32 Kenyans held in Uganda on gun possession charges released

They were serving 20-year jail terms but Appeal court overtruned judgment on Wednesday.

In Summary
  • The individuals from the Turkana community were tried and convicted on their own plea of guilt on April 11, 2023 for illegal possession of guns and ammunition.
  • The Uganda People’s Defence Forces said the guns and their corresponding ammunition “are ordinarily the monopoly of the defence forces”.


Thirty-two Kenyans including seven children who had been sentenced to serve 20 years in jail by a court marshal in Uganda have been set free on appeal.

The individuals, all herders from the Turkana community, were tried and convicted on their plea of guilt on April 11, 2023, for illegal possession of guns and ammunition.

The court marshal said they were found with 28 SMG guns and 801 SMG rounds of ammunition on April 8, 2023, at Lokiryaout village, Nandungeti subcounty in Moroto District without a valid firearms certificate.

The Uganda People’s Defence Forces said the guns and their corresponding ammunition “are ordinarily the monopoly of the defence forces”.

The accused pleaded guilty on each of the counts and were sentenced to 10 years in jail to run concurrently.

They, however, appealed the conviction and sentence, all passed on the same day, on four grounds.

They argued that the court erred in law and fact when they failed to follow procedure on trying child offenders and failing to accord the accused a fair hearing.

The appellants further averred that the trial court handed them a harsh sentence by imposing the highest sentences without considering the mitigating factors and for failing to evaluate the evidence adduced in court.

The respondents conceded that there were irregularities during the trial period and asked the court for a retrial.

The mistakes, they said, range from bundling the 28 guns on one count and all the ammunition on the other count.

They also conceded that the court erred in jointly trying and giving the minors the same punishment as adults.

In a rejoinder, the defence counsel said in as much as the appellants were tried and convicted on their own plea of guilt, the trial was marred with irregularities and the sentences were unconstitutional.

“Counsel further submitted that the state had conceded to most of the grounds and raising issue of a retrial is in bad faith since the appellants have spent one year serving the sentences,” the appeal court said.

The court after listening to both sides allowed the appeal and set aside the conviction and sentences in both counts.

“That upon perusal of the record of proceedings, this court agrees with both the both counsel for the appellants and respondents that there were procedural irregularities that affected the entire trial process even though the appellants pleaded guilty,” the General Court Marshal sitting at Makindye ruled.

“The trial court considered all the accused/appellants as adults whereas medical examination reports indicate that seven of the appellants were below 18 years of age. The sentence of the trial court is hereby set aside,” it added.

In dismissing the prayer for a retrial by the Ugandan government, the court said this would amount to injustice.

“This court further finds that considering the period of one year and 13 days the appellants spent in lawful custody/remand and the period they spent serving the illegal sentences, there is no need for a retrial. The appellants are hereby set free unless held on other lawful charges,” the court said in its ruling delivered on Wednesday, April 24.

Foreign Affairs PS Korir Sing’oei welcomed the verdict terming it a result of a combined effort by the county government of Turkana, the National Assembly, the Ministry and the presidency who engaged with the matter and ensured its ultimate resolution.

“We will do more to facilitate the evolution of regional transboundary resource-sharing frameworks to mitigate the causes of interstate disagreements that impede people-to-people engagements across borders,” the PS said in a statement on Friday.

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