This vivid, well-written report from The Observer describes a busy calendar at the Uganda Peoples' Defence Force general court-martial:
The UPDF General Court martial (GCM) at Makindye has banned the use of mobile phones and iPads during court sessions.
The ban, announced on Wednesday by GCM Chairman Maj Gen Levi Karuhanga, stemmed from a complaint by lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi – that soldiers checking those coming to court refused him to enter with an iPad he uses in writing notes. Rwakafuuzi’s plea that using paper and pen was becoming outdated proved counterproductive.
“Because of security reasons, nobody, including me, my court members, lawyers, suspects, court goers or journalists are allowed to come in court with iPads or mobile phones. As a lawyer, you must know the danger of bomb use regarding these gadgets,” Maj Gen Karuhanga said.
However, journalists will be allowed to enter with their recording gadgets, provided they are thoroughly checked.
In the same Wednesday session, Maj Jamil Seguya, formerly the maintenance officer of “soft skin” vehicles at the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amison) in Mogadishu left smiling after court convicted him to a caution sentence. Caution, which attracts light sentence, is a punitive measure under the UPDF Act, which is given to either first offenders or those who don’t waste court’s time to enable them reform.
The caution sentence came as a result of his change of plea from “not guilty” to “guilty.”
Prosecution, led by Maj Fredrick Kandwamu, accused Seguya, 46, of failing to service a caterpillar donated to Amison by the US government between in December 2012, resulting in the breakdown of the equipment. When asked by the judge advocate, Lt Col Gidion Katinda, where he was going to serve his sentence from, the bemused Seguya, who has been on remand, replied that he would serve it at his residence, sending court into wild laughter.
Court also freed junior officer David Ojok, previously the platoon commander in 31st infantry battalion, located 50km from Mogadishu, on appeal. In May 2009 Ojok was convicted by a Unit Disciplinary Committee (UDC) for failure to protect war material, leading to loss of 1,000 live ammunitions and sentenced him to five years.
Karuhanga, in his judgment, blamed the UDC for entertaining this case which was capital in nature and can only be tried by the General Court Martial. On conviction, one is liable to either serve a life imprisonment sentence or suffers death.
“Much as the [UDC] may be fair, once it has no jurisdiction over a case, its outcome becomes illegal. In the premises, we quash the conviction, set aside sentence, including the period served, and set the appellant free.”Very nice reporting by Siraje Lubwama and Derick Kiyonga.