On March 19, I received an email from a Ugandan PhD student at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, named Andrew Akampurira. Thirty-year-old Andrew received a masters degree in Sweden and Norway (Erasmus Mundus Masters in Applied Ethics) and had read my previous blog post about Susan Kigula and her attempts to get the death sentence in Uganda abolished. He is writing a thesis about capital punishment and asked if I had ever heard of a man named Eddy Mary Mpagi who was sentenced to death for murder but was wrongly convicted. Andrew explained that after 18 years on death row in Luzira prison, Mr. Mpagi was released after confirmation was received that the murder victim was alive and well.
I had not known about Mpagi but some brief research told me that in 1981, during Dictator Idi Amin’s rule, Mpagi and his cousin Fred Masembe were arrested for allegedly robbing and then murdering George William Wandyaka, a neighbor in Masaka city. On on 29th April 1982, the high court in Masaka convicted both men and sentenced them to death. They were taken to Luzira Upper Prison in Kampala to await their execution. A request for pardon in 1983 remained unanswered. In 1985, Fred Masembe died in prison. He had been suffering from asthma, stomach pains, depression, physical and mental anguish.
No executions have been carried out since 1999, but Edward remembers several that took place during his incarceration. “No one was ever given any notice that they would be executed,” he has written. “Each time we were taken by complete surprise. We lived in complete fear of any unusual activity from the wardens.” (Source: here)
Despite the conviction of these men, reported sightings of William Wandyaka were made on several occasions however no one in law enforcement paid attention, they ignored this information. Private investigators hired by a man named Father Agostoni, an Italian missionary, began an investigation and in 1989 they confirmed that the men had been wrongly accused. Local authorities now convinced of the men’s innocence, wrote to the attorney general seeking pardon for Mpagi and Masembe. However, despite this action, Eddie Mary Mpagi remained on death row for another 11 years. The attorney generals kept changing and the judge working on the case died. Finally, in 2000, Mpagi was pardoned. Apparently Wandyaka’s parents held a grudge against Mpagi’s parents. They had staged the murder to hurt them. A doctor had received a bribe to testify that he had carried out a post-mortem on the alleged victim’s body. Wandyaka, the “murder victim” died of natural causes in 2002.
After Edward’s release from prison in 2000, he launched a project – now under the auspices of the Dream One World Foundation – to build schools and orphanages for children who have lost parents in the AIDS epidemic and children who have a parent on death row. Edward also tries to publicize the terrible conditions on Uganda’s death row.
Andrew Akampurira, the man who sent me the email, recently conducted an interview with Mr. Mpagi and plans to have a meeting with Susan Kigula soon. He hopes that the death penalty is abolished in Uganda in the next 15 years at the latest.