KAMPALA, UGANDA: The Director of Public Prosecutions-DPP has made a U-turn and declared interest in prosecuting Pastor Aloysius Bugingo over his reported marriage to Susan Makula Nantaba.
Bugingo is accused of committing bigamy and contracting marriage by customary law with Susan Makula when already married to Teddy Naluswa under the Marriage Act. On the other hand, Makula is charged with contracting marriage with Bugingo well aware that he is legally married to another woman.
Bugingo and Naluswa got married on December 20, 2003 certificate number 376 at Victory Christian Centre. However, without a formal dissolution of their marriage, he allegedly married Makula under customary law on December 7, 2021, in Kawuku, Katabi town council in Wakiso district.
The matter was first presented before the courts by lawyers Male Mabirizi and Robert Rutaro Muhairwe who instituted private prosecution proceedings against Bugingo and Makula after their alleged traditional marriage ceremony in December 2021.
Last month, Entebbe Grade One Magistrate Stella Okwong Paculal consolidated the two private prosecution cases and charged Bugingo on two counts, and Makula on one count for allegedly getting married contrary to sections of the Marriage Act.
But at that time, Entebbe Resident Chief State Attorney Janet Kitimbo told the court that the DPP is not interested in prosecuting the two. But in a turn of events, Kitimbo said, in a letter dated January 12, 2022, to Entebbe Chief Magistrate’s Court, that the DPP is now taking over the consolidated case.
As a result, she wants Mabirizi and Rutaro to provide the office of the DPP with information reasonable and documents regarding the cases.
The decision has triggered protests from Mabirizi saying that the DPP is barred from making a U-turn on this because it is a principle of justice and equity that when a man by his words or conduct, has led another to believe that he may safely act on the faith of them and the other does act on them he will not be allowed to go back on what he has said or done.
His colleague Rutaro says he is surprised by the sudden turn of events but added that he was happy that the DPP has taken over the matter. “But I only hope that the DPP proceeds to prosecute the case and not discontinue it as it has done in some cases,” he added.
The duo is expected to appear in court on January 21 for plea taking. Mabirizi has written to 18 potential witnesses including officials at the gender ministry, Uganda Registration Services Bureau-URSB, Uganda Communications Commission-UCC and individuals who attended the alleged traditional marriage ceremony.
However, one of the invited witnesses Aggrey Kibenge, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has declined to participate as a witness to provide information relating to Kiganda custom on marriage. Kibenge, in a letter dated January 10, refers Mabirizi to URSB, which is the government agency responsible for all marriages, and to the king of Buganda since he is the custodian of Kiganda culture.
“Accordingly, I am not sure if… I am an appropriate witness since I neither have a mandate over marriages in Uganda nor material evidence in my possession required in this case; or even the competence to interpret Kiganda customs in relation to marriage!”
For each of the offences, the accused face a five-year jail sentence upon conviction.