28 February 2013

Uganda: Nine-Year Trial Irks Tumukunde

A senior army officer, Brig Gen Henry Tumukunde stunned the General Court Martial Thursday over what he called "some forces" using court as a holding place for some people.

This comes weeks after the Brigadier attacked the same court when he protested his protracted trial.

Tumukunde who asked the court Chairman, Fred Tolit to allow him to say something submitted that it was important to have his case completed to change an impression that the military court is a holding place of some people by some forces.

The former chief of Internal Security Organization is facing charges of spreading harmful propaganda and conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline for the past nine years. He opted not to defend himself.

Tumukunde is alleged to have committed the crimes when he appeared on a local FM radio station in Kampala in 2005 without permission from the Chief of Defense Forces.

Appearing before the military court in Makindye, Tumukunde asked: "Chairman, you are very well aware that I was supposed to appear before this court with some people. They went to attend courses and came back as if they have nothing in this court. Why me?"

He said there were many military officers who have continued to criticize government on more serious issues including those threatening Uganda with military coups but they have not been brought to the book before he continued to ask "Why me, Why me?"

A seemingly disturbed army officer explained that he was 44 years when his trial commenced adding that "I am now 52. The age between 44 to 52 is a very critical time for everyone. Honourable Chairman I imagine that you have to ask for permission when you want to go somewhere for nine years."

Tumukunde added a judgment in his case would set a precedent for justice and many soldiers whom he said are languishing in jail without trial before he was cut short by Tolit.

"These are the things that delay court. You are going too far and the issues you're raising are not before this court," Tolit retorted.

At this point, Tumukunde attempted to interject but Tolit said "I will not allow you to speak this time. These military regulations that we find ourselves in conflict with were put in place by me and you and they were democratically accepted by us."

He said Tumukunde ought to be proud that court under his one year chairmanship has pushed the case to a good level and was willing to conclude it.

The state prosecutor, Capt. Fredrick Kangwamu responded to earlier submissions by defense counsel Mac Dusman Kabega, in which he said court had no option but to dismiss the charges because they were badly framed and the state failed to put the accused at the scene of crime when it failed to get any one from the local radio station to prove that Tumukunde was at the station.

Kangwamu said the security officer who recorded Tumukunde knew his voice very well and he proved to court that he was the one he recorded. He asked court to disregard submission by the defense that the recording of the radio program on which Tumukunde was allegedly hosted was edited to remove constructive criticism allowed under the UPDF Act.

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