KAMPALA - President Museveni’s decoration of four UPDF soldiers attached to the External Security Organisation (ESO) for blocking Justice Catherine Bamugemereire and her team from accessing a contested piece of land on Mutungo hill continues to draw mixed reactions from the general public.
The medals awarded to four soldiers on Heroes’ Day at Kasanje have widely been viewed as a smirk in the commission’s face.
The Deputy Attorney General, Mr Rukutana Mwesigwa is the latest to laud the soldiers who were recently promoted for their bravery when they blocked Justice Catherine Bamugemereire.
The Heroes’ Day medals were accompanied with a Presidential handshake to Sgt. Julius Katuriba and three other soldiers.
“The soldiers did not deny the commission access but they stopped them from acting illegally,” Mr Rukutana said insisting the land probe is in the habit of overstepping their mandate.
However, the Democratic Party (DP) President Mr Norbert Mao castigated the awarding during the party’s weekly press briefing on Tuesday.
“These medals were given to spite Justice Bamugemereire generally and tell her that she is nothing and I’m sure all the land grabbers in Uganda are celebrating because those who broke justice have been given medals,” Mr Mao said.
He added that the soldiers’ conduct was extremely unprofessional.
“They should have asked Justice Bamugemereire and the team to wait while they contact their supervisors but cocking their guns to shoot her was unwarranted.”
Mr Mao added that medals are supposed to be awarded and must be accompanied by a citation which explains what a person did to deserve the medal.
In February this year, Justice Bamugemereire kicked Mr Rukutana out of the land probe after he unsuccessful tried to defend a Shs24bn payment to Dr Muhammad Kasasa.
“The soldiers were not interfering in commission work but were stopping them from committing an illegality,” Mr Rukutana said and called on the land probe to also act within their terms of reference.
Mr Rukutana was widely criticised for allegedly disrespecting and failing to provide clarity on how government arrived at Shs24billion meant to compensate Dr Muhammad Kasasa over Mutungo land.
At one point during the probe, Mr Rukutana told Justice Bamugemereire that “If you disrespect me I disrespect you.”
Government spokesperson Mr Ofwono Opondo on Monday told journalists at the Uganda Media Centre that “because of the meticulous way these officers conducted themselves, President Museveni decided to confer on them meritorious awards.”
Mr Opondo said the rewarded soldiers “refused to be disarmed by people who are not their commanders.”
UPDF soldiers were decorated “because of the exceptional, courage and professionalism with which these officers conducted themselves,” he noted, in reference to the standoff early this year in Mutungo Zone IV.
The four plots of land were sold by Dr Muhammad Kasasa to ESO at Shs2.4b but he never received the money.
Prince David Wasajja dragged Dr Kasasa to the Commission accusing him of grabbing 639 acres of land from the estate of his late father King Edward Muteesa II.
The family of the late George William Serwadda in Mutungo Zone IV bought the same land from Muteesa II to set up a hotel.