Two men have been sentenced to 60 years imprisonment for aggravated robbery and murder of a Columbia University student who was on holiday in Kampala.
On December 31, 2015 at around midnight, Andrew Gatare, 19, a student of electrical engineering left home in Kololo to watch fireworks at Kampala Serena Hotel but was strangled by Ronald Mutebi and Geoffrey Lubwama before robbing his blackberry phone.
The duo was arrested after selling the phone at shs80, 000.
On Monday, High Court judge, Flavia Anglin Ssenoga said the two offences are so grave and attract a maximum sentence of death but noted she had been lenient to sentence them to 60 years for both offences.
“Each of the two convicts is sentenced to 30-year imprisonment on each of the two counts of murder and aggravated robbery,” Ssenoga said.
The sentences are to run concurrently she added.
The judge argued that because the convicts are first offenders, she didn’t go for the maximum death sentence but rather 35 years for each of the offences and that she had subtracted the five years they have spent on remand in Luzira.
According to justice Ssenoga, the convicts set out to go and carry out the offence by targeting revelers who were enjoying New Year’s Day celebrations, and Gatare fell prey to their actions.
“The victim of the offence was deliberately targeted because of his money and phone. The offences were committed as part of a premeditated plan because the convicts left their area of residence deliberately targeting revelers who were enjoying the New Year’s Day in order to enrich themselves.”
Justice Ssenoga said in the process, the life of a young person was abruptly ended and that it can never be returned.
Crime does not pay
The judge said that such offences of aggravated robbery and murder are widely condemned by the public, adding that anyone who participates in such should be kept away from society.
“The offences cause a lot of fear among the public and the family of the deceased and society has been deprived of a very young person. The pain caused to the family can never go away despite the condolences passed onto them,” Ssenoga said in her sentence.
She said she had handed such a punishment to the convicts to send out a message that crime does not pay and that for anyone to earn a living, they have to work hard for it.
“If they are not punished for such behavior, it becomes a licence for other people to commit crimes as they believe they can get away with it. That kind of behavior has to be greatly condemned and cannot be tolerated.”
“They should be able to learn that wealth is obtained through hard work and not through crime and violence.”
The judge said that by such a sentence, she is sending out a strong message to the public that crime does not pay and whoever participates in it will have to pay for it.
What the lawyers said
Akello Florence (state prosecutor): The offences of murder and aggravated robbery are so grave that the convicts deserve 40 years imprisonment for taking away a life of only 19 years old. The victim (Gatare) was still young and had a bright future ahead of him but he never lived to enjoy it.
Fredrick Mbaziira( defence lawyer): The convicts are first offenders and are sole breadwinners for their families. The court should hand lenient sentences to them so they can be able to reform and also return to fend for their families.
To error is human but repeating a mistake should attract severe sentence. They should be given a chance to return to society as reformed people and preach the gospel of being good citizens in their communities.