By Markson Omagor
EAZY WIKEND READING
“Do you know there is a Prisoner to appear before Judge Mugamba of the Anti-Corruption Court at exactly 9:00 AM and it is approaching 7:00AM yet we have not taken off?” Said one officer to the driver. That day I noticed how Prison Officials respect Judges.
Well, finally at 7:00AM we left the gates of Luzira but we were behind schedule and this worried me. “What if we run late and find the Judge has left? That would mean another appointment, another day, another expense to facilitate Sureties and the legal team but worse of all, more days of messy Upper,” I thought worryingly.
What the officers decided to do was to drop me first before they continued to other High Courts. At 9:35AM, I was delivered to the High Court in Kampala just adjacent to City Square. Immediately, I came out with my escort, one Prison Warder, we were met by my Counsel, Mutembuli, my two Sureties who included David Obol – my boss, Bwonyo- a workmate and Joseph Inangut, the Comptroller of the day.
Joseph Inangut is a childhood friend whom I met at Madera Boys Boarding Primary School in Primary Five. Since then we have not parted ways to this day. He was also the one who carried the money to facilitate the day’s proceedings. I had ensured he had Shs2 million for bail.
A court Clerk came asking whether I was the suspect Judge Mugamba was waiting for and Counsel Mutembuli answered in the affirmative.
“The Judge has been waiting for you, please come inside the Court room, am going to inform him of your arrival right away,” he said as he led us into the Courtroom.
Inside the Court room were my lawyer, the IGG legal team, and my Sureties. Hardly had we sat there for twenty minutes than the Judge entered and as usual we were told to arise.
Justice Mugamba is a no nonsense Judge. He went straight to business asking my lawyer to proceed with his pleadings. My lawyer who started off by arguing that I was a first offender, most likely to win the case and was hypertensive, was cut short by the Judge.
“That is not necessary Counsel, your arguments are for the main case hearing; can you tell Court whether your client can’t jump bail and whether you have reliable Sureties,” he advised my lawyer.
After presenting the Sureties with all the LC One letters of their respective villages, the Judge asked the IGG Legal team whether they objected to my request for bail.
“Your Lordship, the IGG does not object to the request for bail, however stringent measures should be put in place to ensure the accused does not jump bail,” the IGG Counsel argued.
Then the Judge ruled
“Having carefully listened to submissions from both Counsels, having scrutinized the Sureties presented, I hereby grant the accused Court Bail of Shs500,000 to be deposited in the Bank. This money is refundable upon expiry or cancellation of this Court Bail,” and he stood up to leave the Court room, his day done and freedom granted to a man who was dead scared of returning back to Upper Prison.
That judgment was like ‘Ndombolo’ to my ears; sweet lyrics and beats but with words I do not understand. The lower parts of my ear lobes became warmer than usual and I prayed: Oh God let me just hope what I have heard is true.
I remained standing, rooted to the same spot from when the Judge was entering the Court room until the Prison Warder came to uncuff me.
“You are a free man now,” he told me leading me from the Dock to the open room where I received hugs from my friends and Counsel.
“But you will not leave until Court has seen proof of payment of the Shs500,000,” the Prison Warder warned me. I looked at Joseph with begging eyes; it was Joseph who had the money, it was Joseph to rush to the Bank and ensure the money is deposited, rush back to the Court before close of business to present evidence of payment before I could be totally free.
And Joseph understood my pain. He jumped onto a boda to the Bank he had been directed, how he made it fast, is his story to tell. All I know is that by 2:00PM, Joseph had come back, presented the proof of payment and then the Prison Warder who had been by my side left me in company of my friends. I will never ever forget that TEAM that secured my bail- if I had gone back to Luzira and to that Upper Prison, I just don’t know whether this story would ever have come out.
After Inangut finalized with Court I became another prisoner; my boss and Surety, Obol dictated matters. For instance my insistence that I go back to pick some of my precious belongings from Luzira fell on deaf ears – he could have none of it.
“Mark, you are not going back to Luzira, sit in the car and I drive you to Mbale,” Obol assured me and I did not resist. I think Joseph left us and went to check on his sister in Mulago. So David, Bwonyo and I became the only occupants of a Mercedes Benz that David came with to pick me and to Mbale we proceeded.
(Next time, I will be bringing you the conviction and sentencing followed by 8 months life in Murchison Bay Prison also found in Luzira Prison Complex)