THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA
IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF UGANDA AT KAMPALA
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 59 OF 2001
CORAM: HON. JUSTICE L.E.M. MUKASA-KIKONYOGO, DCJ.
HON. JUSTICE A.E.N. MPAGI-BAHIGEINE, JA.
HON. JUSTICE J.P. BERKO, JA.
(Arising from the Judgment of Hon. Zehurikize Vincent, Ag. Judge, delivered at Kasese on the 31/5/2001 in C.S.C No. 19 of 1999)
JUDGMENT OF THE COURT.
The brief facts, accepted by the learned trial judge, are that the appellant was seen sometime before the day of the incident sharpening a knife, which he had made himself. When asked why he was sharpening the knife, he gave different answers. He told one witness that it was for his security. He told another witness that he had work for it. On the 2nd June, 1998 at around 7.30 p.m. the deceased was seen by both Edson Kule (PW2) and Wamala John (PW3) carrying the appellant on his boda boda motor cycle from Mubuku Trading Centre and heading for a place called Maliba. Soon after the deceased rushed to the home of Imelda Kabasita (PW4) and Jane Nahori, PW5, making an alarm that the appellant had stabbed him. The deceased’s intestines were out. He was in great pain and weak, but he could talk. PW4 provided a bed sheet to tie the stomach; while PW5 provided another bed sheet in which the deceased was carried to Mubuku Trading Centre where a motor vehicle was obtained to take him to hospital. He died the same night.
On the following day, a postmortem examination was carried out on the deceased body by Dr Mugambwa to whom the body was identified as that of one Charles Muhuha, a boda boda operator. The doctor found that he died of shock and hemorrhage due to multiple small intestinal punctured wounds likely inflicted with a sharp knife. He was buried on 3.6.98.
After the death of the deceased, the appellant disappeared from the village. During police investigation, Detective Inspector of Police, Namabweine James, PW8, got information that the appellant had been seen boarding a motor vehicle going to Kamwenge. A few days later PW8 had information that the appellant had been seen at Army Officers’ Mess at Kasese. PW8 went with a witness to the Officers’ Mess where the appellant was identified to him. He was arrested and taken to Kasese Police Station. After investigation he was charged with murder.
At the trial, the appellant, in his unsworn statement, set up an alibi and stated that he joined the ADF Rebel movement on 5th May, 1998 and went to the bush. He was captured by the UPDF in Kamwenge on 4/6/98. He was brought to Muhoti Barracks in Fort-Portal by the UPDF. He was taken to Kasese Army Officers’ Mess on 12.6.98. He was sent to Kasese Police Station on 12.6.98 where he found two men Baguma and Idi Swaleh who had been arrested in connection with this case. Idi Swaleh was husband to Jane Nahori, (PW5). Baguma was released on 11.6.98. One day, whilst he was in custody, a police man came to the cell with documents and said they were Amnesty documents and asked him to sign them. He was committed for trial after one year in custody.
The learned trial judge, after reviewing the evidence on record, found that the prosecution had prove the case against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt; and that he killed the deceased unlawfully and with malice forethought. He was convicted and sentenced to death.
The memorandum of appeal contained three grounds. Ground two was abandoned, leaving grounds one and three. These are: -
According to Fred Mukasa, learned counsel for the appellant, the ingredients for murder that were not proved are malice aforethought and the appellant’s participation in the murder. It was his argument that to prove malice aforethought, the prosecution had to prove that the victim died from stab wound inflicted by the appellant with a sharp knife. He said that PW2 and PW3 had said that they had seen the appellant sharpening a knife, which was identified in Court. The medical evidence also shows that the deceased died of multiple wounds inflicted most likely by a sharp knife. The knife was recovered by PW6, the LC1 Chairman and handed over to PW6, the police officer who produced it in Court. It was the submission of the learned counsel that the chain of movement of the knife was broken, as it was not produced in Court by the person who recovered it and therefore the judge was wrong to rely on the knife to infer malice aforethought. Mr. Elubu, for the respondent, has conceded, and quite rightly, that the chain of movement of the exhibits was broken. He, however, submitted that the judge did not rely on the knife, but rather on the injury found on the body and the part of the body where the injuries were found.
We do not agree with the argument of Mr. Elubu that the trial judge did not rely on the sharp knife when determining whether or not the killing was with malice aforethought. At page 7 of the judgment the learned judge said:
As a first appellate court, we find that the evidence on record sufficiently establish the fact that the injuries on the deceased’s stomach were inflicted with a sharp weapon most likely a knife. The break in the chain of movement of the knife was not fatal to the prosecution case.
Further, as the former Court of Appeal of East Africa held in the case of Mungai and others vs Republic (1968) E.A. 782-787 there is no burden on the prosecution to prove the nature of the instrument which was used to inflict the harm, nor was there any obligation to prove how the instrument was obtained. This statement of the law was approved by the Supreme Court in Kooky Sharma and Another v Uganda, Criminal App. No. 44 of 2000.
What the prosecution set out to prove, as per the particulars of the indictment, was that the appellant murdered one Muhuda Charles. As was said by Viscount Sankey LC in Woolmington v D.P.P.  A C at 482:
We are satisfied that, having regard to the relevant circumstances, the learned trial judge was right in finding that malice aforethought had been proved. Ground one, therefore, fails.
The participation of the appellant can conveniently be considered together with defence of alibi. To prove that the appellant committed the offence the prosecution relied mainly on circumstantial evidence. The first of evidence came from PW2 and PW3. The evidence of PW2 was to the effect that himself, John Wamala (PW3) and the appellant had been at the Mubuku Trading Centre earlier in the day. The appellant left him around 6 p.m. Then around 7 p.m. the deceased came looking for the appellant alleging that the appellant owed him Shs.500/=. PW2 advised the deceased to forget about money and go home. Then about 7.30p.m. PW2 said he saw the deceased carrying the appellant on his boda boda motor cycle and heading towards Maliba. This witness had known the appellant for ten years and had worked with him at the same place. It is, therefore, reasonable to accept his claim that he actually saw the appellant on the 2.6.98 at Mubuku Trading Centre and again when the deceased was carrying him on his boda boda.
PW3 also said that he saw the appellant on 2.6.98 at the Mubuku Trading Centre. They were together from 3.00 p.m. to about 7 p.m. After the appellant had left, the deceased came and asked him if he knew where the appellant was. He directed the deceased to a hotel where the appellant was. He later saw the deceased and appellant heading towards Maliba side. This witness and the appellant were village mates having been born at Mubuku. He had been working in the same garage with appellant, according to his evidence, for a long time. It is, therefore, reasonable to accept his evidence when he said that he actually saw the appellant at Mubuku Trading Centre on 2.6.98.
Learned counsel for the appellant has invited us to accept the evidence of PW2 and PW3 with caution on the grounds that the two contradicted themselves on the work the appellant was doing. Whilst PW2 said that the appellant was a bicycle repairer, PW3, on the other hand, said he was a watch repairer. The argument of learned counsel was that since the two witnesses claim to know the appellant very well, they could not be mistaken about what the appellant did for his living. As they had disagreed on the work the appellant did, they are not reliable witnesses.
The general approach to inconsistencies and contradictions is that where the court finds them grave, unless resolved, the evidence must be rejected. If they were minor, they would normally not have that effect except where they are found to be pointing to deliberate falsehood. See Alfred Tajar v Uganda EACA. Cr. Appeal No. 69 of 1969 and Uganda v Bikamikire and Another C S C No. 63 (1972) HCB 144. We agree with he learned State Attorney that the inconsistencies and contradictions complained about do not go into the root of the prosecution evidence. They are minor. It is not the prosecution case that the appellant killed the deceased in the course of the appellant’s work. Therefore what the appellant did for living is not relevant to the proof of the prosecution case. We find the evidence of PW3 and PW2 credible.
The other circumstantial evidence relied upon was what, in our view, a dying declaration the deceased made to PW4 and PW5. Imelda Kabasita, PW4, is the mother of Jane Nahori, (PW5). The evidence of PW4 was that she knew the appellant as a village – mate. She saw the appellant on the 2.6.98 during the day. In the evening, while at home, the deceased came making an alarm that he had been stabbed by Birato, one of the several names the appellant is known by. She saw a cut around the umbilicus area with the intestines out. He was bleeding profusely and in great pain. The deceased could still talk. He fell down in her compound and pleaded with her to take her to hospital. The same declaration was made to PW5.
Learned counsel has invited the Court to reject the evidence of PW4 and PW5 on the ground that they had interest to serve and so not reliable witnesses. The basis of the argument is that during investigation into the case two people were arrested before the appellant was arrested. They were Baguma and Idi Swaleh. These people were released after the arrest of the appellant. According to counsel, Idi Swaleh is husband of Jane Nahori, PW5 and consequently son-in-law of PW4. It was the contention of counsel that the intention of PW4 and PW5 in testifying against the appellant was motivated by a desire to protect Idi Swaleh.
At the trial both PW4 and PW5 gave evidence. They were cross-examined by counsel who represented the appellant. The relationship between Idi Swaleh and PW4 and PW5 was not put to them. Indeed, the name was not even suggested to them. The alleged marriage between Idi Swaleh and PW5 came from the appellant for the first time when he gave his unsworn evidence. We think the alleged marriage between PW5 and Idi Swaleh was put up by the appellant for the purpose of discrediting the witnesses. Learned counsel, who represented appellant at the trial, never raised that issue. In our view, there is no foundation for the allegation of interest. The learned trial judge found PW4 and PW5 credible witnesses. We agree with him.
The circumstantial evidence we have been at pains to set up above clearly placed the appellant at the scene of crime at the time the crime was committed. All the witnesses were positive that they saw him on 2.6.98 at Mubuku Trading Centre. He disappeared from the place after the incident. The witnesses were positive that the appellant was not a rebel before the incident. If he did join a rebel group, then he might have done so when he was a fugitive running away from justice. The learned trial judge, was, therefore, right to reject his alibi as untrue. Ground three therefore fails.
In the result the appeal is dismissed. The conviction and sentence are upheld.
Dated at Kampala this ……17th ……day of ……February………..2003.
Deputy Chief Justice.
Justice of Appeal.
Justice of Appeal.