Why Gen. Museveni Renewed Brig Robert Mugabe’s Contract

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President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has officially renewed the contract of Brigadier Freeman Robert Mugabe as Chairperson of the General Court Martial.

Brigadier Mugabe’s contract, which expired on June 9th, was renewed last Thursday, according to a letter dated June 6th, 2024.

The renewal comes after a period of inactivity at the Court Martial, as the court could not operate without the renewed contracts. Brigadier Mugabe, who first assumed the role in 2022, succeeded Lieutenant General Andrew Gutti, who served six consecutive terms.

The new term includes the renewal of contracts for 19 other court members, encompassing panel members, defence counsel, prosecutors, and reserve forces. 

The members are Col Joseph Ecelare Okalebo, Lt Col Sam Ntungura Ntungura, Lt Col David Baguma, Col John Mark Ssemanda, Maj Cyprian Sande Magezi, Oyar Boris Mark, Pte Kanyoma Habiba and Capt Abdu Basajabaraba.

The reserve members are Capt Marion Akandinda Kagumire, Maj Richard Turyahabwe, Maj Angella Catherine Laker, Maj Sarah Ssonko Asiimwe, Maj Gift Agiri Kaganda, Capt Lucy Nicole Etoru, and Warrant Officer One Robert Nyarare.

Additionally, Maj Kamanda Silas Mutungi has been appointed as Defense Counsel, Col Richard Tukachungurwa as Judge Advocate, and Lt Col Raphael Mugisha as the lead Prosecutor.

President Museveni also appointed Maj Frank Kijuru Asiimwe as the Secretary/Registrar of the Court Martial, succeeding Maj John Bizimana, who retired recently after being the longest-serving Registrar at the Makindye-based court.

Many of the reappointed members have previously served at the Court Martial, either in the recently expired term or in earlier terms, demonstrating continuity in the court’s composition. The renewal of these appointments occurs amid ongoing legal debates regarding the jurisdiction of the General Court Martial over civilians.

In 2022, the Constitutional Court ruled that all files of civilians in military courts should be transferred to the High Court, declaring the trial of civilians in court martial illegal.

However, under Section 119(1) of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) Act, certain conditions allow for civilians to be tried by military courts, particularly in cases involving the unlawful possession of firearms or aiding and abetting military offences.

Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka has since appealed this Constitutional Court decision to the Supreme Court, which is yet to deliver its verdict. The renewal of Brigadier Mugabe’s term ensures that the General Court Martial continues its mandate of trying military offences, amidst ongoing legal and constitutional scrutiny regarding its jurisdiction over civilian cases.

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