By Charles Etukuri and Constantine Odongo
Benard Okoth was shot dead last week as he was dropping his girlfriend at her home in Kyaliwajala, a Kampala suburb.
The circumstances surrounding his death are mysterious and questions still linger as to who would have wanted him dead
To friends, he was a hardworking young man who had clearly set out what he wanted in life. So, when he finished his education and opted to join his uncle in the clearing and forwarding business at Eastern Logistics, his wish was to be a successful clearing agent.
On what had become his daily routine, Okoth would pick his girlfriend of three months from her workplace in Bugolobi and drive her to his home in Kireka, Namugongo Road. They would have a meal and thereafter Okoth would drop her at her parents’ home in Kyaliwajjala.
On Tuesday October 16, while having lunch with friends, he was jolly and talked a lot about his girlfriend. So when he left his workplace and bid his friends a good evening, nobody knew that was the last they were seeing him alive.
Okoth was shot dead by two men, who trailed him on a motorcycle as he dropped his girlfriend in Kyaliwajala, between 9:30pm and 10:00pm.
Nobody really knows what transpired or the reason why he was killed. One thing that stands out clearly is that it was not a case of robbery, but pre-meditated murder. His killers had trailed him as he left his workplace, until they caught up with him at Kyaliwajala.
According to statements from relatives and friends, when he reached Kyaliwajala trading centre, Okoth first parked his car and entered one of the supermarkets to buy some groceries. It was while he was shopping that he received a phone call, which investigators say was made by the assassin to confirm his exact location.
“Somebody called him and asked where he was. He told them he was in Kyaliwajala at a supermarket, then the person hang up,” says the source at the Kiira Road Police Station. Unknown to him, he was clearly leading his killers to his exact location.
After his shopping, and with the girl in the passenger seat, Okoth drove towards the home of his girlfriend’s parents in Kyaliwajala. The home is a few metres away from the Kiira Police Station.
As the two approached the gate, the same number again called him. According to a statement by his girlfriend, two men then rode past them and parked in front of their car. One jumped off the bike and told the girl to come out of the car, but she refused.
“Okoth asked the men who they were and what they wanted from them. The girlfriend was forcefully removed from the car and the assailants pulled out a gun and shot Okoth diagonally through his left arm. The bullet exited through his right side, ripping through his heart and killing him instantly,” narrated his relative.
They then sped off without taking anything. His girlfriend sounded an alarm and by the time rescuers arrived, Okoth had died. The first person on the scene was a neighbour of Okoth’s girlfriend. He came out with a camera and took photographs of the dead body.
It was at that moment that the neighbour narrated to Okoth’s girlfriend how a few minutes before that, two boda boda men had also trailed him.
“Two suspicious boda boda men were trailing me as I headed home. When I realised so, I took refuge at a trading centre near home for some time, before I set off again,” the neighbour was quoted as saying. He said maybe the killers had mistaken his car for Okoth’s, since they drive the same make.
He then helped Okoth’s girlfriend to go and report the matter to Kiira Police Station. When they got to the Police station, the officers recognised the girl.
Apparently, a week before that incident, men had trailed Okoth and his girlfriend as he dropped her home. That time, however, the two drove very fast to the Police Station and reported the matter.
They were given a Police patrol car, which escorted them to the home of Okoth’s girlfriend and later also drove with Okoth until he got to his home. The Police then came to the scene and carried Okoth’s body to the mortuary.
His landlord, Lazarus Oketch, still cherishes the two years Okoth stayed at his rental unit. “For the time I lived with Okoth, I cherished his character. He stood by his word,” he said.
Okoth lived in rental apartments that had six units, but whenever he would return, he would knock on each of the neighbour’s door to find out how they had been during the day.
“Success had just started coming his way after toiling for so many years. Why would somebody want to kill Okoth,” wondered Oketch.
In June this year, Okoth lost his father, Raymond Ogolla, after battling an illness for years. His death last week was double tragedy for the family that had not yet come to terms with the loss of his father.
The mood at his requiem mass at St Paul’s Catholic Church Mukono and his burial in Tororo was tense and those that were with him a day before he was murdered could not believe he was dead.
“He came to office that afternoon and I told him I admired his new car. I suggested he sells it to me,” said a friend who handled most of Okoth’s work at Uganda Revenue Authority.
Girlfriend briefly held
Kiira Road Police Station immediately arrested Okoth’s girlfriend as they opened up investigations into the events leading to his murder. However, after detaining her for close to five days, they released her on bond.
“She told us she did not know who the attackers were and neither did she know of any plot to kill Okoth, so detaining her for a longer period would not be in our interest,” said an officer.
Motive behind the murder
A Police detective says they are following up leads that two months before Okoth’s murder, he had received a call from somebody who claimed was an army officer and accused him of having an affair with a woman he had invested a lot in.
“We got this clue from a close family member and a friend he had shared his fears with,” said the officer.
Curiously, Okoth’s girlfriend runs a shop just near the Mbuya barracks that is rumoured to have been financed by the army officer.
Sources also say they are following claims that Okoth could have been killed because of a deal that he had struck at his workplace. There are fears that he could have opted not to share the spoils with other colleagues who were involved in the deal.
“It is common in the clearing field to once in a while hit a jackpot by either clearing huge volumes of cargo or at times under declaring the value of the goods and then the difference becomes theirs. Usually in all these transactions, several officials from different agencies are involved. So when the deal is through, ordinarily you are required to share the spoils,” a source said.
Investigations hit a snag
A source at the Police station says the investigations seem to have hit a snag. “His girlfriend who was the only witness to the events that unfolded that day is rather uncooperative and we cannot charge her with anything,” said an officer.
The phone number that was used to call Okoth twice before he was shot has since been switched off. The Police have also failed to trace who the owner of the number is because it was a new line and had not been registered.