KAMPALA – The public has reacted with consternation to reports that four Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers were awarded Heroes medals for blocking the head of the Commission of Inquiry into land matters Justice Catherine Bamugemereire from visiting a disputed piece of land occupied by the External Security Organization on February 6, 2019.
The land in question measuring 639 acres is a subject of an ownership wrangle between Dr. Muhammad Kasasa, Buganda’s Prince, David Wassajja Kintu and Maurice Kagimu Kiwanuka, the son of Uganda’s former Chief Justice, Benedicto Kiwanuka and is located in Mutungo, Kampala. However, part of it is occupied by the External Security Organisation (ESO).
Justice Bamugemereire was blocked from visiting the land.
And on Monday, government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo paraded the soldiers before the media, saying the President was pleased by the professional code of conduct exhibited by the officers while handling the situation.
“Because of the meticulous way these officers conducted themselves, the President decided to confer on them meritorious awards,they prevented unauthorized persons from accessing a restricted national security facility. They also refused to be disarmed by people who were not their commanders,” said Opondo.
The incident occurred on February 6, 2019, when Justice Bamugemereire led her team to inspect a disputed piece of land in Mutungo Nyamiyaga Villa in Nakawa Division in Kampala.
The Commission had been investigating the dispute to establish the exact owner of the land.
As the team approached ESO headquarters, a soldier identified as Corporal Julius Katuriba Number RA 095301 yelled at the Commission security, which was advancing towards the checkpoint. Justice Bamugemereire angrily followed the officers while asking Katuriba why he was yelling at them.
Katuriba, who was together with three other soldiers demanded that the Commission team stops to allow him to consult his superiors whether or not to let them in. The Commissioners obliged as one of the guards dashed into the ESO offices to consult his superiors.
He, however, didn’t return for almost twenty minutes prompting Justice Bamugemereire to inquire what was going on. The Commission security walked towards Katuriba to inquire what was happening.
He instead backed at the Police officers and ordered them to step back in vain. Katuriba drew out his gun and cocked it, something that offended Justice Bamugemereire. As a result, the Commission security surrounded Katuriba, quickly disarmed him and removed his magazine as his colleagues tried to pull him backwards.
Bamugemereire, who sounded furious, cautioned the Corporal against his conduct, saying they will task the Chief of Defense Forces (CDF) and ESO to explain why their officer reacted in such a manner.