By Andrew Irumba
Fort Portal: Former Tooro Kingdom Prime Minister John Sanyu Katuramu Amooti is likely to be set free this August 2021 from Luzira maximum prisons, after fully serving his death sentence, which is converted into 20 years, if you’re not hanged within a specific period of time.
Our well-placed spy within the prisons hierarchy who preferred anonymity told our reporter that Katuramu could be set free either on August 18 or 28 2021.
The prison’s spokesperson Frank Baine, when contacted for an official statement he said he needed to first confirm with the prisons O/C and would then revert. On return instead, Baine informed us that information pertaining as to when an inmate would be released is a private matter, a preserve of only the inmate or their immediate family members, or can be disclosed on the inmate’s permission. “Katuramu is not a small man, when he gets out obviously you will know, but we don’t publicize inmates’ release. We’ve released people like Draru, late Tedi Seezi Cheeye etc, and the public gets to know when they’re already in the community. We don’t want to alert the public to come at the prisons gates, you never know who is who among those waiting, and their intentions,” Baine said.
Katuramu who is serving a life sentence (20 years), was in September 2001 convicted by Justice John Bosco Katutsi for the murder of Tooro Prince Happy Kiijanangoma and his bodyguard Steven Kaganda. Court found that on March 25, 1999, Katuramu ﬁnanced the murder of the prince and his body guard at Palace View Bar in Fort Portal, Kabarole District.
Katuramu was sentenced alongside his nephew Patrick Kwezi, who was convicted for transmitting the cash to the killers and Alex Twinomugisha, a former UPDF Kadogo who pulled the trigger. All were sentenced to death too.
Katuramu later unsuccessfully appealed against the conviction in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Since then, there have been several ‘peace talks’ attempts to have one of Tooro’s finest brains pardoned in vain.
During the 2011 and 2016 presidential campaigns in Tooro, local leaders and the community made attempts to convince President Museveni to pardon their son, to which Museveni responded by putting conditions for his release.
Museveni conditioned that he would only pardon the once business tycoon Katuramu if the two families sat and reconciled.
“Katuramu’s matters cannot be solved at a rally. I advised the wife of Katuramu to meet the deceased’s family and reconcile. I have powers to pardon Katuramu, but I do not want to release him when the two parties are not agreeing,” the President said at a 2016 campaign rally in Fort Portal town.
How Katuramu’s Brother Chris Katuramu Traveled To Rwanda To Start Reconciliatory Peace Talks With Bereaved Family
Close sources intimated to this reporter that initial reconciliatory talks started in Kigali, Rwanda. It was a rare meeting in 2001 when renowned city lawyer, Chris Katuramu took the initiative to plead for his condemned elder brother with the family of Kiijanangoma.
Chris had to travel to Kigali, Rwanda to look for Prince Edward Kiijanangoma, the younger brother, of the late prince. Edward, a journalist, was then working with state-owned media, Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA). Today he is a news anchor on Uganda’s National Broadcaster, UBC. After the Kigali meeting, Edward, who is the heir of Paul Kiijanangoma, the eldest son of Sir George Rukidi III, former King of Tooro, had to break the news to his family members about the initiative.
Edward called a meeting in 2012, with his brothers and sisters that included his elder brother, Prince David Kiijanangoma Araali (the rebel prince who until recently, was giving reigning King Oyo sleepless nights over the throne), Prince Patrick Kwezi, Princess Grace Ochola (wife to former Electoral Commission PRO Charles Willy Ochola ), Prince Christopher Kiijanangoma and Princess Damalie Komunkyera.
According to David Kiijanangoma, the family ﬁrst rejected the initiative, saying they could not forgive a person who killed their brother although they later accepted the truth that they needed to forgive in order to relieve their hearts from the ‘heavy lifting’. In fact, David Kiijanangoma, himself thereafter made several trips to Luzira maximum prisons and prayed with Katuramu, and declared his forgiving hand unto him.
“We were in shock when Edward said he wanted us to reconcile with Katuramu’s family, but later we learnt that it was the most correct thing to do in order to move on in life. We first asked God to take charge of our anger with his healing hand,” Kiija was recently quoted to have told the press.
Chris Katuramu on the other hand intimated to a friend that the initial discussions were met with resistance. “When I met Edward in Kigali, the response was not positive. In fact, he almost threw me out of his ofﬁce, but I knew that time heals and we needed to talk,” he said. Katuramu persisted, until 2012 when the two families agreed to talk. They also agreed that the Kiijanangoma family meet the rest of the royal family to discuss the intentions of seeking reconciliation.
However, this was not concluded until 2013, when they again met at Golf Course Hotel in Kampala, in a meeting that both Chris Katuramu and David Kiijanangoma described as tense. “I still had reservations on why we should forgive him. But after a heated meeting, we agreed to meet our elders to have our differences sorted,” David told the press then.
He said they met Charles Kamuratsi, who is the head of the ruling clan, Babiito royal clan in Tooro Kingdom, Yusita Kiijanangoma, their step-mother, Prof. Edward Rugumayo and Grace Komunkyera, among others. They also agreed to select the bishop of Rwenzori, Reuben Kisembo to spearhead the talks. Bishop Kisembo said he hosted the two families, prayed for them and saw a sign of reconciliation. The meeting with the bishop was also attended by Katuramu’s eldest wife, Gertrude and her children.
They also met Justice Minister Kahinda Otaﬁire for legal guidance. After a series of meetings, they agreed to go to Luzira Prison and meet Katuramu and his co-accused. “What we saw when the Kiijanangoma family visited Katuramu in prison made us believe he has served his punishment and is now a reformed man,” Kisembo said.
David added his voice to the bishop’s, saying the family had gone through a lot of trauma and it was time to forgive. He, however, added that the reconciliation process, led by bishop Kisembo, was no walk in the park.
“It was a life-changing moment ﬁlled with joy, anger and lots of emotions from both families,” he added.
David also said when the inﬂuential princess Elizabeth Bagaya heard about the development, she came to the family of Kiijanangoma to conﬁrm the news. “We told her yes, we had forgiven him. Her response was that ‘If you, the family have taken the step to forgive Katuramu, then I have nothing more to say.’ Those were her words and she left,” David said.
In 1993, the Omukama of Tooro, late Patrick Mathew Olimi Kaboyo appointed business mogul then, John Sanyu Katuramu prime minister of the Kingdom. Katuramu was introduced to the King by Princess Elizabeth Bagaya as a businessman who loved Tooro, but rarely came into the limelight. Prior to his appointment, he owned Oxford Airways, Voice of Toro, Rwenkuba Ranchers and several other real estate properties.
Katuramu supported the NRA bush war struggle in Kabarole area. When the king died in 1995, some members of the royal family and Kingdom ofﬁcials retained Katuramu as the prime minister and was also named one of the regents of the new three-year-old King, Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV.
By the time he was arrested, Katuramu had about 10 children, including five from his official wife, Gertrude Katuramu which include Job Mutungi Katuramu (he recently contested for Nakawa MPship), Bruce Katuramu (now managing Voice Of Tooro Fort Portal), Dorothy Katuramu, Recheal Katuramu and Paul Katuramu.
Katuramu To Start Church As His Retirement Plan From Public Life After Prison
In 2019, when this reporter last met Katuramu in Luzira prisons physically, before covid-19 set in, he had shared some of his future plans after life in prison. A very reformed and prayer warrior Katuramu told our reporter that contrary to what majority Batooro were requesting him to return in the Kingdom leadership and serve, and rebuild his motherland, he was instead looking at serving his God, his saviour in a more ‘special way’.
“God gave me another chance to live, I have so many testimonies to share. I have already fully registered my Church (that’s 2019 then), and when I come out, I will be preaching the word of God. If I’m not at Church, I will be busy supervising my businesses and my farms in the village. I will be grazing my cows but I will never serve in any leadership capacity be it Chairman LC1 of an area, I will retire to my private life and look after my businesses,” Katuramu said then.
But Who Is John Sanyu Katuramu Amooti?
Until early 1993 when the Omukama of Tooro, Patrick Mathew Olimi Kaboyo appointed him the Omuhikirwa, (prime minister) Tooro Kingdom, John Sanyu Katuramu Amooti was a very quiet businessman who rarely came into the limelight.
He quietly came and set up businesses in Kasese soon after completing his Diploma course at the National College of Business Studies in Nakawa, now Makerere University Business School.
He did O’level at Mvara Secondary School in Arua and completed A level at Nyakasura School in Fort Portal.
In Kampala, he was only known in the business circles. By the time he was appointed prime minister, he boasted of a large business empire, including the Give and Take Forex Bureau, which was located at Uganda House in Kampala, fuel stations both in Uganda and abroad, that’s according to his close friends, wholesale shops and was also one of the biggest coffee exporters at the time. He also had real estate businesses. Katuramu actually helped a lot during the NRA revolution struggle.
“He funded the struggle unreservedly with his money from Coffee and timber he used to deal in Congo. That man was in charge of all timber and coffee stores in Western Uganda during the war, he supported us in return,” one of the former guerilla commanders commented.
Katuramu’s fortunes in Kabarole breathed new life when he met Princess Elizabeth Bagaya, a cousin to his wife Gertrude. Bagaya visited them and eventually introduced Katuramu to Kaboyo and the two became friends. When the monarchy was restored in 1993, the Omukama regained his throne and appointed his friend Katuramu prime minister.
Katuramu suddenly became a household name in Tooro, becoming the King’s confidante.
Often times, there was talk that Katuramu was using his money to fund some of the Kingdom activities. Because of his closeness with the King then, when he died in 1995, members of the royal family and Kingdom officials retained him as the prime minister and was also named one of the regents of the new three-year-old new king, Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru.