PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni yesterday released Chris Rwakasisi and Brig. Ali Fadhul after they spent over 20 years in Luzira Prison.
Rwakasisi is a former minister of security during the Milton Oboteâ€™s regime, while Fadhul is a former governor during Idi Aminâ€™s regime in 1970â€™s who also served as commanding officer of the then Simba Batallion in Mbarara.
Hundreds of the inmates ululated and clapped as Rwakasisi clad in a navy blue suit, light blue shirt with a matching tie and black shoes waved at them.
Upon his release, Rwakasisi was driven from the prison in a vehicle belonging to Yona Kanyomozi, the former East African Legislative Assembly MP and Uganda Peopleâ€™s Congress strongman.
Accompanied by his children, relatives and friends, Rwakasisi was led to St. Johnâ€™s Church in Kawuku near Kampala where short prayers were held for him.
Rwakasisi moved to the altar where he said a prayer before being driven to the residence of his son, Paul Rwakasisi.
â€œI thank my friend Museveni for exercising his prerogative of mercy and releasing me. This is what I asked him to do in 1989 when I wrote to him. My problem at the time was that I could not say sorry for what I did not do. Nevertheless I thank him,â€ he said.
He denied having committed the crime for which he was charged, convicted and condemned to death.
Fadhul is the second person who held a senior position in Aminâ€™s regime to be pardoned after being sentenced to death for murder.
The first was Col. Nasur Abdallah who also served as a governor of the then central province.
A dark cloudy afternoon at Church zone in Najjanankumbi was lightened up by the arrival of Fadhul as relatives and friends welcomed him from the prison.
â€œHe was arrested at the time I was pregnant. The girl I gave birth to got married and now she has produced three children. It has been long,â€ said Fadhulâ€™s sister-in-law, Eva Lindah Kosa.
The weak and gray-haired Fadhul, who could only stand by the help of a stick, walked to his late wifeâ€™s (Sylvia Kosaâ€™s) grave picked a handful of soil and sprinkled it on the grave.
Relatives said Kosa died while Fadhul was in prison and he did not get a chance to attend the burial.
Before he was driven away to Jinja where he has another home, Fadhul told The New Vision that: â€œI thank the NRM, President Museveni and his advisors.â€
He added: â€œAfter 22 years in prison, I cannot believe that I am now free. Allah (God) should bless the NRM Government, Museveni and his family.â€
Fadhul, who was imprisoned in 1986 when he was 48 years, said he will turn 70 in May.
Asked how life had been in Luzira, Fadhul replied: â€œThere is no good prison in the world.â€
Both Rwakasisi and Fadhul were on death row for separate capital offences they committed while they held powerful positions in government.
Rwakasisi and Fadhul were each issued with a â€œRoad Pass,â€ an official document indicating that a prisoner has been released from prison.
The other beneficiary of the presidential pardon yesterday was Ezra Kusasirwa.
He, however, could not be released because he had been transferred to Jinja Main Prison.
Museveni also reduced the sentences of three other inmates from death to life imprisonment.
They are Samuel Sempijja, Benon Hazimana and Abdallah Wasswa.
Prisons authorities could not release them yesterday because they had not yet computed the time that they had spent in Luzira to determine whether they qualified for release.
Life imprisonment in Uganda means that an inmate has to serve 20 years in prison.
If such a prisoner has already spent 20 years in prison, he qualifies to be released.
Museveni pardons Rwakasisi, Fadhul