Thursday May 1 2014

Somalia case: Ex-commanders to plead afresh

By Ephraim Kasozi

Three former commanding officers of the Ugandan troops under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), have told court they do not understand the charges preferred against them in connection with their work in the war-recovering country.

Maj Nassur Namara, a former operations commander in charge of training at the Uganda Contingent, was charged with conduct prejudicial to good conduct, Lt Col Eugine Ssebugwawo (Battle Group Commander) was charged with personal interest endangering operational efficiency, while Maj Louis Bagenda, who was formerly in charge of transport, was charged with fraudulent offences, all contrary to the UPDF regulations.

They had appeared before the Makindye-based General Court Martial (GCM) for sentencing but their lawyer amused court when he said that his clients needed to plead afresh because they did not understand the charges to which they were answering.

“My Lord Chairman and members, my client (s) did not understand the charge fully. We are invoking the rules of natural justice to seek for another chance to allow them plead. My client who is facing trial is seeking for justice and the law allows an accused person to change plea any time before sentencing,” the trio’s lawyer, Capt Nasser Drago argued.

However, prosecution led by Capt Fredrick Kangwamu had asked the court to dismiss the application arguing that the due process was completed and the accused soldiers had asked for lenience.

“The convicts had pleaded not guilty and we set the trial date. They decided to change plea and they accepted the brief facts read to them. If they wanted to change, there is a chance at appeal,” Capt Kangwamu argued.
However, the court chaired by Brig Moses Ddiba Ssentongo set May 15 for the accused soldiers to plead to the charges afresh.

Court heard that the Maj Bagenda improperly received $400 every two weeks, which money came from proceeds of contingent fuel that was sold.
But Capt Drago said the money was used for the good working environment when he purchased a photocopier, printer and a Laptop computer among other items.

Earlier on, the GCM sentenced another senior officer, Lt Col. Stephen Lubulwa to a caution over charges of failure to execute ones’ duties.
The former battle group commanding officer in Somalia pleaded guilty to the offences.