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Reagan Okumu, Ocula survive the gallows

By Vision Reporter

Added 12th February 2010 03:00 AM

WHEN the residents of Pabo village woke up on Febuary 12, 2002, their LC3 chairman, Alfred Bongomin, had been killed. Stephen Otim and MPs Reagan Okumu of Aswa and Kilak’s Michael Ocula were named as suspects. They were arrested and tried in court.

WHEN the residents of Pabo village woke up on Febuary 12, 2002, their LC3 chairman, Alfred Bongomin, had been killed. Stephen Otim and MPs Reagan Okumu of Aswa and Kilak’s Michael Ocula were named as suspects. They were arrested and tried in court.

By Edward Anyoli 

WHEN the residents of Pabo village woke up on Febuary 12, 2002, their LC3 chairman, Alfred Bongomin, had been killed. Stephen Otim and MPs Reagan Okumu of Aswa and Kilak’s Michael Ocula were named as suspects. They were arrested and tried in court.


It was alleged that on February 12, 2002, at Pabo sub-county in Gulu district, the three, all opposition politicians, murdered Bongomin, who was a pillar of the ruling National Resistance Movement in the area.


Tony Kitara, a Prosecution witness, testified that he attended a meeting at Okumu’s home in Gulu Senior Quarters, in which the MP gave him instructions to murder Bongomin. Kitara said Ocula gave him sh150,000 as facilitation to monitor Bongomin’s movements.

The second Prosecution witness, David Okumu Okoya, a former rebel, said his fellow rebels killed Bongomin. He said between January 22 and 23, in 2002, he was sent by his immediate commander, Kwoyelo, to Kilak to collect ammunition. Okoya added that when he returned to his base in Pabo, two rebels, Ocira and Kwoyero, told him that they killed Bongomin.

Opido Lokwiya, another witness, said he was included in the plan to kill Bongomin. He, however, testified that he did not know how Bongomin was eventually killed. He said Okumu told the meeting that the murder was to sanctify the Acholi society of evil deeds and get rid of Acholi leaders who were inciting the Government against the rebels.

According to Lokwiya, he participated in coordinating activities like disbursement of funds to the youth, who were required to monitor Bongomin’s movement. He added that on Febuary 8, 2002, Ocula told him that they were required to conclude their mission.

The witness said the meeting of 10 people was held in Okumu’s house, among them Ocula, Alex Otim, Kitara and Peter Oloya. Lokwiya said Ocula gave him sh300,000 to give out to the youth to facilitate them in their assignment.

Lokwiya also gave evidence that they travelled to Atiak and Pabo, from where they met the youth who had been monitoring Bongomin’s movements.


The defence lawyers, led by Sam Njuba and Opar Donge, said there was no evidence placing the accused at the scene of the crime. Njuba said the ingredients of murder had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt as required by the law.
According to Njuba, it was the duty of Prosecution to prove its case against an accused person, adding that the Prosecution’s evidence created a lot of doubt in their case.

Njuba said the witnesses were not credible. He asked court to disregard their evidence and acquit his clients. He further submitted that the prosecution witnesses gave contradictory testimony and argued that court could not rely on such fabricated evidence.


Prosecution, led by Simon Byabakama, asked court to convict the two MPs, saying the evidence indicated that they committed the offence. He said the accused conducted meetings to kill Bongomin. This, he said, was evidence enough to implicate them. He also told court that the MPs and Otim met to discuss how Bongomin would be killed.


Delivering the judgment on January 9, 2006, at the High Court in Kampala, Justice John Bosco Katutsi said prosecution failed dismally to prove that the two MPs attended the alleged meeting, to plot Bongomin’s murder.

“A close study of evidence shows clearly that it was a crude and amateur attempt at creative work. I must with greatest respect confess that I do not regard the testimony of Tony Kitara, Pido Lokwiya and David Okumu Okoya as worthy of belief. How Bongomin met his death is not clear,” he ruled.

Katutsi added: “I am in complete agreement with the gentlemen assessors that Prosecution has failed to prove the case. I find each accused person not guilty of the offences and set them free forthwith.”

REAGAN Okumu’s political career started back in 1989. When he was a Senior Five student at Kololo Senior Secondary School, he was elected chairman Gulu Students’ Association.

Okumu helpED hundreds of students who were fleeing insecurity in northern Uganda. He attended Makerere University from 1991 to 1994.

In 1993, he contested for Guild Presidency race but lost. After leaving Makerere, Okumu worked for IPSER Netherlands, as a coordinator, before joining the Inspectorate of Government as an investigator. In the 1996 parliamentary elections, Okumu contested for the Aswa County seat, which he won.

In 2001, Dr.Kizza Besigye appointed him his coordinator for northern Uganda. Okumu, Besigye and others formed a political party, the Reform Agenda, with Okumu as the vice–chairman. Earlier, Okumu had been part of the meeting in South Africa that formed the Parliamentary Advocacy Forum (PAFO), which later turned into the Forum for Democratic Change.

Michael Ocula’s arrest caught many by surprise as he was generally known to have an untainted life. The Kilak County MP, however, is known to be a fighter and a very active opposition politician.
Colleagues of the statistician say since he was in high school, he was quietly researching about politics and community mobilisation, to pave way for his political ambitions.

His former schoolmates, who simply knew the 41-year-old as a book-worm, were surprised when he joined politics.

Before contesting for the parliamentary seat, Ocula was the Gulu district speaker between 1998 and 2001. He also worked for NURP, a recontruction programme in northern Uganda.

Alfred Bongomin, 64, the former NRM/movement chairman of Pabbo sub-county, was clobbered to death by LRA rebels on February 2, 2002.
He had returned from a meeting with Col. Walter Ochora, who was a candidate for LC5. He attended the meeting in Gulu as Ochora’s campaign manager for Pabbo.

Bongomin’s widow, Mary Auma, still remembers the killing vividly. It was about 11:00pm; Auma and the children were at home, sleeping. It was a dry season and very hot.

So they slept outside. It is a normal practice in northern Uganda for people to sleep outside during the hot months.
The rebels came and asked for the owner of the house. “He is not at home,” Auma answered. They held the family hostage as they searched the house for Bongomin. They, however, never found him.

The rebels then told Auma that since she was ‘stubborn’ and did not want to tell them where her husband had gone, they would take her away. So they marched on with her, leaving the children behind.

Before they could go far, she heard footsteps of her husband returning home. “Who are you?” Bongomin asked the rebels. “Talk slowly,” one of the rebels replied.

As Bongomin got closer to the group, they ordered him to sit down. “Before my husband could sit down, the rebels again ordered him to get up and enter his house,” Auma recalls. As two of the rebels entered the house with Bongomin, one remained outside to keep a close watch over his wife. He was under instructions to shoot the woman in case she tried to run away.

“They asked me to give them an axe or panga. I told them I did not have any of them. They then asked for a club, which I did not have. Then they said I was a bad woman.”

The rebels tied Bongomin with nylon strings and walked around looking for a club. Bongomin’s arms were tied to the back, his two elbows meeting along the spine. Eventually, they took Auma into the house where her husband was tied.
All along, the children were still sleeping outside, un aware of what was taking place.

The rebels found logs in the neighbourhood. Auma escaped as they clobbered her husband. She ran to the nearby army unit for help, but it was too late. While she was narrating the story to the Government soldiers, she saw their house burning. Soldiers who were on night patrol arrived at the scene as Bongomin’s body was burning in the house.

“I did not sleep that night because of fear. I took eight cups of water as I mourned my husband. The killers of Bongomin were rebels, but supported by opposition politicians. It was that LRA commander, Thomas Kwoyelo, who sent the three rebels to kill Bongomin because of political reasons,” Auma stated.

Kwoyelo was last year captured by the UPDF soldiers during the Operation Lightening Thunder in the forests of DR Congo. He was charged with twelve counts of kidnap with intent to murder.

The rebels’ act brought a sad ending for Bongomin, a man who rose from an ordinary peasant farmer to a famous village politician. Bongomin was born in 1938 at Kal in Pabbo sub-county to Vicensio Omach and Ajulina Abalo. A first born, Bongomin went to Pabbo Mission Primary School and studied up to P.6. He then dropped out of school due to lack of school fees.

In early 1970s, he served as a parish chief and then retired into peasant farming. In 1991, he joined the NRM and in 1996, because of his mobilisation skills, he was voted NRM chairman for Pabbo sub-county.

His death left behind six orphans. The girls have now married and produced children. The boys pursued education further. His widow, now aged 64, is a councillor in Pabbo.

The State has since supported the family by building for them a permanent house with two lock-up shops generate some income. “Although life is difficult for me and my children after the death of Bongomin, I thank the President for building for me and my children a permanent house,” Auma says.

The Government is also sponsoring her son, David Oloya, at Makerere University for a course.

Another child, Opwonya Bongomin, has been promised a job but he is still at home. Due to land disputes, she fears to go back to their ancestral home in Apaa Ocibi to claim for Bongomin’s share of the ancestral land. “I fear that I may be killed,” she remarked.

Reagan Okumu, Ocula survive the gallows

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