Kashilingi escapes noose

By Vision Reporter

THE allegation that he was part of a rebel group that was fighting to overthrow the NRM Government almost landed him into a death sentence.

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 have visited the court room.

By Edward Anyoli

THE allegation that he was part of a rebel group that was fighting to overthrow the NRM Government almost landed him into a death sentence.

It was alleged that Lt. Col. Ahamad Kashilingi was plotting against the government between April 1990 and June 1991 in Kasese.

The former deputy director of records in the National Resistance Army (NRA) was also charged with concealment of treason. He allegedly, without any excuse, failed to give information to the Minister of Information, administrative officer or magistrate that the National Army for Liberation of Uganda (NALU) had the intention of overthrowing the Government.

Lt. Barnabas Muhongo, the military intelligence officer in Kasese, said he received information on June 7, 1991 about a planned incursion by NALU into Kasese from Zaire (DR Congo).

Muhongo, during the trial, testified that NALU’s intention was that once in Uganda, they would attack NRA and civilians in Kasese. He further testified that upon receiving information that NALU was planning to attack, he instructed Lt. Frank Sebadduka, who was in charge of operations, to lay an ambush.

He added that an ambush was laid at Buligisa village, Kyondo sub-county in Kasese, about 19 kilometres from the Uganda-Zaire border. The ambush, he added, was manned by one platoon, consisting of 33 soldiers and the operation was commanded by Sebadduka. According to Muhongo, during the battle, the NRA overwhelmed the enemy. They killed two of their rebels, captured one and recovered two guns with 20 bullets.

Muhongo told the judge, Galdino Okello, that he knew the captive who was identified by Sebadduka as Lt. Col. Kashilingi. Muhongo added that when Kashilingi was captured, he was dressed in a green army jacket. Upon being searched, he was found in possession of a wallet which contained several documents, some of which bore his identification, Muhongo added.

Sebadduka also testified that the ambush took place at Buligisa on June 10, 1991. His evidence corroborated with that of Muhongo, that the soldiers killed two rebels during the ambush. Sebadduka further confirmed to court that two guns and army uniforms were recovered.

Other prosecution witnesses who testified included two LC officials of Buligisa village. The officials said Kashilingi was arrested and two rebels killed.

Court also heard from Abdu Saidi, a businessman, that he saw Kashilingi in Zaire’s eastern town of Beni in 1990 in the company of Amon Bazira, who was the chairman of NALU. Saidi added that during one of his many trips as he traded in salt, he saw Kashilingi at Beni Hotel and later saw him in Kinshasa in 1991, before he was arrested.

Captain Juma Kapamba, a former member of NALU who testified for the prosecution, said his assignment in the organisation was to recruit fighters and coordinate the activities of the organisation in Kasese. But his evidence exonerated Kashillingi when he testified that by the time he left Zaire in December, 1990, Kashilingi was not a member of NALU. He was a refugee.

Kashillingi gave unsworn evidence, therefore his testimony could not be challenged by prosecution in a cross-examination. He said he was not at the scene of the battle and he was not captured, as alleged by the prosecution.

He said he was abducted on the night of June 10, 1991 from Beni in Zaire, where he had registered with the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees.

He claimed the Zairean soldiers abducted him from his room and handed him to the NRA soldiers, who took him to Makindye Barracks. In Makindye, Kashilingi narrated, he was held for a year before being charged with treason. He explained to the court how his driving permit was confiscated by the Zairean soldiers.

Amos Ngolobe submitted that all the witnesses who testified were credible, some of whom, he said, knew the accused was a rebel collaborator, citing the evidence of Abdu Saidi.

On Kashilingi’s defence that he was not at the scene, Ngolobe said that was an after-thought and invited court not to believe his testimony. He asked court to instead convict Kashilingi, saying the evidence was overwhelming.

Kashilingi’s lawyer, Blaze Babigumira, argued that his client was not a member of NALU as the prosecution alleged. He said he was abducted from Beni and handed over to NRA by his Zairean captors. on June 11, 1991, Babigumira said, his client was a captive, therefore could not have been at Buligisa, fighting the NRA. He said Kashilingi had been living in Beni as a refugee.

Babigumira noted that the evidence of the prosecution witnesses contained grave contradictions and inconsistencies, adding that it was not the duty of the accused to prove his innocence. He said court should not believe the evidence of Muhongo who testified that exchange of gunfire started at 9:30pm, whereas Sebadduka told court that the gunfire started at 9:30am.

Babigumira added that none of the prosecution witnesses came out to say how they jointly arrested Kashilingi. All claimed to have arrested him; he said such testimonies should not be relied upon.

Justice Okello said the major discrepancies in the prosecution case were grave.

“The discrepancies are in my view grave as they tend to cast doubt on the very occurrence of the operation itself and the capture of the accused as claimed. It is inconceivable that these witnesses, who were present at the operation, should be so divergent on the time of the incident, whether it happened at night or during day.”

Okello added that prosecution did not produce sufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused intended to overthrow the Government.

“I accept the accused’s explanation regarding his abduction. In the view of the contradictions and inconsistencies mentioned, I find the accused not guilty of the offence of treason. He is acquitted thereof as advised by the assessors,” Justice Okello ruled.

He also acquitted Kashilingi of concealment of treason, saying there was no evidence. The judge said no attempt was made by the prosecution to explain the contradiction, adding that it left prosecution without any evidence for the allegations.

Who is Kashilingi?
LT. Col. Ahamad Kashilingi was in 1981 recruited into the NRA by Brig. Matayo Kyaligonza, the same year the guerilla group was formed.

After the 1986 NRA capture of power, Kashilingi, was appointed Director of Records.

The days that followed January 26, 1986 saw Kashilingi in power struggles and bickering. He was based at the army headquarters in Republic House, now Bulange, the Buganda Kingdom seat of power.

When fire broke out in his office, he was named a prime suspect but when the arrest officers went, he duped them, saying he would hand himself in to the army commander.

However, Kashilingi used the opportunity to flee to Zaire, where he was later nabbed. He was brought back to Kampala and detained at Makindye Military Barracks, before being charged with treason and misprision of treason at Mengo Magistrate’s Court. The army officer was in Luzira Maximum Prison from 1991 to 1995. His trial delayed because prosecution claimed its witnesses were out of the country. On February 17, 1995, he was acquitted.

Later, President Museveni appointed Kashilingi the technical advisor to the security minister.

Born in Rubabo, Rukungiri district, Kashilingi joined the army in the late 1960s and received skills in urban warfare under Amin.

In his book, The Agony of Power, Kyaligonza notes that Kashilingi was one of the best fighters he recruited. As Kyaligonza’s deputy, Kashilingi would several times be in charge of the urban hit squad.

In the bush, Kashilingi shortly worked as Museveni’s guard. A story is told how he saved Museveni when he repulsed an attack by Obote’s UNLA soldiers.

In 1982, Kashilingi is said to have led a successful raid on Nakaseke Hospital, acquiring medicine and medical personnel for the NRA officers.

The senior officer now leads a quiet life in Kampala.

If you have comments on this story or you know of any old court story you would like to share with us, send an email to the editor at:

Kashilingi escapes noose