Gen Edward Katumba Wamala escaped death by a whisker yesterday for one reason: The outgoing Transport and Works minister switched car seats with his daughter Brenda Nantongo, 32.
For sitting in her dad’s familiar seat, she took all the bullets the assassins had directed at her father. She bled and died straightaway.
Unidentified gunmen riding on three motorcycles accosted Gen Katumba on Kisota Road in Kisasi, Kampala, killing his daughter and driver Haruna Kayondo.
Luckily, Gen Katumba’s bodyguard, Sgt Khalid Koboyoit, also lived to tell the story. In the fight, eyewitnesses say, the bodyguard shielded his boss as gunmen showered the vehicle with bullets. He shot in the air and when he got a clear targeted, he shot one of the assailants in the back but he didn’t stop.
The car had more than 50 bullet holes with eight from behind and about 16 bullets were directed at Katumba’s daughter. The assailants thought Gen Katumba was in his usual seat.
A 70-year-old resident of Kisasi, residing a few metres away from where Gen Wamala was attacked, said she saw Gen Katumba’s daughter seated in the passenger seat behind the driver. She was reading a newspaper while holding her phone.
She said Gen Katumaba sat in the other passenger seat behind the co-driver and his body guard sat in the co-driver seat.
How the event folded
The 70-year-old woman narrates that she was in her garden, a few metres away from where the shooting happened yesterday.
She said a motorcycle was following Gen Katumba’s car, who according to other eyewitnesses, stopped and bought a newspaper near Kisasi Trading Centre. He was heading toward Bukoto, through Kisota road.
The woman said when the motorcycle that was trailing Gen Katumba approached the middle of his car, where Gen Katumba was suspected to be seated, the rider reduced speed and “peeped inside” the vehicle and drove off after.
She said this particular motorcycle was not carrying any passenger.
She said a few seconds after the trailing motorcyclist had disappeared, two motorcycles carrying one person each appeared and started shooting at the minister’s car.
“They were holding guns, they came from the opposite direction where Gen Katumba was heading. They shot one bullet in an interval of about six seconds, shot the second one before shooting non-stop for about six minutes,” the woman narrated.
Another eyewitness said Gen Katumba’s bodyguard also played a very vital role in protecting his boss and exhibited skills they have never seen in the middle of the attack.
She said after the shooting, Gen Katumba got out of the car and fell outside in front of a perimeter wall at Eden Lawn Hotel Uganda Ltd and his bodyguard also fell on Gen Katumba’s back to guard him.
“Gen Katumba’s bodyguard has tactics of a trained soldier. He did not have any injury on him with all the bullets that showered the car. This man did everything possible to save his boss. He shot at the assassins until his bullets were finished and I saw him loading more in his gun but the suspects had disappeared,” the woman said.
She said this road usually has a lot of traffic in the morning, but by the time Gen Katumba passed, traffic was light.
She said both assailants took off in the same direction they came from.
Ms Hilda Nakachwa, another resident, who resides near the scene of crime, said she was still in bed when she heard gunshots and opened the window to see what was happening.
She said after a few minutes, she heard Gen Katumba with his bodyguard knocking at the door of her neighbour to open for them so that they could seek safety but in vain.
“I heard a man begging my neighbour to open for him but the neighbour turned him down because he did not know it was Gen Katumba. When I opened the door, I realised it was Gen Katumba because his face was familiar to me,” Ms Nakachwa said.
Ms Nakachwa said Katumba asked the bodyguard to go back and save his daughter, who also obeyed and left the helpless Gen Katumaba, who continued asking for help through the window.
“The bodyguard went back to save Gen Katumba’s daughter but found when she was already dead. At this point, boda boda riders had gathered at the crime scene and I saw them pick Gen Katumba from the old house and took him back to the crime scene,” she said.
The boda boda riders then took him to the hospital together with his bodyguard, who sat with him on the same motorcycle,” Ms Nakachwa added.