Guard independence of military court

Sunday February 14 2021
national01pix

Court martial chairman, Lt Gen Andrew Gutti

By Editor

It emerged this week that Lt Gen Andrew Gutti, the head of the Military Court Martial, has written to the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Gen David Muhoozi, asking how to proceed in regards to the charges against former police boss Gen Kale Kayihura.

President Museveni, while campaigning in Gen Kayihura’s home district of Kisoro at the turn of the year, said he would consider the request by some residents in the district to drop the charges against Gen Kayihura.

Lt Gen Gutti, the man before whom Gen Kayihura is supposed to stand trial, now says he doesn’t know how to proceed given the promise by the President – who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces – and the pressure being mounted by the residents of Kisoro.

For starters, the President should not be interfering with cases that are ongoing in courts of law, whether military or civilian courts.

The proper way should have been for him to notify the people pushing for charges to be dropped that the President doesn’t have such powers under the law. A person charged with an offense – whether in the military or civilian courts – should be tried to conclusion, unless the prosecuting body independently decides to withdraw the charges.
 
The President is, of course, not a prosecuting authority. The only way the President gets involved in criminal matters of this sort, is in case one is sentenced to death, to sign off the execution order. The other way is to exercise the prerogative of mercy and pardon a convict, but of course this only happens after the trial has been concluded.

In light of the foregoing, we expect that the CDF will advise the military court to proceed with the prosecution of the cases against Gen Kayihura to their conclusion.

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The charges levelled against him, just to recap, are grave. He was charged with aiding and abetting the kidnapping and repatriating Rwandan exiles and refugees and Ugandan citizens to Rwanda between 2012 and 2016, in addition to failure to protect war materials.

To just withdraw the charges after two years would suggest that the charges were either brought as holding charges without serious merit or serious offenders can be let go if those in power believe doing so is politically beneficial.

Not trying the General after being slapped with such serious charges that led to suffering of a number of people would also be insensitive to the victims. But perhaps more importantly, it would go a long way to show that the military court acts at the pleasure of the President.

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