The Supreme Court has decided to maintain Muhammed Ssebuwufu’s 18-year prison sentence. Ssebuwufu, the owner of Pine Car Bond, was convicted for the murder of Betty Dona Katusabe almost eight years ago. On Wednesday, a panel of five Supreme Court Justices, including Faith Mwondha, Professor Lillian Tibatemwa-Ekirikubinza, Percy Night Tuhaise, Mike Chibita, and Stephen Musota, unanimously upheld the sentences given to Ssebuwufu and three others by the Court of Appeal regarding the aforementioned murder.
In 2019, then-Lady Justice Flavia Anglin Ssenoga convicted Ssebuwufu, along with several others, for kidnapping Katusabe from her home in Bwebajja along Entebbe Road on October 21, 2015. They transported her to Pine Car Bond in Kampala, where they tortured her using sharp objects. This ordeal came about because Katusabe had failed to pay a balance of Shillings 9 million for a vehicle she had bought from Ssebuwufu’s bond, valued at 17 million Shillings. Additionally, the convicts stole Katusabe’s sim cards and a mobile phone worth 300,000 Shillings. For these crimes, Justice Ssenoga sentenced them to serve concurrent punishments, ranging from 20 to 40 years, for kidnap with intent to murder, murder, and aggravated robbery. They were also ordered to compensate Katusabe’s family with 100 million Shillings.
Nonetheless, all the convicts, except Stephen Lwanga, appealed against the sentences. In 2021, Court of Appeal Justices Fredrick Egonda-Ntende, Catherine Bamugemereire, and Christopher Izama Madrama (now in the Supreme Court) found the punishments excessive. They reduced the sentences, with Ssebuwufu receiving an 18-year term, and the others receiving 16 years plus additional months ranging from five to eleven months.
Even with this reduction, the convicts remained unhappy with the Court of Appeal’s decision. Ssebuwufu argued that the Court of Appeal had made mistakes in upholding his murder conviction without proof of malice aforethought and his involvement. The group also criticized the Court of Appeal for confirming a 100-million-shilling compensation order without adequate justification and for overlooking mitigating factors like their time spent on remand.
On the other hand, the Prosecution urged the Court to reject the appeal, arguing that the convicts were properly charged and convicted for their serious crimes, with no valid defense. In their ruling on Wednesday, the final Appellate Court Justices indicated that, based on the severity of Katusabe’s injuries, there was no doubt that she was maliciously killed by Ssebuwufu and the others. They confirmed that Ssebuwufu was at the crime scene, and Katusabe’s arrest was linked to him. She was also held at his office, where she was fatally assaulted, and at some point, he participated in her beating.
Regarding compensation, the Supreme Court clarified that when an order for compensation is accompanied by the words “to be paid jointly and severally,” each individual against whom the order is made is responsible for paying the entire awarded amount. If one party is unable to pay, the others must cover more than their share. In this case, each of the convicts is liable for the entire sum.
“We do not find any reason to interfere with the above sentences passed by the Court of Appeal. Though the Court of Appeal, in considering mitigating factors and aggravated factors, did so in an all-encompassing manner. For A1, he was the owner of the yard, he was present, he was an older person, and the Court found him to be a first offender. But we find that the omission to specify could not cause this Court to interfere with the finding, as the Court has fulfilled its duty as required by the law. We find that there was no miscarriage of justice,” stated the Justices as they confirmed the respective prison terms.
It is important to note that the Supreme Court’s decision is final.