By Pascal Kwesiga
A state witness in the trial of Col. Shaban Bantariza, the former National Leadership Institute (NALI) director has said, army officers who authoured an anonymous letter against the accused are cowards.
Bantariza, the former army spokesperson was put under investigations on President Yoweri Museveni’s orders after officers under him at NALI authoured an anonymous letter, accusing him of mismanaging the institute’s resources, buying the institute’s property in his names and undermining them.
Capt. Robert Kamuntu, who was an instructor at NALI in Kyankanzi between 2010 and 2011 when Bantariza served as the institute’s commandant, said his former boss (Bantariza) was a good man.
“We were feeding very well during his time. I only heard officers complaining that their allowances had been cut,” he added.
Under examination by state prosecutor, Lt. Ambrose Baguma, the witness said he treated allegations that Bantariza had slashed the allowances of staff as mere rumors, adding that the officers who wrote the anonymous letter against Bantariza were cowards.
“That was the cowardly way of communicating otherwise they should have approached him,” Kamuntu added.
The state alleges that Bantariza received a tractor registration number UAN 652Z and its accessories worth sh67m from the ministry of finance as a donation to NALI but he instead altered documents to indicate that he (Bantariza) had bought it for the institute at sh67m.
It’s also alleged that Bantariza on February 03, 2011 conspired with Capt. Edison Muhairwoha to defraud when they prepared payment of sh67m for the tractor.
The state also alleges that Bantariza with intent to defraud diverted 500 liters of fuel meant for NALI in 2011 and that he ordered for the payment for drugs worth over sh9m purportedly purchased by NALI which wasn’t the case in October 2010.
He is also accused of having subjected a UPDF warrant offer, Henry Ssesanga to ill treatment when he hurled insults at him in 2010.
Prosecution also alleges that between 2010 and 2011 Bantariza employed high handed methods of administration and failed to adhere to principals of democracy which resulted into writing of anonymous letters by soldiers.
Bantariza, who denies the charges, says that he has been framed by “mafias” in government. He adds that the “mafias” have been using the state to coerce his juniors to frame him.
Under cross examination by defense lawyer, Capt. Nasser Drago, Kamuntu 46, said he admired Bantariza’s eloquence. “He is a good speaker and teacher. When I was asked to join him as an instructor at NALI I got excited because I wanted to be like him,”
However, he explained that when they complained about allowances, Bantariza asked them if they were Bapakasi (causal labourers) in the army.
“He said there was no space for Bapakasi,” Kamuntu added.
He also explained that they did not know how much they were entitled to in allowances as instructors. “We were just comparing ourselves with instructors in other institutes,” Kamuntu said.
Bantariza’s accusers are cowards, says witness