Former Ugandan Leader Charged With Murder
KAMAPALA, Uganda (AP) _ Former Vice President Paulo Muwanga was charged today with kidnapping and murder in the disappearance of two Ugandans five years ago.
Muwanga, who served in the administration of former President Milton Obote, pleaded innocent after the charge was read in court by Chief Magistrate Aloysius Liiga.
Muwanga is the highest ranking former official to be charged by President Yoweri Museveni’s government, which came to power in January pledging to prosecute human rights abuses by officials of previous administrations.
The former vice president and 17 co-defendants were brought to court this morning for a preliminary appearance in a treason case. Liiga set another appearance for Dec. 3.
After the co-defendants were sent from the courtroom and taken back to jail, Liiga read the new charges against Muwanga.
The charge sheet said Muwanga and unidentified people still at large kidnapped Joseph Katumba on Dec. 9, 1981, and kidnapped Vincent Mawejje between June 7 and June 9 that year. Neither man has been seen since, the charge said.
The document did not give details about the purported murder victims.
Muwanga also was accused of stealing a Mercedes-Benz truck between June 7 and June 9, 1981. The charge provoked laughter from courtroom spectators and Muwanga, reputed to be one of the wealthiest people in Uganda.
Muwanga, in his mid-60s, was vice president and defense minister under Obote, whose government has been accused by human rights groups of killing perhaps 300,000 Ugandans.
Obote was overthrown in a July 27, 1985, military coup.
Muwanga briefly served as prime minister in the army-led government, which itself was overthrown Jan. 25 by Museveni’s National Resistance Army.