Senior army officer, Brig. Henry Tumukunde, will have to continue serving the army following his conviction and sentence.
By Pascal Kwesiga
KAMPALA - Senior army officer, Brig. Henry Tumukunde, will have to continue serving the army following his conviction and sentence over conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline of the defence forces.
Tumukunde was sentenced to severe reprimand provided for under the UPDF Act by the General Court Martial, implying that he has no option but to remain loyal to the institution of the UPDF.
The army officer who was barred from retiring from the army in the past was sentenced on Thursday in Makindye, ending eight years of trial.
When the court chairman, Brig. Fred Tolit, announced that they had dropped the charge of spreading harmful propaganda and convicted him with the offence of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline, some of his family members and sympathisers said: “That is okay, after all the maximum sentence for that is dismissal from the force with disgrace and that is what he has been waiting for.”
After convicting the former director general of Internal Security Organisation (ISO), Tolit and the court members, locked themselves in court for three hours to determine the sentence before he cancelled Tumukunde’s bail and ordered the military police to keep him until a ruling is delivered.
After deliberations, Tolit sentenced Tumukunde to severe reprimand, saying the court had refrained from passing the maximum sentence (dismissal from the forces with disgrace) to offer him an opportunity to reform.
He said court dropped the charge of spreading harmful propaganda against Tumukunde because prosecution failed to prove that Tumukunde’s statements on a local radio station on May 5, 2005 was harmful propaganda and constituted unconstructive criticism.
The chairman also explained that the state failed to draw a clear distinction between harmful propaganda and constructive criticism that is allowed by the UPDF Act.
Tumukunde’s relatives and friends did not rejoice at the sentence at first because they did not understand it until when he started shaking hands and hugging his lawyers. They also moved to the dock to hug Tumukunde who was smiling broadly.
Tolit told New Vision that severe reprimand is a heavier sentence than caution because it implies that a convict has no option but to remain loyal to the defence forces, adding that if such an officer commits similar crimes, they are liable to suffer horrendous consequences.
He said the sentence also implies that Tumukunde has been given a last chance to reform, adding that if he commits more offences, the long arm of the land will land on him.
“You heard the State saying he was a first time offender but if he commits crime again he will be considered as having a past criminal record and having been warned,” Tolit added.
Tolit said the court had taken into consideration Tumukunde’s distinguished service in UPDF, but noted that as an officer with plenty of experience in the military, a lot is expected from him in terms of discipline.
He added that the court also considered the time the trial had taken and the time he spent on remand before he was charged.
Earlier when asked to raise issues that he wanted court to consider in sentencing him, Tumukunde said: “I want to thank you honourable chairman for resolving this matter, I thank you so much.”
Brig. Tumukunde to stay in army