19 November 2012

Uganda: Besigye Denies Defaming UPDF Officer

FDC party president Dr. Kizza Besigye has dismissed claims that he defamed UPDF officer Lt. Col. Atwooki Ndahura, saying his utterances were within the parameters of promoting democracy.

Besigye statement, filed at the High Court in Kampala on October 29, is contained in his defence to a suit filed by Ndahura.

The contention is over an interview published by the Observer newspaper in July 2009 that linked the officer to a murder in Rukungiri during the 2001 Presidential polls. Besigye was jointly sued with the newspaper.

In the jointly filed defence through AF Mpanga Advocates, the defendants contend that the interview was published in public interest, and that it was not intended to ridicule Ndahura as purported.

"The defendants shall contend that the publication complained about was written and published in the solemn exercise of their respective duties to promote democracy and rule of law in Uganda as well as provide information to the general public on a notorious matter of public interest, importance and popular commentary," the defence states.

The case arose on October 11when the East Africa Standby Force chief of planning alleged that his reputation had been tarnished. In the contentious interview 'Court will disband EC, says Besigye' in the newspaper publication dated July 27-29, 2009, Besigye stated that Ndahura, was responsible for the earlier murder of one Johnson Baronda in Rukungiri, during the 2001 general elections.

Through Kafeero and Company Advocates, Ndahura is seeking an apology, damages, and costs of the suit, plus an order permanently restraining the defendants from publishing any material deemed defamatory to him.

At the time, Ndahura was a Captain, and a member of the President's security detail.

Ndahura claims his professional associates consider him risky and dangerous to deal with. He states that the defendants knew the statements were untrue and defamatory.

The officer asserts that the Besigye's statements implied that he is a murderer, criminal, partisan, unethical, and not fit to serve in the prestigious UPDF.

But Besigye has defended his utterances, saying his comments was based on additional record of reports from eye witnesses, court judgements and investigative reports of events that transpired in March 2001.The FDC president states that under the circumstances, he was exercising his rights, thoughts, and beliefs.

The defence states that Ndahura's name prominently featured and was mentioned at the Supreme Court in 2001, when several witnesses testified, as the court examined the 2001 presidential polls. Besigye asserts that Ndahura has suffered no loss, as he has since been promoted, decorated, and assigned duties.

Ndahura states that his lawyers sent a mandatory notice of intention to sue, with a demand for an apology but was snubbed. He is now demanding an apology with the same prominence given to the contentious interview, and his own dictated wording of the apology.

The case file has been allocated to Justice Eldad Mwangusya. However, a hearing date is yet to be fixed.

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