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UPDF admits to battering journalists, asks to settle case out of court

Army officers descend on journalists earlier in February

Army officers descend on journalists earlier in February

The Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF) has asked the High court in Kampala to allow them to settle out of court a case in which they were sued over battering journalists earlier this year.

City lawyer Steven Kalali sued the government on behalf of journalists for battering several journalists on February 22, 2021, who'd gone to cover National Unity Platform former presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi as he delivered a petition to the United Nations High Commission in Kololo challenging gross human rights violations in the country. 

According to Kalali, on the fateful day, military police officers descended on journalists who were performing their lawful duties and started beating them indiscriminately leaving many of them with injuries. He named Henry Ssekanjako and Timothy Murungi from Vision Group, Cliff Wamala from NTV, and Josephine Namakumbi from NBS TV as some of the journalists who were injured by the officers.

As such, Kalali noted that previously the agents of government have violated the constitutional articles guaranteeing freedom of the press and also infringed on the journalist’s right to practice their profession.

Kalali thus asked court to issue orders restraining government security agencies permanently from acting with impunity, malice and interfering with the rights of all media houses and journalists in the peaceful pursuit of their work as well as an order for damages.

However, on Tuesday, the government which was being represented by state attorney Brian Musota asked to be allowed to settle the matter out of court saying there is a reconciliation process between the two parties.  

Musota made his submission while appearing before the assistant registrar of High court Civil Division Agnes Alum who adjourned the case to June 14, 2021, on behalf of the trial judge Boniface Wamala who was away attending a workshop.

The state attorney also shared with Kalali the affidavit sworn by the chief of legal services in UPDF, Brigadier Godard Busingye in which the army confirms the reconciliation process including having had a football match with journalists to mend the relations.

“That I know the UPDF on 15th April 2021 in a bid to mend its relationship with the media held its inaugural sports competition at Phillip Omondi stadium in Lugogo Kampala as a gesture of its commitment to the agreed objective of improving working relationship between the defense forces and the media fraternity," reads the affidavit in part.

The affidavit also admits that their officers went beyond their mandate and without consent from the strategic army leadership handled some journalists in a manner that is not authorized by the leadership. Despite this, the associate professor says that court needs to disallow Kalali's case such that the reconciliation process that the parties have already commenced to continue.

“That I know whereas the actions of our errant officers are regrettable, they cannot be reversed and I would pray that in light of the commitment of the UPDF to improve, this honorable court decides this case with a degree of restraint," reads the affidavit.

Adding that “in the interest of justice this application be disallowed to encourage the reconciliation process that the parties have already commenced continue."

Evidence before court shows that the army admits all the illegalities and allegations levied against it by Kalali and to prove this, they say the errant officers have since been apprehended and couldn't let such impunity go unpunished because they strongly condemn the beating journalists.

"That I know the errant officers breached the UPDF Act of 2005 and were subsequently arrested, charged convicted and sentenced by the UPDF's unit disciplinary committee," says Busingye's affidavit in part.

But the petitioner, Kalali has vowed not to go for the reconciliation process saying that such actions have been rampant and he needs court to make a pronunciation on them.

"Seemingly, me as a human rights activist, I don’t agree with that position and it is the reason why I decided to come to court because you realise since those events happened, most of you journalists had sat back. It could have been atoned to aspects of fear at maybe workplaces and so on. Some of them the information we got could be that they were compensated with some little sums of money. But no money can compensate for your life. So we had to stand firm and come to court and I can assure you that I will wait to get a court verdict in regard to the illegal and unlawful acts by these UPDF officials because they have been happening since 2016," Kalali said. 

Kalali’s case was the first to be lodged before the High court in relation to beating of journalists in Kololo and so far two other cases challenging the same issue have since been filed. They include one filed by the Uganda Journalists Association against the government and seven soldiers who are said to have assaulted the journalists and another filed by the victims of this incident. 

These last two cases are fixed for hearing on May 17.

Comments   

+5 #1 colok 2021-05-05 12:46
This is another case of just sweeping serious issues under the rug. Mbu "reconcilliation" . when will we as Ugandans understand that we must liberate ourselves from these thugs, forge proper institutions and save ourselves from these gangsters.

This is a ruse as always, next there is a peaceful protest theses thugs will unleash hell and bloodshed and beg for "reconcilliation" Man up Ugandans!
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+5 #2 A K Mukasa 2021-05-05 14:24
Quoting colok:
This is another case of just sweeping serious issues under the rug. Mbu "reconcilliation" . when will we as Ugandans understand that we must liberate ourselves from these thugs, forge proper institutions and save ourselves from these gangsters.

This is a ruse as always, next there is a peaceful protest theses thugs will unleash hell and bloodshed and beg for "reconcilliation" Man up Ugandans!


Colok, I could not have put it any better. If this had been a one off maybe we could give this militia masquerading as the Ugandan army the benefit of doubt.

But the pattern of abuse by these armed thugs suggest that it is a systemic issue not individual failure.

The violence is in their nature and no amount of gimmicky football matches will stop these thugs from behaving any different. Having these football matches is like putting lipstick on a gorilla.
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+3 #3 Zaitun 2021-05-05 16:29
You maimed people and now that the opposition has gone to ICC, you would wish to solve the problem out of court rooms! NO WAY!

You guys have over the years taken Ugandans for playing gagets and could be killed as if they were wild animals feeding on your crops. You have to show to Internal Community that you are still brave in killing people.

You deserve to be locked up in prisons for life and far away from your victims given how you have killed, maimed innocent civilians.

Why should you get frightened at this hour? That state attorney Brian Musota who asked to be allowed to settle the matter out of court saying there is a reconciliation process between the two parties should not take us for idiots. Let me suppose that, wherever he is coming from, those he is defending have never caused graveyards.

If he wants to know, since Museveni took over power, he has killed millions of Ugandans. He must pay for what he has done.
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+3 #4 kabayekka 2021-05-05 16:53
So then what was the initial intention of battering journalists by these liberators of the people of Uganda.

Were they the great enemies of the state of Uganda that needed to be fought, first class?

Is this military African government determined indefinitely to continue using brutal force in its business of governing this country at the taxpayers' expense?
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+3 #5 kasede 2021-05-05 22:24
Quoting A K Mukasa:
[quote name="colok"]This is another case of just sweeping serious issues under the rug. Mbu "reconcilliation" . when will we as Ugandans understand that we must liberate ourselves from these thugs, forge proper institutions and save ourselves from these gangsters. ...


My Dears, they are exploring to be granted "a BLANKET IMMUNITY" for all the deaths and injuries they have commited before the ICC picks up their trail.

If the Courts give them that, I foresee more Civilians loosing their civil nature and taking the guns into their own hands too - {NB: a decilvilized civilian = a military}.
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0 #6 Lakwena 2021-05-06 08:40
Quoting Zaitun:
You maimed people and now that the opposition has gone to ICC, you would wish to solve the problem out of court rooms! NO WAY!

... Why should you get frightened at this hour? ... Let me suppose that, wherever he is coming from, those he is defending have never caused graveyards.

If he wants to know, since Museveni took over power, he has killed millions of Ugandans. He must pay for what he has done.


Zaitun, where have you been?

It is unfortunate that the Journalist/Media fraternity got ensnared by the deceptive coolness of Gen David Muhoozi, who e.g. presided over the goofy Football between the UPDF and Journalist.

Emmanuel Kant observed that: “… the coolness of a villain makes him not only far more dangerous, but also more directly abominable in our eye than he would have seemed without it ..."

E.g. look at and listen to David Bahati and his incessant borrowing.
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