Crime & Investigation

UNTOLD STORY: How Memory Card Landed KTN’s Doreen Biira in Trouble

Biira found Newton at Waremba's residence located near Mumbere's palace (Photo: Kenneth Kazibwe/ChimpReports)

Dr Nathaniel Walemba, patient 68, was washing his hands to enjoy supper at his residence in Kasese, just a few metres away from King Wesley Mumbere’s palace.

Time check was 8:15pm; November 27, 2016.

It was an unusual Sunday since the UPDF had earlier raided Mumbere’s palace to forcefully occupy what authorities described as a den of armed criminals.

Due to the intense gunfire at the palace, Walemba spent the better part of the day at the heavily-guarded District Headquarters – just like many terrified neighbours of the embattled King.

He had driven out of his home to Kasese town to buy “stuff for my breakfast” when he realised that heavily-armed UPDF combatants were in the vicinity.

“There were many UPDF soldiers around the Palace. It didn’t take long for the fighting to break out,” he recounted to ChimpReports when we met in Kasese this week.

The gunfire ended around 6:00pm, encouraging Walemba to return to his residence.

Little did he realise this would be the beginning of a long and difficult journey.

Struggling with hunger pain, Walemba was eager to have his first meal of the day.

Unusual visitor

As he washed his hands, he heard a loud knock on his door.

“The officers came into my house and said some people were taking pictures of their operation,” recalled Walemba, a retired educationist.

Walemba lived and worked in Nairobi for about 20 years.

Upon retirement, Walemba returned to his ancestral home where he opened a school.

He also decided to volunteer as a church administrator.

A few days before the Palace raid, Walemba had received a call from a friend in Nairobi to accompany his son to an introduction ceremony in Kasese

He later welcomed a delegation of thirty men including Newton, the husband of KTN news anchor and journalist Doreen Joy Biira.

A day before the attack on Mumbere’s palace (Saturday), Walemba participated in the colourful function that saw Biira introduce Newton to her family.

Several Ugandan journalists also graced the do.

After the function, Newton and some of his friends stayed at Walemba’s residence.


On Sunday (November 27), Biira came to check on her lovely husband at Walemba’s home.

“They wanted to go out for a good lunch. But as soon as they drove out, heavy gunfire erupted at the palace. They returned inside but the gate remained open,” said Walemba.

So when cops asked Walemba who had taken pictures of their operation, he didn’t have an immediate answer.

“Who do you stay with?” security officers asked the retired educationist.

“About four days ago I received visitors from Kenya and they are here. But they are leaving tomorrow,” he responded.

The officers asked Walemba to call the occupants of the house.

Biira and his husband’s friends were quizzed by security: “Did you take pictures using a camera?”

They responded in unison: “No.”

Biira’s Twitter handle carried updates of the attack on Mumbere’s palace.

“Continued gun shots in Kasese town Just metres away from @Omusinga’s neighbourhood,” one of the Tweets read in part.

Her Instagram account also had a video of the burning palace.

“Did you take pictures using a phone?” cops pressed further.

Still the answer was a big “no.”


“Okay,” said a cop, adding, “Please come with us to the police vehicle.”

Still in shock, Walemba told cops he would not stay home until he was sure of where “you are taking my children.”

Walemba thought Biira andcolleagues sgues would be asked a few questions before being released.

At 10:00pm, Walemba called the Kasese District Police Commander: “Where are my children?”

The DPC responded: “They are spending a night here.”

The following day (November 28, 2016), Walemba drove to Kasese Police Station.

Biira and her husband were led by cops to Walemba’s residence for an inspection.

Memory Card

“Police found a camera in the compound. But the chip had been removed. The cops told Biira and Newton to produce the memory chip,” recalled Walemba.

Realising the tension at his house, Walemba decided to take Biira and Newton aside, urging them to comply with police orders.

“You can’t run away from responsibility. If you have the card, give it to them. Taking pictures is not a crime,” Walemba told the troubled couple.

The memory card, according to Walemba, was found in his home library.

He said the camera belonged to Newton’s mother who had travelled back to Nairobi on Sunday morning.

“Police took the laptop, camera and a car key. The cops said they would not have carried out arrests if the couple had given them the camera and memory card on Sunday night,” said Walemba.

At the time, Ugandan journalists were speculating that Biira was picked from her uncle’s residence.

Walemba said he was not related to Biira.

He further dismissed reports that the residence located opposite Mumbere’s palace gate belonged to Biira’s father.

Biira was released on Monday morning on police bond.

She was charged with abetting terrorism, a case being challenged by human rights activists.


Biira’s arrest attracted a backlash from human rights groups.

“It is bad enough that Ugandan authorities desired to censor coverage of a newsworthy event, but the use of anti-terrorism laws to intimidate a journalist is a vast overreach,” Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa Program coordinator, said from New York.

“Journalism is not terrorism. The state’s charges against Joy Doreen Biira should be dropped without delay.”

Biira told CPJ that she had “fully cooperated with the police in their investigations and hope that in the end, they will find that all this was a mistake on their part.”

She added: “I am sure they will clear our names of the grave and ridiculous charges. My social media postings are public and do not constitute a violation of any law. As a professional and practicing journalist, I believe in the ethics of my profession. In this instant, I believe I held it to the highest possible standard.”

The journalist was allowed to return to Kenya but is expected to appear at Kasese Police Station on December 8.



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