Ex-convict who became a lawyer

By Jacquiline Nakandi

In 2012, I sat for my final exams at the Adult Education Centre and scored 21 points.A gentleman called Ron Harris helped me complete secondary and university education.

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I was born 39 years ago, in a family of eight children. My father was a security guard at Makerere University but also owned a retail shop.

My mother was a housewife, but she occasionally helped my father at the shop. Given the nature of my father's jobs, I have few memories of him because he was hardly at home.

He sometimes would beat us with electric cables. One time, he broke my mother's leg after an argument.

In 1988, we shifted to a single-roomed house in the Makerere University staff quarters in Bwaise. The room was too small to accommodate the whole family. So, my brother and I slept in the kiosk, where my father had shifted the shop.

 umwesigye with his wife Tumwesigye with his wife

For a year, the kiosk was our bedroom, until one night, when it was set ablaze by unknown people. Luckily, we had spent the night in the main house.

After losing everything in the fire, my father resigned from his security job and relocated the family to Kyeyitabya, Mwezi parish in Bukomero sub-county at my mother's home village.


When we relocated to the village, my brother and I joined Kiryokya C/U Primary School, which was 12km from home.

There was a river on the way to school, which we crossed half-naked in fear of wetting our clothes.

In 1993, I sat Primary Leaving Examinations and scored aggregate 13. I, thereafter, joined secondary school but dropped out in Senior Three.

At home, life had become more impossible. My father was short-tempered often quarrelled with us. Every mistake called for punishment.

As a child, I never had a conversation with my father or received a compliment from him. He always cursed us, telling me; how he regretted having me, wishing I was dead and how I will never amount to anything.

My father's only way of resolving issues was by hitting.

In 1991, my mother had quit the marriage. During her absence, I had to step in and look after my siblings. One day, out of anger, my father cut my forehead with a panga when milk spilt while it was boiling.

Fortunately, my mother returned, but my father had not changed his ways. She tried to endure his behaviour but failed. In 1995, she quit the marriage for good.

Once again, I was left with my father and siblings. After some time, I also moved in with my mother because I could not put up with my father's behaviour.

On hearing my decision, he reported my mother to the village council and even threatened to stop paying my school fees.

He one day ambushed me at the well and badly beat me. I went back home and told mother what had happened and that I had made my mind to go to Kampala, to escape my father's threats. She said a prayer, hugged and gave me sh20,000. I walked a distance and luckily, got a lift on a lorry carrying matooke, at a fee of sh20,000.


When we reached Kasubi market, the lorry stopped to offload matooke and that is where my new life began. It was getting dark; I did not know where to go and I was so hungry.

Across the road, I saw a gentleman making chapatti and decided to approach him. I explained my situation to him. Coincidently, he knew my father because they had worked together as security guards.

He gave me a place to spend the night and early the next day, he took me to a lady who gave me a job. I was to work as a security guard in her restaurant, earning sh1,500 per night, but would be paid every Saturday.

Unfortunately, the job did not last because thieves broke into the restaurant and stole everything while I was away.

In the morning, when I told my boss, she instead took me to Jinja Road Police Station, claiming I connived with the thieves. I was locked away and released after a week but did not have where to go.

However, while working at the restaurant, I had made friends with street children who used to stay at a place called ‘depo' which was near a well on Old Port Bell Road in Kampala. I decided to stay with them.


There were two clubs on First Street, Industrial Area in Kampala and whenever they would open, I would see my friends going there and returning with money in the morning.

I followed them one evening. They introduced me to women in skimpy clothes, who I later got to learn were prostitutes. I started running errands for them, which earned me sh1,000 and at times sh2,000.

At the depo, there were older boys who usually come in the morning to sell what they had stolen the previous night and to also hang around.

There was one guy called Musoga, who was really nice to me. One evening, he invited me to his home. While in his room, he said he was taking me to see where money comes from. I got scared because I knew what they did in the night.

At about midnight, Musoga moved out and came back with tools which we were to use for the mission. I remember it was a Monday when we broke into a bar and stole liquor, wines and a TV, among other things.

This mission marked the beginning of the many that I got involved in.

However, at times we would nearly fall into a Police patrol but luckily survived.

My greatest fear was going to prison, so I started avoiding Musoga and restored to making money the clean way.


I befriended a gentleman who got me loading and offloading job. This job was risky because at times we carried sharp products.

I also worked as a conductor in commuter taxis as I continued running errands for the prostitutes.


One Sunday morning in 1998, some boys broke into a kiosk on First Street and as they were sharing their loot, the Police nabbed them. And it so happened that I was with them. We were taken to Jinja Road Police. We were remanded in Luzira Prison, where we spent for four months.

When we were released, I continued doing my odd jobs.

On First Street, there were thugs who used to strangle and rob revellers. One of them was called Ronnie and had a name like mine. One day, he stole and I was arrested instead. I was remanded to Upper Prison Luzira, where I spent three months.

While in prison, I shared a cell with people who had committed crimes like armed robbery, murder and rape. I even met Richard Arinaitwe, a notorious criminal I had heard about on radio. After being imprisoned twice for crimes I did not commit, I became hardened and turned into a serial criminal.

When I returned to the streets, I was no longer interested in tips from prostitutes. I resorted to strangling revellers on the First and Second streets in Kampala. I became powerful and influential, something which earned me respect from my peers and seniors.

As my influence grew, even my operation zones extended. I started operating on Nile Avenue, Speke Road, Hannington Road, Kabalagala, among others. Kabadiya (strangling) became my signature tactic to the extent that if a victim went to Jinja Road Police Station and explained how he or she was robbed the policemen would identify me as the perpetrator.

I felt invincible that I referred to myself as the president of the night.

Towards the end of 1999, I was arrested and charged with being idle and disorderly. I was convicted and sentenced to 21 days in Murchison Bay Prison. Life on the street was so hard that when one of us died, his body would be put in a sack and dumped at the dustbin or burnt to ashes using old tyres.

I participated in a few burglaries and armed robberies. On one mission, I remember some of our seniors hijacked a trailer full of coffee containers, we took it to a warehouse and changed it into new sacks.

In early 2000 I was arrested again, charged with robbery and remanded to Upper Prison Luzira. Shortly after being released, I stole a phone and I was imprisoned for six months in Murchison Bay Prison Luzira.

While serving my sentence, I met a gentleman called Med, a taxi driver. We became friends and in the due process, came up with tactics of robbing using a taxi. Kamyokya, Ntinda, and Bugolobi were our favourite routes. We would call for passengers but we only took those we suspected had valuables.

Unfortunately, one of our victims happened to be a policeman who was dressed in civilian clothes. We robbed his gun and phone.

After the mission, I instructed one of my friends to dump the phone, he instead gave it to his girlfriend and the Police used it to track us down.

After several attempts of arresting me, one night, as I had visited my girlfriend, the Policemen raided us and took me to the Central Police Station.

On June 25, 2002, the President announced the launch of ‘Operation Wembley' after a wave of violent crimes hit Kampala, in which a businessman called Semwezi, a resident of Busega was killed.

While in the cells I got information that most of our seniors were shot dead and some arrested by the Wembley operatives.


After staying at CPS for 44 days, I was summoned at Buganda Road Magistrate's Court, where I was charged with robbery and remanded to Murchison Bay Prison Luzira. In prison, there are workgroups and one of them was in charge of collecting firewood.

Prisoners in this group had the privilege of going out, which made it easy for them to get drugs. Whenever I was in prison, I was always part of this group. However, this time around, I decided not to join it which meant that I had to rely on others to bring me drugs.

One afternoon, as I was waiting for my drugs, I went to one of the churches to check on the time because the person who was supposed to deliver my drugs had delayed.

As I walked into the church, a gentleman held my hand and asked me to sit. He read me a scripture from Acts 17:30 and told me to repent and get saved.

I despised Pentecostals because my father badly treated us yet he claimed to be one.

This gentleman, whom I later got to know, was Pastor James Kasule held me and I felt that the only way to get him off me was to do what he wanted.

However, from that time, I always found myself in the church seated, listening to him preach. Word started moving around that I had gone insane. I made it a routine to go to church daily. I started attending Bible study lessons, participated in the ward to ward evangelism and also hospital ministering.

I, one day, got a surprise visit from my mother whom I had last seen in 1996. According to the crime, I had committed, I was likely to be sentenced to 10 years or life imprisonment.

However, when I appeared before the magistrate, I changed my plea to being guilty. Fortunately, I was sentenced to five years but served three years after reduction on remission and remand.

After the release of the acting pastor, I was left in charge. From the age of 16, I had known nothing, but crime. Getting saved caused a great change in my life.

 Instead of hanging out with thugs and robbers, I started hanging with professional people; among whom was Rev. John Mugabi.


I was released on August 5, 2005, at the age of 24, and, surprisingly, I was received by a gentleman called Givan Baptist Ddumba, one of the people I had preached to in prison.

He introduced me to his sisters and one of them housed and fed me for four months.

After some time, I contacted the Rev. Mugabi who contracted me, along with other boys, to construct a school and an orphanage.

I later became a warden and a cook at the school we constructed. Every morning, I had to wake up the boys and supervise them. But while doing this job, I also got the desire of going back to school. I was 29 years at the time.

In early 2010, I enrolled in an adult school, sat for the O'level exams and scored aggregate 34. For the A'level, I join the school I was working for.

At 7:30 am I would rush to class and come out to prepare lunch at around 10:00 am. Luckily, the school got a new cook and I was relieved of that duty.

However, I was never paid for the services I rendered.

The only thing the school administration did was to pay a room I was staying in. In June 2011, I was put on payroll, but I only received pay for one month.

In 2012, I sat for my final exams at the Adult Education Centre and scored 21 points. With the help of a gentleman called Ron Harris, I completed my secondary and university education.

I joined Uganda Christian University and pursued a bachelor of laws degree. In the first semester, I performed poorly, but at the end of the four years, in 2017, I was able to graduate among the best students.

I pursued my post-graduate diploma in legal practice course at the Law Development Centre in Kampala and completed it last year. I am currently working with Musiime and Company Advocates.


I met a lady called Juliet Ezereth Tumwesigye and the moment I set my eyes on her, I knew she should be my wife.

However, it was not easy, being that we came from different worlds. She was a social worker at the orphanage and I was a cook and a warden, struggling to make ends meet.

Despite all that, I insisted on making her my friend and in a period of one year we were dating. On November 11, 2011, I walked down the aisle. We have two beautiful children — Craig Josiah Jason Iraazi, 7 and Cheryl Joan Mbabazi, 6.