Dr Kirabo receives 30-year sentence for girlfriend’s 2015 murder

Mukono, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | Dr Matthew Kirabo Wabulembo has been sentenced to 30 years in prison by the High Court in Mukono for the murder of his former girlfriend, Desire Mirembe Jemima, a former student at Makerere University Medical School.

Dr Kirabo, captured in Kenya in September 2023, faced sentencing on Tuesday 21, November 2023 after being convicted in absentia for evading court proceedings.

State Attorney Happiness Ainebyona had initially sought the death penalty, emphasizing the severity of the case and Kirabo’s behavior during the trial. Ainebyona highlighted that Dr Kirabo, along with his legal team led by Dalton Opwonya and Hassan Kato, had fabricated COVID-19 tests in 2021 to feign illness before fleeing the country.

“The convict is in court after a warrant of arrest was issued for him. Before his sentencing, judgment was given. He was convicted and the case was adjourned pending his arrest,” Ainebyona said.

The deceased’s father, Emmanuel Musoke, urged the court to consider an appropriate sentence while acknowledging that no punishment could undo his daughter’s loss.

Dr Kirabo’s new lawyer, Henry Kunya, argued that Kirabo’s previous attorneys had acted without his consent and asserted that Dr Kirabo sought refuge in Kenya without attempting to change his identity. He pleaded for leniency, emphasizing Kirabo’s status as a first-time offender.

“The convict was not on the run, if he was he would have gone further than Kenya, and also tried to changed his name and face but he didn’t,” Kunya said.

In an address to the court, Dr Kirabo expressed condolences to the deceased’s family and claimed he sought refuge due to what he perceived as unfair evidence presented in court.

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“Court accepted a video, which was taken after I was tortured in Nalufenya incriminating me so I put together videos and audios, which I used to seek refuge in another country,” he said. He appealed for a merciful sentence, citing his career as a practicing doctor.

Considering arguments from both sides, Presiding Judge Henry Kaweesa Isabirye sentenced Dr Kirabo to 30 years in prison.

“I have carefully considered that the convict is a first time offender, the fact that to the deceased’s father, her life cannot be brought back. The convict is sentenced to 30 years in prison minus the period spent on remand totaling to 29 years, 10 months and 23 days,” Justice Kaweesa ruled.

The case originated from the alleged murder of Mirembe in Lugazi, Kawolo Buikwe district, in July 2015. Dr Kirabo’s subsequent arrest, confession, legal process, and transfer of the case to Mukono High Court were crucial to the trial.

The prosecution presented 15 witnesses and relied on incriminating video evidence, leading to Dr Kirabo’s conviction in absentia in May 2022 after he absconded from court in November 2021. Dr Kirabo’s arrest by Interpol in Kenya, extradition to Uganda, and subsequent remand to Luzira prison in September 2023 marked a pivotal point in the prolonged legal proceedings.