astonishingly sent the dollars in cash, inducing Gabula to seek help from Bank of Uganda chief, Dr. Sulaiman Kiggundu. Dr. Kiggundu, who cannot assist us because he is dead, allegedly sent him to an ISO lieutenant “for vetting”. Gabula went to Dr. Kiggundu because “foreign exchange was not yet liberalized”. Did Kiggundu leave any evidence of this transaction at Bank of Uganda? 

The rogue lieutenant is not named until the non-existent ‘Justice Eronget’ orders Gabula produced in court. Thereupon, the lurid story continues, someone called Kamukama has Gabula charged in a lower court and remanded in Luzira. The charges for which Gabula was remanded via Kamukama are only known to Gabula. There is no official account of this legal proceeding.

Is there a record at Makerere University of their student being arrested and detained in this manner in 1987? If true, university authorities must have very callously ignored the plight of this young boy! Strangely, the Uganda Law Society, Uganda Human Rights Activists (where FHRI’s Dr. Livinsgtone Ssewanyana was at the time) and even Amnesty International have nothing about Gabula’s interesting case. A more recent story in Daily Monitor by Abdul Nasser Semugabi says Gabula’s wonderful essay convinced BBC to give him 300 pounds sterling among other gifts which BBC seems unwilling to acknowledge because internet searches only take you back to Semugabi’s Monitor story. 

Semugabi reports about an All-Africa Universities Summit at Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe, in 1985 at which Gabula presented his famous paper. However, no official, high or low, of the governments of Dr. Milton Obote or Gen. Tito Okello who overthrew Obote in 1985 know about this international conference and by the way, 1985 was a dangerous time to visit Uganda. And the internet will only cite Semugabi as evidence.

Semugabi says Gabula took his essay to Stratford University, Virginia in 1986 where the ‘Black Caucus’ raised him US$ 5 million. The Black Caucus brings together African-American members of the US House of Representatives but apart from Semugabi’s story there is no hint that Black Caucus ever raised a penny for Gabula.

Throwing professional oversight to the winds, this reporter states that Gabula brought the US $5 million back to Uganda in travelers’ cheques. To carry 5 million dollars in the highest denomination of $1,000 Gabula must have had 5000 cheque-leaves. If it were the cash of 100 notes per wad he would have brought in 50 wads of cheques. It is presumed he took these bundles to Bank of Uganda Governor Kiggundu for “advice on how to invest the money” and “because the foreign exchange was not yet liberalized.”

But by a strange twist, the story shifts from $5 million in travelers’ cheques to unspecified documents supplied by Kamukama of ISO enabling Gabula to bring in $1.27m, which Kamukama seized. He also locked up Gabula in a private house somewhere in Makindye. Did Kamukama’s documents cause the dollars to arrive in cash? To whom did the donors address this hefty gift and how did Kamukama take possession of the same?

And whereas foreign exchange was not yet liberalized, what was absent was an enabling law and when NRM took over, KIBANDA dealers were considered merely as a parallel unregulated market rather than as criminals. Our reporters could have tried to find out how Bank of Uganda intended to explain the sudden infusion of all those millions into an ailing economy but I appreciate that the alleged sufferings of the teenager were too titillating.

As stated above, Gabula testified to the court that he was arrested in 1989 but in the Semugabi’s story it is January 3, 1987. Without referring to any police or court records, the story says Gabula was charged with “illegal possession of controlled currency” in an unknown penal code. The story continues to state that Gabula was acquitted thrice but Kamukama rearrested him on all occasions. There is no mention of the presiding judge or magistrate, of defense lawyers or of any protest from any quarter. And there is not a single media report about a child tried by a military court-martial sitting in Lubiri Barracks, which dismissed the case in 1987. Of course, records of the NRA Court Martial have no such information.

The lurid story tells us that when detained in Gadaffi barracks, Gabula confessed to treason under torture after 3kg loads were tied to his testicles. The effect of such treatment cannot fail to leave lasting evidence, which evidence did not interest our reporters.

FHRI STUMBLES

But among those who got duped by Gabula’s tale of woe is the highly-regarded Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) and its astute founder, Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana.

Without their normal recourse to adducing evidence, the FHRI website reports that Gabula was thrice acquitted by the High Court and the Military Court Martial. This acquittal can only be found on FHRI website by one Sekuuma Isaac and in a Daily Monitor story.

FHRI says “At first, Gabula used his money to put up a spirited defense. His lawyer Edward Elue made two trips to the US (one cost $16,000) to gather evidence and bring witnesses from the US. Thrice, his client was acquitted by the Court Martial and High Court.” Who are these nameless witnesses and what happened to their evidence when Elue came back with it? 

Googling “Edward Elue for Gabula” only brings you the stories by Monitor and FHRI. It is inconceivable that Elue and the Uganda media all kept silent about this atrocity. Can Uganda Law Society defend the now voiceless Elue from this posthumous charge of Criminal Professional Negligence attested to by FHRI? I suspect Elue never defended Gabula till Elue died but I will be glad to be proved wrong.

FHRI and Monitor stories state that Gabula was charged with “illegal possession of foreign currency”, a charge unknown in the Penal code of our much-abused Uganda. Which judicial officer presided over this impossibility? How did the great Edward Elue respond to the non-existent charge?

THE LAST LAUGH

The latest Gabula story on ISO atrocities, which made MPs weep, is a matter to which I am now turning my attention and I will get to the truth. However, as far as the older Gabula story is concerned, if our lawmakers still cherish sober investigation and analysis, GO SLOW is the watchword.

But given a government bureaucracy that has got used to conceding to offences, it has not committed and a section of the public willing and anxious to avoid facts, Bright Africa Ronald Evans Gabula will have the last laugh, probably with an eye on 2021, in parliament…

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