By Pascal Kwesiga
COURT MARTIAL, Kampala - A UPDF officer has said his former boss delayed to carry out periodic servicing of army tanks deployed in Mogadishu deliberately, putting the lives of crew members at risk.
Major Samuel Tumwebaze said Lt. Col. David Matua should be punished for having deliberately refused to service the tanks.
Tumwebaze took over from Matua as Ugandan troop contingent tank component commanding officer, when the former was recalled from the mission area to face trial in Kampala last November.
“Even if someone is your boss, some of these things, should be pointed out so that they can change,” he told the General Court Martial presided over by Brig. Moses Ssentongo, in Makindye.
“I blame him for having deliberately delayed to service the tanks and he should be punished if court finds him guilty.”
Matua is facing trial for having failed to exercise command and control over his subordinates to carry out periodic servicing of five main battle tanks in June, July and August last year.
He is also accused of having ordered Capt. Eriya Kiberu out of an armoured vehicle during an operation, exposing him to attacks from the enemy.
Tumwebaze, who served as the operations and training officer for the tank component before Matua was recalled, said they were being supplied with lubricants every three months to service the 35 tanks, but the battle vehicles were not serviced.
“I wonder why the tanks were not being serviced and why there were no lubricants in store yet they used to be supplied in plenty,” he said.
He held the position of the tank component commander from last November to February 2014 when he handed over to a new commander.
Uganda is among African countries that have troops under auspices of the African Union in Somalia to enforce peace in the country that did not have a functional government for twenty years.
A federal government of Somalia backed by UN and AU was established in 2012, following the end of the interim mandate of the Transitional Federal Government. But the beleaguered government still faces threats from the al-Shabaab that is linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist organization.
Several UPDF officers have been recalled from the UN funded mission to face trial over service offences.
The prosecution team of Captains Gerald Bamwitirebye, Fred Kangwamu and Lt. Ambrose Baguma kept on interjecting to protect the witness from “harsh” questions from defence lawyer Capt. Nasser Drago during the Wednesday hearing.
Under cross-examination by Capt. Drago, the witness said Matua failed in his work when five tanks were not serviced for over three months in 2013.
“We were supposed to service tanks every three months. Some of the tanks heated up and went up in flames due to lack of servicing,” said Tumwebaze.
Asked if he (Tumwebaze) should be held responsible for the tanks he had not serviced by the time he was asked to hand over to another commander, the army major said: “By the time I left plans were underway to service the tanks and this work was done”.
The hearing was adjourned until May 5.