KAMPALA – Government has defended the decision to award medals to five army officers who blocked Justice Catherine Bamugemeirire from approaching the controversial land in Mutungo hill in February this year saying the individuals need to be rewarded for exhibiting exemplary conduct instead of being mocked in public.
Addressing journalists at Uganda Media Center Monday, June 10, government Spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo said that the officers were acknowledged for the manner in which they handled their work that limited the shade of blood and thus rightly performed their job of stopping those who were not intended to be at that place.
It should be recalled that the officers attached to External Security organization (ESO) blocked Justice Bamugemereire and her team from the Land Commission that is investigating land wrangles across the country from accessing land on Block 237 Plot 67, 48, 29 and 59 in Zone IV in Mutungo, a Kampala suburb early this year.
The medals were dished out to the officers by President Yoweri Museveni to commemorate Heroes Day celebrations in Wakiso districts that saw the controversial officers including; Sgt. Julius Katuliba (commander of the team), Sgt.David Kyabona, Sgt. Tumusiime Venalenda, Kanyihira Robert and Igga Siraf.
The decision by NRM Government to award medals to the officers was criticized by some members in the public who argued that the Government was trying to undermine justice and impact of land wrangles in the country.
However, Ofwono defended the rowdy way the said officers handled officials from the land commission saying they didn’t demean Bamugemeiriere Commission but their own mistake was not receiving training on how to handle issues and said it is the Commission that should be blamed for trying to access land well knowing they don’t have authority to stand down the security they didn’t command.
“These soldiers carried out their duties with the highest level of professionalism, they didn’t allow Justice Bamugemereire to access the facility, they didn’t accept to be disarmed and there were no shots fired. Based on how they conducted their duties, the President awarded them with medals. This was done to silence whatever was being said in public that ESO didn’t respect the Commission” said Ofwono.
The disputed land was sold to ESO by Dr. Muhammad Kasasa but he told the commission that he had never received the money.
Dr Kasasa was supposed to receive UGX8bn from government but the commission stopped the payment after the same land was claimed by a family of William Serwadda, saying they acquired the land from Sir Edward Mutesa II to set up a hotel.