The High Court in Mukono has sentenced fugitive convict Matthew Kirabo Wabulembo to 30 years in prison for the murder of his former girlfriend, Desire Mirembe Jemima, a former student at Makerere University Medical School. Kirabo, apprehended in Kenya in September 2023, appeared in court on Tuesday for sentencing after being convicted in absentia due to his evasion of court proceedings.
State Attorney Happiness Ainebyona had sought the death penalty, citing the severity of the case and Kirabo’s conduct during the trial. She noted that the convict together with his legal team comprising Dalton Opwonya and Hassan Kato faked COVID-19 tests in 2021, which they used to claim he was sick and prepared a traditional marriage before he escaped from the country.
“The convict is in court after a warrant of arrest was issued for him. Before his sentencing, judgment was given. He was convicted and the case was adjourned pending his arrest,” Ainebyona said. Emmanuel Musoke, the deceased’s father, requested the court to consider an appropriate sentence while acknowledging that no punishment could undo his daughter’s loss. Kirabo’s new lawyer, Henry Kunya, argued that Kirabo’s previous attorneys had acted without his consent.
Kunya claimed that Kirabo sought refuge in Kenya and did not flee the country. He pleaded for leniency, emphasizing Kirabo’s status as a first-time offender. “The convict was not on the run, if he was he would have gone further than Kenya, and also tried to changed his name and face but he didn’t,” Kunya said. In his address to the court, Kirabo expressed condolences to the deceased’s family and stated that he sought refuge due to what he perceived as unfair evidence presented in court.
“Court accepted a video, which was taken after I was tortured in Nalufenya incriminating me so I put together videos and audios, which I used to seek refuge in another country,” he said. He cited his career as a practicing doctor and appealed for a merciful sentence.
Presiding Judge Henry Kaweesa Isabirye considered arguments from both sides and sentenced Kirabo to 30 years in prison. “I have carefully considered that the convict is a first time offender, the fact that to the deceased’s father, her life cannot be brought back. The convict is sentenced to 30 years in prison minus the period spent on remand totaling to 29 years, 10 months and 23 days,” Justice Kaweesa ruled.
The case stemmed from the alleged murder of Mirembe in Lugazi, Kawolo Buikwe district in July 2015. Kirabo’s subsequent arrest, confession, legal process, and transfer of the case to Mukono High Court were integral to the trial.
The prosecution presented 15 witnesses and relied on incriminating video evidence, leading to Kirabo’s conviction in absentia in May 2022 after he absconded from court in November 2021. Kirabo’s arrest by Interpol in Kenya, extradition to Uganda, and subsequent remand to Luzira prison in September 2023 marked a pivotal point in the prolonged legal proceedings.