By David Lumu
KAMPALA - Stung by what he calls a deliberate delay of justice by the General Court Martial, Col. Shaban Bantariza says he has lost hope and therefore willing to "die in jail."
"I could die in jail if they so wish," he furiously said at the steps of the court martial shortly after Brigadier Moses Diba Ssentongo, the chairman of the court, adjourned the case until May 20.
Bantariza, who was irked by the absence of state witnesses, is facing three counts of fraud, tampering with documents and attempted fraud.
He said: “I have seen it all and I am ready for anything. When I went to the bush [1981-86 Luwero struggle] I didn't expect to come back alive. Many people died there, including the brother of my wife."
On Friday, the prosecution team led by Captain Fredrick Kangwamu told the Makindye-based military court that the witness he had summoned could not be traced and that he had switched off his phone.
He did not mention the witness’s name though.
"I informed the witness to come to court. But we have lost contact. We cannot trace him right now. His station is at Kimaka Senior Command Staff College Jinja. We told the authorities there to release him, but we have since lost contact. His phones are off,” he said.
Col. Shaban Bantariza sits in the dock at the army court on February 19, 2014
Bantariza takes time to read a New Vision newspaper before his case on July 23, 2013. PHOTO/Kennedy Oryema
Here, he chats with Lt.Col. John Kaye at their meeting at Makindye Court Martial for their cases on March 11, 2014. PHOTO/Peter Busomoke
To locate the missing witness, Kangwamu asked for a two-week adjournment, something that Bantariza's lawyer Frank Kanduho protested.
"We are opposed to the adjournment. The State is changing goal posts in order to keep the accused in court forever," he charged.
Before Kangwamu could respond, Ssentongo also faulted him: "You should have brought many witnesses today."
On the defensive, Kangwamu responded that it is “not our intention to keep Col. Bantariza in the dock forever. We have many cases to handle and it has become nasty for us to mobilize witnesses".
Bantariza is out on bail.
He was arrested on Monday July 1, 2013 from his home in Bweyogerere, Wakiso district.
Prosecution alleges that on February 3, 2011 at Akamba Uganda Ltd, Plot 12 Old Port Bell Road in Kampala district, Bantariza, the then-director of National Leadership Institute Kyankwanzi (NALI), received a tractor with a registration number UAN 652Z and its accessories donated to NALI by the ministry of finance. He also diverted 500 litres of fuel.
However, he claims that he purchased the said tractor at sh67m and put it to official use.
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