THE trial of Brig. Micheal Ondoga, failed to get underway after former AMISOM force commander, Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti, failed to show up at court
By Pascal Kwesiga
THE trial of the ex-commander of the Ugandan troop contingent in Somalia, Brig. Micheal Ondoga, failed to get underway on Thursday after the former African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) force commander, Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti, failed to show up at court.
The state had summoned Gutti to the General Court Martial to testify in a case in which Ondoga is accused of having committed a number of service offences between 2012 and 2013 when he commanded the Ugandan military contingent in Mogadishu for the second time since Uganda deployed peace keepers in the Horn of African nation in 2007 under the auspices of AU.
The AMISOM force is comprised of peace keepers from Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, Burundi and Sierra Leone. Gutti took over command of the AMISOM military component from Maj. Gen. Fred Mugisha in 2012.
He was replaced by, Lt. Gen. Silas Ntigurirwa, from Burundi National Defense Forces in 2013.
The state prosecutor, Maj. Fred Kangwamu told court chaired by, Maj. Gen. Levy Karuhanga, that Gutti was unable to respond to the first witnesses summons because he had urgent assignments in Karamoja. He asked court to allow him issue fresh witness summons to Gutti and Lt. Col. Moses Mwesigwa, the state’s last witnesses in the case.
Prosecution accuses Ondoga of failure to brief and for providing 1,000 troops instead of the required 1,500 for an operation from Afogoye to Baidoa in October 2012, resulting into loss of lives and military assets.
He is also accused of having failed to issue formal operation orders to the commander battle group ten, Lt. Col. Edson Muhanguzi, to address complaints about food shortage and command and control his subordinates in 2012 and diversion of 15,000 liters of fuel meant for the Afogoye-Baidoa operation in 2013
His lawyer, Frank Kanduho, asked court to dismiss charges of failure to disconnect an alleged illegal power connection from AMISOM’s Aljazeera training school to civilian premises and a private firm and supplying false information to the commanding officer of Ugandan contingent Special Forces Command about the location of Al-Shabaab at Janale and Sharambot in 2013 against Ondoga and the contingent’s military information officer, Lt. Col. Sam Kirya because state has failed to prove the charges.
Kanduho asked the court to give the state the last chance to produce the remaining witnesses in court or it closes its case. He asked the prosecutors to appreciate the suffering of the suspects in the cells as the state strives to mobilize more witnesses against them.
“Gen. Gutti is not on the list if eight witnesses the state gave us earlier. The state has exhausted its witnesses and it’s just beating about the bush,” he argued.
Kangwamu asked court not to give them the last chance to present their witnesses because they have so far sought adjournments after witnesses failed to show up only twice in the course of Ondoga’s trial.
“Let us stop using sentimental words. We are going to summon Gen. Gutti and Lt. Col. Moses Mwesigwa again and I pray that you give us one last chance,” he added. The case was adjourned to Feb 12.
Ondoga trial: State summons Gen. Gutti