President Yoweri Museveni has awarded medals to UPDF soldiers (in featured photo) who blocked Justice Catherine Bamugemereire Bamugemereire’s Land Commission from forcefully entering a restricted facility.
Government Spokesperson Ofwono Opondo paraded the soldiers before the media today morning at Uganda Media Centre. They were awarded the medals yesterday during Heroes Day celebrations.
“These soldiers carried out their duties with 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, 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.
He added: “Because of the meticulous way these officers conducted themselves, the President decided to confer on them meritorious awards. They refused to be disarmed by people who are not their commanders.”
He added that the UPDF soldiers were decorated “because of the exceptional, courage and professionalism with which these officers conducted themselves” during a scuffle with the head of the Commission of Inquiry into land matters, Justice Catherine Bamugemereire.
It should be noted that in February this year Counter Terrorism Police officers attached to the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire Land Commission clashed with soldiers attached to the External Security Organisation-ESO headquarters in Mutungo.
The incident climaxed with Land Commission security surrounding a soldier who had cocked his gun, but his colleagues removed the gun from him.
Bamugemereire had led her team to inspect a disputed piece of land in Mutungo Nyamiyaga Villa in Nakawa Division in Kampala.
ESO occupies part of the disputed 639 acres of land. The dispute pits Dr. Muhammad Kasasa, Buganda’s Prince, David Wassajja Kintu and Maurice Kagimu Kiwanuka, the son of Uganda’s former Chief Justice, Benedicto Kiwanuka.
The Commission has been investigating the dispute to establish the exact owner of the land and decided to inspect the disputed land as part of its investigations.
The Commission members included its Chairperson Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, Commissioners Dr. Rose Nakaayi, George Bagonza, Joyce Habasa, Robert Ssebunya, Fredrick Ruhindi and other staff.
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 two other soldiers demanded that the Commission team stops to allow him 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.
The Commission inspected adjacent pieces of the disputed land and left after failing to get access to the ESO headquarters.