By Steven Candia
FORMER army commander Maj. Gen. James Kazini is no more.
Kazini was allegedly murdered by his girl friend, Lydia Draru, in Namuwongo, a Kampala suburb, during a scuffle at her residence yesterday morning.
Draru was arrested and whisked away to the Kampala Central Police Station where she was held together with her cousin, a girl in Senior Six.
“We are treating it as an outright case of murder,” said Edward Ochom, the director of criminal investigations, who rushed to the scene of the crime.
Kazini, whose army number is RA 0133, had been one of the longest serving army officers.
The circumstances surrounding his killing remained unclear yesterday. However, both the Police and security sources said Kazini was killed by a blow on his head with a blunt metallic object during a domestic quarrel between 5:00am and 6:00am.
An iron bar believed to have been used in the attack was recovered at the scene.
Police officers dusted the place for fingerprints and collected other exhibits.
The blow left a deep gush on the general’s head, causing him to bleed to death. Wearing a yellow shirt, the general, who had a career of mixed fortunes, died in the doorway of the house he was renting for the girlfriend.
For several hours, his body lay in a pool of blood as a combined force of the Police and the army sealed off the place while detectives and experts from the Government analytical laboratory went about their duties.
As news of the death filtered through, several senior people, among them the Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, and trade minister Kahinda Otafiire visited the scene.
Kazini’s wife Phoebe arrived at about 9:00am. She saw the body and broke down, weeping uncontrollably. Hundreds of shocked residents trooped and gathered outside the house. Just before 10:00am, the body was removed and transferred to Mulago hospital for a postmortem check.
Eyewitness said shortly after the murder, Draru walked to a nearby boda boda stage and declared that she had killed her husband. She then reportedly asked the cyclists to inform the Police.
“She told us that she had killed her husband and she did not care,” Bernard Turinabo, a cyclist who was at the stage, recounted. “She even told us to go and see the body.”
It is then that the Police rushed to the scene of crime and arrested her. During arrest, Police sources said, Draru openly confessed: “I have killed him and I don’t care where you take me.”
It is said that the two had returned home in the wee hours of the morning. It is not clear what triggered the disagreement. Shortly before returning home, the two were sighted at International Hotel Muyenga.
They reportedly rode back home in the general’s latest top of the range Toyota Land Cruiser, bearing a Southern Sudan registration number plate, which they parked outside before walking into the house.
Police sources yesterday said Draru, who is popularly known by residents as Munene, earlier claimed that she acted in self-defence after the general allegedly drew a pistol on her. But no pistol was found in the house. Instead, Kazini’s pistol was discovered several hours after the incident in his brown hand bag in the Land Cruiser.
Emotions ran high outside his compound. A man wondered how a general who had emerged triumphant from various battles could die at the hands of a woman.
The demise of Kazini left many of his colleagues disturbed. The Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, yesterday described his death as untimely. The nation and the UPDF as an institution, he said, were still to benefit from his enormous experience and skills.
“We were still to work together as an institution to consolidate peace and stability. What we are seeing now is the passing on of a patriot, a hardworking man and a committed nationalist,” Nyakairima said.
Kayihura, whose relationship with the deceased goes back to the NRA bush war, said Kazini played a heroic role in the difficult history of the country, his woes notwithstanding.
“There is no doubt about the contribution Kazini had towards achieving peace and security in the country. He played a crucial role in fighting various insurgencies, right from 1986 up to when he became army commander. Obviously he had problems but that cannot wash away his tremendous contribution to this nation,” Kayihura said.
Maj. Gen Mugisha Muntu (FDC), also a former army commander, described Kazini as a good combat officer.
“He served through the ranks in various capacities. In some, he performed well and in others, just like many of us, he did not. It is unfortunate that he has passed on still young. As for those other issues in the army, we leave that in the hands of God.”
In March 2008, Kazini was convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment for causing financial loss of over sh61m to the Government. He was still battling in court to overturn his conviction.
Kazini was also facing a string of other charges that included causing financial loss, forgery, uttering false documents, conspiracy to defraud and disobedience of lawful orders. But his trial by the Court Martial was put on hold after he petitioned the Constitutional Court challenging the legality of the trial.
The Constitutional Court dismissed his petition mid last month, clearing the army court to try him.