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Smiling witness irks lawyerPublish Date: Mar 27, 2014
Smiling witness irks lawyer
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Brig. Michael Ondoga is being tried by the General Court Martial.
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By Pascal Kwesiga

“DO you want me to cry”? This is the question a state witness asked a defence lawyer before the General Court Martial after the barrister warned him against smiling.

Lt. Mesach Baguma was testifying against the former Ugandan troop contingent commander in Somalia, Brig. Michael Ondoga and the contingent’s military information officer, Lt. Col. Sam Kirya.

The two officers are facing trial before the military court for allegedly failing to stop illegal power connections from Aljazeera Training School of the African Union to a telecom mast, a welding plant and a civilian residence.

Defence lawyer, Capt. Nasser Drago warned Baguma, the former military information officer at the school, against smiling as he responded to his questions in cross examination saying ‘Stop (smiling) because this is court’.”

But the witnesse continued smiling at every question put to him from the defence team and repeatedly missed questions from the lawyers. 

“I do not know if you have a hearing problem,” Drago wondered.

The state prosecutor, Capt. Fred Kangwamu interjected and asked the witness to address his answers to the court panel instead of the defence lawyer.

When Baguma was asked to confirm that he was suspended from the mission area, he said “I can only confirm issues, I will not confirm none issues,”

Drago asked court to determine issues and none issues for the witness so “we can proceed with what he calls issues,” 

The judge advocate, Maj. Raphael Mugisha ordered the witness to answer the questions and desist from asking the lawyers.

Baguma said he informed Ondoga and Kirya about the illegal power connections from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) generator at Aljazeera training ground but his bosses did not take action last year.

However he acknowledged documents produced by defence lawyers showing that power was legally connected to Hassan Mohammed’s residence, the owner of the land hosting Aljazeera training school, after reaching an agreement between AMISOM officials and him (Mohammed). 

“The telecom mast was also located on Mohammad’s land a few meters from the training school,” he said.

But the welding plant, he explained, was far away from the training ground and it was not clear if it also belonged to Mohammed whom he described as a friend of AMISOM. 

“Each time their machines (wielding plant) were switched on, power would go off at the school,” Baguma added.

Although Odonga and Kirya did not take action to stop the illegal connection, they claim they did not know that power meant for AMISOM was being supplied to private individuals and companies.

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