OVER time, the court has decided on a number of high-profile cases. In a series, Saturday Vision looks back at some of the attention-grabbing cases that visited the court room.
By Chris Kiwawulo
COLONEL Julius Chihandae was one of the 27 National Resistance Army (NRA) bush war heroes who launched a guerrila war against Milton Oboteâ€™s regime in 1981. They captured power in 1986, but four years later, Chihandae was accused of obstructing the arrest of a colleague and neighbour, Lt. Col. Ahmad Kashillingi.
Chihandae allegedly aided Kashillingi to escape to DR Congo, although the operation to arrest him had been sanctioned by the then Army Commander, Maj. Gen. Mugisha Muntu. Chihandae, then chief of training and recruitment in the NRA, Chihandae was arrested and charged with treason before the General Court Martial that sat at Makindye and Lubiri army barracks. Brig. Ivan Koreta was the court chairman.
Prosecution led by Richard Zziwa alleged that on January 6, 1990, the commander of the Lubiri-based 301 Brigade, Lt. Col. James Kazini, deployed three officers and 40 men to arrest Kashillingi. Kashillingi, who was the NRA director of records, was wanted after his office caught fire under unclear circumstances.
Prosecution contended that the arresting officers and men pitched camp at Kashillingiâ€™s residence on Acacia Avenue in Kololo, Kampala, from 5:00am to 12:00pm. The claimed that Chihandae, 35, obstructed them from arresting Kashillingi, which was an act of treason.
Lt. Edward Kacumitana, who led the operation, told the Court Martial that he besieged Kashillingiâ€™s residence with a force of two other officers (Lt. Paddy Zebikire and 2nd Lt. Kyeyune) and 40 men at dawn on January 6, 1990.
As the first prosecution witness, Kacumitana on October 19, 1990, said Kashillingi was wanted at Lubiri Barracks but he refused to go, arguing that he would not leave his home until he got permission from the Army Commander, Muntu. Kacumitana said Chihandae came and knocked at his neighbourâ€™ house and he (Kashillingi) opened for him to enter.
â€œChihandae later came out with keys of Kashillingiâ€™s vehicle and pistol and drove off. He returned and re-entered Kashillingiâ€™s house. After some time, Chihandae came out of the house with Kashillingi,â€ submitted Kacumitana.
The second prosecution witness Kyeyune told court that Chihandae addressed them from outside Kashillingiâ€™s house. According to Kyeyune, Chihandae told them that since they had not effected the arrest, they had to let Kashillingi go and see the Army Commander.
â€œWe refused, but Chihandae told Kashillingi to board his vehicle, a Mercedes Benz and drive to the Army Commanderâ€™s office at the Uganda Club. We followed him but as soon as the guards at the Army Commanderâ€™s office saw Kashillingiâ€™s car, they opened the gate and slammed it close after he entered,â€ Kyeyune stated. He added that they remained at the gate until they later learnt that Kashillingi had escaped.
On October 16, 1990, Mugisha Muntu told court that Chihandae had gone to his office earlier on January 16, 1990 and informed him about Kashillingiâ€™s planned arrest. Muntu said Chihandae asked him why Kashillingi was to be arrested and he told him: â€œIt was for security reasons.â€
Muntu revealed that Kazini rang him inquiring whether Kashillingi was in his (Muntuâ€™s) office since he was supposed to be under arrest by that time. Muntu testified that he learnt from his ADC (Aide deâ€™ camp) that Kashillingi was not within his office.
Muntu added that he later learnt that Chihandae had interfered with Kashillingiâ€™s arrest when he ordered him (Kashillingi) to drive to Muntuâ€™s office against the wish of the arresting officers. â€œI called the arresting officers led by Lt. Kacumitana and they told me in the pres- ence of Chihandae how he had forced his way into Kashillingiâ€™s residence and interfered with his arrest,â€ Muntu submitted. The Army Commander said when the commanding officers revealed this to him, he ordered the arrest of Chihandae. Lt. Zebikire also testified that Chihandae, had ordered Kashillingi to drive away from his home to Muntuâ€™s office.
â€œHe (Chihandae) said that if we (the arresting officers) wanted to shoot Kashillingi, we were free to do so but he drove to Muntuâ€™s office.â€
According to the prosecutor Zziwa, Chihandaeâ€™s interference led to the escape of Kashillingi and was a breach of security rules concerning prisoners.
â€œChihandae went to Kashillingiâ€™s house four times, during which they held talks. Chihandaeâ€™s presence at the house made it easy for Kashillingi to escape. Even if there had been no indication that the accused facilitated Kashillingiâ€™s escape, his conduct when knowing that Kashillingi was to be arrested, amounted to interference in the process of the law.â€
Zziwa wondered why Chihandae never advised Kashillingi to go to Lubiri since he (Chihandae) had confirmed from the Army Commander that he was supposed to be arrested. He, therefore, prayed to the court to convict Chihandae.
Chihandae was escorted to the courtroom by Col. Pecos Kutesa under tight security. A rather calm and relaxed Chihandae denied the charges. Clad in blue jeans, a grey T-shirt and black army boots, Chihandae was represented by 2nd Lt. John Chris Mukasa.
Chihandae, who took notes during the trial, would regularly consult his lawyer. On November 5, 1990, Chihandae told the court that he was aware of the order from the Army Commander to arrest Kashillingi. Chihandae, however, said he got a call from Kashillingi informing him that his home had been besieged by unknown troops, who did not possess an arrest warrant.
â€œKashillingi asked me to check with Col. Godfrey Bamwesigye whether he was aware of what was happening at his residence,â€ Chihandae stated. Chihandae added that he personally told Kashillingi that he was supposed to be arrested, because he was aware of it. Chihandae denied having given Kashillingi any order to go to the Army Commanderâ€™s office.
He noted that he only instructed Kashillingiâ€™s driver to go with his boss so that he (driver) could take the vehicle back home, after the arrest. Chihandae agreed that he went to Kashillingiâ€™s home with an exposed pistol and that there was a heated argument between Kashillingi and the arresting officers.
â€œWhereas the arresting officers wanted to take Kashillingi to Lubiri Barracks, he insisted on going to the army commanderâ€™s office,â€ Chihandae told court. He observed that he was surprised when he went to Uganda Club and was informed that Kashillingi had escaped.
On November 15, 1990, Chihandaeâ€™s lawyer (Mukasa) argued that prosecution had not adduced incriminating evidence and he prayed to court to acquit his client. â€œThe Army Commander ordered for my clientâ€™s arrest to show that any NRA member regardless of rank could be arrested, and not because he had committed an offence.â€
Earlier on, Mukasa had contended that it was unfortunate that the three arresting officers (Kacumita, Zebikire and Kyeyune) failed in the execution of their duties and unsuccessfully looked for a scapegoat in the name of his client (Chihandae). As to whether Chihandae had interfered with Kashillingiâ€™s arrest, Mukasa argued that his client just got himself implicated by three inter-related and unrelated incidents.
He enumerated the incidents as; a phone call from Kashillingi for help when he was besieged, the fact that Kashillingi and Chihandae were neighbours and that Chihandae naturally had to find out what had happened to his neighbour.
Mukasa said the prosecution evidence was full of discrepancies and contradiction. He submitted that his client had no case to answer and prayed that he should be set free.
On December 11, 1990, the court martial chairman, Koreta, acquitted Chihandae during a five minute session at Lubiri barracks. Koreta said before arriving at the judgment, court considered whether an arrest had been effected on Kashillingi and whether Chihandae had willfully interfered with Kashillingiâ€™s arrest. Koreta added that he also looked at whether there was an escape by Kashillingi and whether prosecution evidence was sufficient to convict him (Chihandae).
â€œCourt found that there was no willful interference by Chihandae with Kashillingiâ€™s arrest because Kashillingiâ€™s arrest had not been effected,â€ Koreta stated.
He observed that since Kashillingi was not arrested, it was wrong to argue that there was an escape, which Chihandae facilitated.
Koreta also concurred with Mukasa that evidence adduced against Chihandae was contradictory and could therefore not result into a conviction.
Chihandaeâ€™s hard times
By Conan Businge
COLONEL Julius Chihandae is one of the founders of the National Resistance Army (NRA). But at the time he should have shared in the victory, he met several humps. He fell out of favour with the army top command.
He is remembered to have provided 16 of the 27 guns that the NRA used to launch its rebellion in 1981. The guns were stolen from Gulu Military Barracks, where he served as a junior officer in the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA).
After the fall of Aminâ€™s regime in April 1979, all the fighting groups were merged to form the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). Chihandae was one of the UNLA soldiers sent to Monduli in Tanzania for officer cadet training. Upon his return, he was deployed in Nakasongola at the rank of second lieutenant.
Chihandae, who hails from Mbarara, began his military career in 1979, when he joined Yoweri Museveniâ€™s FRONASA, one of the groups that fought Idi Aminâ€™s regime.
He was one of the 10 commanding officers, who headed the NRAâ€™s battalions that launched a final assault on Kampala. He is also remembered in the army circles, as one of the 33 men who attacked Kabamba Barracks on February 6, 1981 at the start of NRA bush-war. In the Kabamba attack, he commanded a unit of seven, which was assigned to destroy the communication room. He succeeded in compromising the enemyâ€™s communication lines.
Chihandae also participated in the attack on UNLA soldiers who had camped at Katiti sub-county headquarters in February 1983 in Luweero. He was David Tinyefuzaâ€™s second in command during this operation. This operation almost turned into a disaster when Tinyefuza was severely injured. His colleagues at first thought he had been killed and carried him back to the High Command base.
Salim Saleh had also been injured. With Saleh and Tinyefuza injured, Chihandae became the commander of the Mobile Brigade Force during a period some NRA veterans described as a bad for the guerrillas.
Chihandae was also responsible for preventing the UNLA forces based in Bukomero, from attacking the main rebel base. He deputized the late Maj. Gen. Fred Rwigyema when NRA attacked Kiboga in June 1983.
After take-over, Chihandae was appointed to deputise Brig. Matayo Kyaligonza as Commanding Officer of the 150 Brigade. When the army ranks were introduced in 1988, Chihandae became a colonel together with Pecos Kutesa and Joram Mugume. He has never been promoted since then.
In 1990, he was arrested and detained in a dungeon in Lubiri Barracks for several months. He was accused of having had a hand in the escape of Ahmad Kashilingi, who was facing charges of treason. But, he was later found innocent in the General Court Martial and set free.
When he returned home, he had nothing to hold on to. His home was in tatters and he had no money. He started selling petty produce and charcoal. After some time, he was recalled and sent on foreign duty. He is an attachÃ© at Ugandaâ€™s embassy in Saudi Arabia. His first diplomatic posting was to Cairo in May 1996 as minister councillor.