By Pascal Kwesiga
KAMPALA - The army court in Kampala has sentenced to jail the killers of a Belgian mountain climber, six years after her murder in Mt. Elgon National Park.
Annick Van De Venster, 35, was shot dead at a camp fired near the peak of Mt. Elgon, court records indicate.
She was in Uganda for a month-long tour.
Fred Kipsang was eventually sentenced to 30 years behind bars for killing the Belgian tourist during a General Court Martial session chaired by Brig. Moses Ssentongo on Thursday.
His accomplices, Moses Chemtai, Patrick Chebles and Kamada Chepkurui were each given ten years.
The State prosecution team, led by Capt. Fred Kangwamu, proved that the convicts killed Venster when they shot at her at a hunters’ cave inside the national park on the evening of February 5, 2008.
The court ruled that their stay behind bars will include the time they have been on remand since 2008.
According to the Belgian Embassy officials, the family of the slain tourist has been keenly following the trial of the four men through reports from their country’s consulate in Uganda.
The sentences followed their conviction for killing Venster by the army court last week.
Some officials from the Belgian embassy, who have been following the trial since it started on behalf of the family, were transferred from their country’s embassy in Kampala before the prosecution of the convicts ended.
Court records show that the men traded in firearms, and that they killed Venster on their way back from Kenya where they had gone to sell guns.
All hailing from Kapchorwa district, the men fired shots towards the direction of the camp fire and Venster’s torchlight which they suspected to be from a rangers’ patrol team.
The Belgian national was killed on spot.
In the Thursday court session, Brig. Ssentongo said prosecution had proved all the ingredients of murder and that the convicts’ role in the killing had also been established beyond reasonable doubt.
“The court agreed with prosecution that animals do not light fire and the convicts intended to kill whoever was around the cave. We have also agreed with prosecution that guns are not used as scarecrows but to kill,” he added.
Venster’s murder was unlawful, he said, because she was not a fugitive and was in the country officially.
“Even when she came out of the cave with a touch crying out, the attackers did not stop,” he said.