COL. Shaban Bantariza has accused former Chief of Defense Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, of masterminding his arrest and prosecution because of the trust President Museveni has in him
By Pascal Kwesiga
COL. Shaban Bantariza has accused the former Chief of Defense Forces (CDF), Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, of masterminding his arrest and prosecution because of the trust President Yoweri Museveni has in him.
Bantariza told the General Court Martial in Makindye, a Kampala suburb, on Thursday that Museveni’s trust in him and his (Bantariza) disregard of Aronda’s instructions to give a senior army officer 100 cows from the National Leadership Institute (NALI) herd put him on a collision path with the ex-army boss.
Bantariza began his defense against allegations that he drew sh76m from NALI’s coffers to pay for a tractor that was reportedly donated by the Ministry Finance, Planning and Economic Development to the institute.
The court has dismissed charges of ill-treatment, poor governance, fraud and diversion of 500 liters of fuel against Bantariza without asking him to defend himself due to lack of evidence.
Bantariza, who was led in examination by his lawyer, Frank Kanduho, said he was “evicted” from NALI on October 7, 2011 by Brigadiers Phinehas Katirima and Moses Rwakitarate on express orders from Aronda.
“I was on my way to Kabaale where I had been invited to officiate at Independence Day when I received a call from Katirima who told me that Aronda wanted me to handover immediately,” he said.
“I was given between five and ten minutes to handover.”
Bantariza stated that his troubles with Aronda, who is currently minister of internal affairs, began when the office of the president started wiring funds (sh1b each financial year) directly to the institute’s bank accounts and his (Bantariza) meetings with Museveni.
“Isn’t he the commander in chief for all of us? Why should I be punished for meeting and writing to the president?” he asked.
Bantariza, who was NALI’s director between 2009 to 2011, explained that his problems with his immediate boss (Aronda) worsened when he rejected his orders (which were not communicated formally) to give 100 cows from NALI stock to Katirima who was commandant of the Oliver Tambo Leadership School by then.
He stated that he was angered by “a funny” question asked by, Lt. Col. Barigye Bahoko (then a major), a member of the board of inquiry set up by Aronda to investigate him after his dismissal.
Barigye, according to Bantariza, asked “How can the CDF pick his pen, deploy you to NALI and after reaching there you change loyalty?”
Bantariza said Barigye was complaining about his loyalty to Museveni than Aronda.
“I understand they wanted cows to start a farm at Oliver Tambo School but I refused because there was no formal communication from Gen. Aronda or the president’s office under which NALI falls,” he added.
The accused acknowledged a requisition for sh67m which was raised by NALI’s accounts clerk, Amir Galimaaso, to purchase the tractor for the institute and a payment voucher.
He stated that the money was drawn from NALI’s coffers by Capt. Edson Muheirwoha, the then institute’s finance officer and that he (Muheirwoha) paid for the tractor at Akamba Uganda Ltd in February 2011.
“I was only informed that a tractor registration number UAN 652N had been delivered to NALI because I was in Kampala,” Bantariza said before asking, “But why is it difficult to prove a donation yet donations between government institutions are done in the full glare of the media?”
Asked by Kanduho why Muheirwoha said he is the one (Bantariza) who paid for the tractor, Bantariza said, “I would be shocked if he had not said that. He was imprisoned for one year and five days and he was released on condition that he pins me,”
He said he had to seek “a travel permit” from Aronda to meet Muheirwoha at military police offices in Makindye. He tendered in court the permit dated September 5, 2012.
“This is to authorize you to travel to Makindye police and talk to Capt. Edson Muheirwoho…..Find time to see me,” the document read.
The state didn’t call any witness from the finance ministry and Akamba to prove the allegation that the tractor was a donation. Yunusu Kakande, the undersecretary (finance) in the office of the President said they didn’t have any complaints regarding accountability against Bantariza.
Museveni had appointed Bantariza as deputy executive director of the government media center before his trial began in 2013. The state will cross examine Bantariza on February 24.
Aronda is fighting me over Museveni - Bantariza