On 22 September 2018, an email was sent to the Inspector General of Government (IGG) Public Relations office from one Mwebe Enock Bakaki through the Inspectorate’s web portal (website).
“If I get a gun, I will kill that stupid Musoga woman Mulyagonja for making my family to suffer when she terminated my employment at the Inspectorate of Government,” he wrote.
On Monday, that message landed 38-year old Mwebe a prison sentence.
Convicted on the two counts of threatening violence and cyber harassment by Her Worship Gladys Kamasanyu of the Buganda Road Utilities, Standards and Wildlife Court, Mwebe will spend 18 months in jail.
This case demonstrates how abusing online communication can result in criminal liability.
The IGG, Lady Justice Irene Mulyagonja, was understandably disturbed by the message when it was brought to her attention.
She promptly reported the matter to the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) whose officers got Mwebe arrested and charged with two counts of threatening violence contrary to section 81(a) of the Penal Code Act, and cyber harassment contrary to section 24 of the Computer Misuse Act 2011.
According to section 81(a) of the Penal Code, “any person who with intent to intimidate or annoy any person, threatens to injure, assault, shoot or kill any person…commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment…”
Section 24(b) of the Computer Misuse Act criminalises the act of “threatening to inflict injury or physical harm to the person or property of any person” while section 24(c) is about knowingly permitting “any electronic communications device to be used for any of the purposes mentioned in this section.”
Particulars of the case are that Mwebe Enock Bakaki, an IT specialist and a resident of Najjera, Kira Municipality, Wakiso District, on 22 September 2018 used a computer system to send a message through the IGG web portal, wherein he threatened to shoot the IGG, Lady Justice Irene Mulyagonja.
During the hearing, prosecution led by the UCC legal team of Waiswa Abudu Sallam, Martha Kamukama and Kenneth Lenox Seguya pointed out to court that there is an increase in the number of computer generated threats, which will only be contained if computer abusers such as the accused get deterrent sentences.
Although the accused denied ever working with the IGG, being personally known to her let alone sending the aggressive message, prosecution successfully adduced evidence to prove that the message had been sent through his computer.
Testifying in court, the IGG explained that this message got her scared partly because two of her friends, Joan Kagezi and Robinah Kiyingi, had been brutally murdered after reportedly receiving such threatening messages.
This realization, Lady Justice Mulyagonja told court, prompted her to report to the UCC.
In the end, Her Worship Kamasanyu agreed with prosecution and sentenced the accused to 18 months’ imprisonment on each count. Both sentences are to run concurrently.
Commenting on the case, UCC Head of Legal Waiswa commended Lady Justice Mulyagonja for working with the Commission to see the case expedited, including personally testifying in court.
He said some cases of a similar nature are jeopardised by complainants who are reluctant to go the full length of the legal process for one reason or another.