Will Freeman bring new tact to army court?

Lt Gen Andrew Gutti (left) hands over office to the new chairman of the army court martial, Brig Gen Freeman Mugabe, in Makindye, Kampala on August 1, 2022. PHOTO | ISAAC KASAMANI

President Museveni appointed Brig Gen Robert Freeman Mugabe as the new chairperson of the Makindye-based General Court Martial on June 9, replacing Lt Gen Andrew Gutti, whose term of office expired on the same day.

He assumes office at a time the court martial is faced with enormous challenges.

While handing over office yesterday, Lt Gen Gutti observed in his report that before his successor is a backlog of 300 cases.

They include 110 appeals, 35 applications and 155 first time cases that have been brought to court.

Other challenges that were cited in the report include interference from civilian courts that issue court orders on cases that are being investigated by the court martial, delays in investigation of cases by the special investigations bureau of the UPDF, power fluctuation, which requires a standby generator, and inadequate fuel.

He also mentioned the inadequate funding to meet prosecution witness funds, allowances for Court Martial chair and court members as well as the technical staff, and lack of accommodation for court staff.

The Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Wilson Mbadi, who presided over the function at the court martial headquarters in Makindye, Kampala, said it is imperative for the UPDF to honour the judicial office as per the mandate of courts under Article 126(1) of the Constitution of Uganda.

“Article 126 (2) of the Constitution commands us to do Justice to all manner of people without discrimination, to expeditiously dispense Justice, grant adequate remedies to victims of wrong, to promote peaceful and just settlement of dispute through reconciliation and promote substantive Justice,” he said.

Gen Mbadi appealed to the special investigations bureau of the UPDF to expedite the process of investigations so that cases for those on remand and army detention centres are disposed of.

The Defence spokesperson, Brig Felix Kulayigye, decried the interference of civil court system, where some suspects come with court decisions and orders that obstruct trials in the face of incriminating evidence. 

“Yes, he has handed over office when there is backlog. There are cases that are pending trials and people who are on remand in the various prisons. These must be handled expeditiously by the chair and his team,” he said.

Gen Gutti is yet to retire from the army service after the exercise was postponed last month.

The President, however, maintained the old court martial team who include Lieut Col John Bizimana, who returns as the secretary/registrar to the court, Lt Col Raphael Mugisha, Capt Ambrose Guma as prosecutors, Maj Silas Kamanda Mutungi as defense counsel, and Col Richard Tukacungurwa as the judge advocate.

Gen Gutti was appointed the chairman of army general court martial in May 2016 replacing the late Maj Gen Levi Karuhanga who died earlier that month.

Who is Gen Mugabe?

Brig Gen Mugabe has served as Secretary General at UPDF land forces headquarters in Bombo where he has been since 2020 before he was promoted from Colonel to Brigadier in 2021.

He also served as the Air Defence Division Administrative Officer and Division Operations & Training Officer in the same Unit prior to his appointment as Secretary General.