Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Director of Public Prosecutions [DPP] Jane Frances Abodo has withdrawn criminal charges against two senior police officers implicated in the demolition of St Peter’s Church Ndeeba in Rubaga Division earlier in August this year.
The police officers are David Epedu the Katwe division police commander and assistant superintendent of police Mugira Kato Yeko the officer in charge of the station.
The DPP’s letter indicating the withdrawal of charges was presented before Grade One magistrate Jude Okumu by the chief state attorney John Kunya. Initially, the police officers were accused of neglecting their duties and conspiring with 20 others to unlawfully demolish the church.
The group was previously charged together with 20 others including businessmen, police officers and officials attached to Kampala Capital City Authority [KCCA].
The magistrate was left with no option but to terminate proceedings against the two police officers. The state later tendered in an amended charge sheet in which it instituted new charges of theft against the prime suspect Dodoviko Mwanje and conspiracy to commit a misdemeanour with the rest of the accused persons.
In the new charges, the state alleges that Dodoviko stole church assorted items valued at approximately Shs 850 million on August 10 2020. Likewise, new charges of abuse of office and corruption have been instituted against the police officers and KCCA officials.
The state has also asked the case file be transferred from Makindye Magistrate’s Court to the Anti-Corruption court which the magistrate okayed.
The state had also asked court to cancel the bail for the accused persons, but the lawyer representing the suspects Kenneth Ssebabi put up a strong objection saying the law doesn’t provide that bail should be cancelled once the case file is sent to another court.
The magistrate declined to grant the request by the state and the suspects will now be taking plea afresh on December 14, 2020, when they will be appearing in the Anti-Corruption court.
St Peter’s Church was demolished in August 2020 after a protracted legal battle over the ownership of the land on which it sits. The land was previously owned by a Buganda kingdom princess Evelyn Nachwa, who is said to have bequeathed it to the church trustees, led by Dunstan Nsubuga, the then bishop of Namirembe diocese.
But the administrators of her estate accused the church of fraudulently being registered on their land title, an argument which was upheld by the High court land division justice Eudes Keitirima in 2019, paving way for the demolition of the structure.
But shortly after it was demolished, those who had obtained a court order to demolish were arrested by the state operatives who accused them of offences arising from the demolition process. President Yoweri Museveni has since indicated that the government will reconstruct the church.