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Judge refers Maj Rwakanuma bail to army court

By Farooq Kasule

Added 27th July 2020 06:24 PM

High court judge Anthony Oyuk Ojok on Friday referred his bail application on charges of unlawful possession of firearms to the army court saying it is better placed to handle his bail.

Judge refers Maj Rwakanuma bail to army court

(Rtd) Maj Stephen Rwakanuma in the dock at the General Court Martial in Makindye, Kampala on Tuesday June 2, 2020.

High court judge Anthony Oyuk Ojok on Friday referred his bail application on charges of unlawful possession of firearms to the army court saying it is better placed to handle his bail.

COURT

KAMPALA - Retired Maj Steven Rwakanuma's bail fate lies in the hands of the Makindye based General Court-martial (GCM). 

High court judge Anthony Oyuk Ojok on Friday referred his bail application on charges of unlawful possession of firearms to the army court saying it is better placed to handle his bail.  

Rwakanuma is the coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation in Isingiro district and has been on remand at Kitalya prison since June 3. 

"I think this application is wrongly placed before this court. Since he is battling the charges before the army court, it is prudent that it handles his bail and determine whether he will be able to attend trial once released on bail," Ojok ruled. 

Ojok reasoned that although the High Court has unlimited jurisdiction to entertain matters from subordinate courts, it could be an omission for it to entertain his bail yet he still has another bail application pending at the army court.  

"What if this court denies you bail and the army court grants it to you or the latter? This matter is therefore referred to the army court for determination," Ojok noted. 

Rwakanuma, 65, attached to Operation Wealth Creation, is battling three counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, ammunition, and offences in relation to the uniform. 

He is facing the charges under the Firearms Act Cap 299 and Penal Code Act Cap 120, respectively. The offences attract a maximum sentence of 10- and 7-years' imprisonment, upon conviction. 

Prosecution alleges that around May 22, 2020 while at Rwebicuncu, Nyabugando-Nshenyi in Isingiro district, Rwakanuma was found in unlawful possession of a firearm to wit; SAR number 9857, the said firearm being ordinarily a monopoly of the Defence Forces. 

It is purported that during the same place and time, the accused unlawfully possessed 30 rounds of ammunition. 

Prosecution further asserts that the accused was found unlawfully wearing UPDF military uniform of desert camouflage type, therefore subject to military law by virtue of section 119 (1) h (i) and (ii) of the UPDF Act, 2005. 

Rwakanuma, a resident of Rwebicuncu, Nyabugando-Nshenyi in Isingiro district appeared in court via zoom technology.  He appeared weak throughout the proceedings that lasted for about two hours. His relatives blame his woes to intrigue. 

His lawyer David Mushabe argued that charges of unlawful possession of firearms under the Firearms Act Cap 299 are triable by the High Court and not army court and wanted the proceedings before the army court terminated. 

Mushabe argued that the General Court Martial (GCM) has unlimited jurisdiction in matters regarding conduct and discipline of forces but not criminal jurisdiction. 

"Possession of firearms is also provided for in the Penal Code (criminal law) and are normally handled by the magistrates and high court," he submitted. 

Mushabe also argued that GCM and the high court has co-current jurisdiction, submitting that any of the courts can entertain Rwakanuma's bail application. 

Citing the cases of Gen David Sejusa and Lt Ambrose Ogwang, Mushabe said the decision in those cases ought to be bound by court in order to grant Rwakanuma bail. 

He argued that GCM is an extension of the arm of Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) and not better placed to handle criminal matters. 

"My client applied for bail because it was ignored by GCM and it is now nearly two months ever since he was detained in Kitalya Prison," he added. 

Mushabe argued that GCM's impartiality is not equitable to high court. 

However, state prosecutor Lillian Nandawula argued that GCM is capable of handling its cases. 

Court heard that on May 22, 2020, Rwakanuma was arrested and on June 3, arraigned before GCM chaired by Lt. Gen Andrew Gutti at Makindye in Kampala and he denied the charges. 

Upon denying the charges, the state prosecutors Lt. Col. Raphael Mugisha and Capt. Ambrose Baguma informed court that investigations are incomplete. 

Who is Maj. Rwakanuma?  

He was born on October 18, 1959, in Rubare, Ntungamo district. 

Rwakanuma joined Uganda Army in 1976 at the age of 17 in Mbarara at Kakyeka. 

He is one of the survivors of Israel attack at Entebbe airport. 

In 1980, he was arrested by former president Milton Obote for supporting UPM with Francis Mwebesa and Bitarakwate of Rukoni. 

He was consequently sent on remand where he met col Ahmed Kashilingi and both escaped from Luzira Maximum prison.  

He fled to Nairobi as refugees and later returned and joined the Luwero jungles in 1983. 

After the war, Rwakanuma was deployed in National Resistance Army (NRA) finance department with Lt Col Bright Rwamirama and Maj Guma Gumisiriza as a pay clerk. 


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