The football match the army played with journalists on April 17, 2021, is part of the evidence that the UPDF is using in asking court to dismiss a petition against one of its commanders accused of battering journalists.
It has thus asked the High Court in Kampala to allow them to settle the matter through a reconciliation process the case in which a human rights lawyer, Steven Kalali sued the government on behalf of journalists who were battered a few months ago.
Kalali, backed up by four journalists; John Cliff Wamala (NTV), Josephine Namakumbi (NBS TV), Shamim Nabakooza of the now defunct Record TV, Henry Ssekanjako and Timothy Murungi of the New Vision, sued the government and Lt. Col Napoleon Namanya, the director of operations in the Military Police for the actions of a section of the UPDF soldiers who battered journalists as they were going to cover former National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu as he delivered a petition on human rights violations to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on February 17, 2021.
According to the petition before court, on the fateful day, military police officers descended on journalists who were performing their lawful duties and started beating them indiscriminately leaving many of them with injuries.
In an affidavit sworn by the UPDF’s chief of legal services, Brig. Godard Busingye, the army admitted to the violations of the journalists’ rights and as thus, it embarked on a reconciliation process including having had a football match with journalists to mend the relations.
“That I know the UPDF on 15th April 2021 in a bid to mend its relationship with the media held its inaugural sports competition at Phillip Omondi Stadium in Lugogo Kampala as a gesture of its commitment to the agreed objective of improving the working relationship between the defense forces and the media fraternity, ” reads the affidavit in part.
Busingye further averred that their officers went beyond their mandate and without consent from the strategic army leadership, handled some journalists in a manner that is not authorized by the leadership.
He asked court to disallow Kalali’s case such that the reconciliation process that the parties have already commenced to continue.
“That I know whereas the actions of our errant officers are regrettable, they cannot be reversed and I would pray that in light of the commitment of the UPDF to improve, this Honorable Court decides this case with a degree of restraint,” Brig. Busingye stated in his affidavit adding, “In the interest of justice this application be disallowed to encourage the reconciliation process that the parties have already commenced to continue.”
Busingye further stated that the army took action on its errant officers because it couldn’t let such impunity go unpunished because they strongly condemn the beating journalists.
“That I know the errant officers breached the UPDF Act of 2005 and were subsequently arrested, charged convicted and sentenced by the UPDF’s unit disciplinary Committee,” he stated.
On February 18, the UPDF issued a statement indicating that seven of its officers attached to the military police had been charged and sentenced by the unit disciplinary committee.
The seven were identified as Capt Jessy Odwenyi, Cpl Nimusiima Justine, Pte Wasswa Peter, Pte Tsame Imran, Pte Kisakye Victoria, Pte Opiyo Isaac and L/Cpl Zirimenya Kassim.
Capt Odwenyi was sentenced to 90 days while L/Cpl Zirimenya Kassim was sentenced to 60 days of detention in Makindye military barracks.
Cpl Nimusiima was sentenced to severe reprimand and caution while Pte Kisakye and Pte Opiyo were sentenced to 62 and 60 days in the military prison respectively.
Kalali who is the petitioner in the case before the High Court has vowed not to go for the reconciliation process saying that such actions have been rampant and he needs court to make a pronunciation on them.