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Rwakafuuzi commissions legal team for Rwenzori suspects

By Joan Akello

Senior counsel for constitutionalism and human rights, Laudislaus Kiiza Rwakafuuzi has sent three lawyers to represent the suspects form Kasese and Bundibugyo during the life of the General Court Martial.

56 suspects will take the plea today in the Kasese Court Martial sitting while 114 suspects will appear before it in Bundibugyo; they have already taken the plea of not guilty, on Aug 7 and Aug. 11.

Dubbed the Rwenzori Justice Mission, Rwakafuzi   told the team that they must strategize on how best to serve justice to the suspects who are already unfairly being tried by the Court Martial that is supposed to discipline its officers when they are community offences but not civilians who are supposed to be handled by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the police.

“The military do not have the expertise to investigate,” Rwakafuuzi said, “this is not an issue of national security, so without the DPP and police, investigations will be poorly handled and we shall never know the truth.”

Also present were the area legislators; Bwambale Bihande Yokasi Bukonzo East; Winfred Kiiza Kasese Woman MP and; William Nzoghu, the Busongora County North .They are among the people and associations that requested Legal Brain Trust (LBT) to help the suspects get a fair hearing and hatched the plan to form a defense team.  The Military has a ready defense team for the suspects yet it is the prosecutor.

The mission is a rapid response legal aid scheme and peace initiative convened by LBT for the benefit of the region in Western Uganda where over 180 civilians are presently subjected to the military justice system following clashes in the districts of Kasese and Bundibugyo.

The main objectives of the mission is  to mobilise  young lawyers  and other volunteers to respond ably  and promptly t the situation and also  to support peace  building and conflict resolution  in the region through  delivering legal awareness  and other initiatives that will transform the capacity  of all local actors to deliver lasting peace in the communities.

LBT CEO, Isaac K. Ssemakadde,  the convener and project coordinator said his team will be working with the Uganda Law Society(ULS), Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Legal Aid Service Providers  Network and  other legal and human rights organisations  to ensure that every suspect is  represented by a qualified  lawyer throughout the life of the trial  and also  with cultural leaders, the government, faith based and civil society organisations to  contribute to peace building  and reconciliation by creating  spaces for  the emerging  of suppressed  truths and grievances .

Eron Kiiza, the chief envoy and legal counsel, will be assisted by Arthur Ayorekire of M/S.Baruga Associated Advocates as principal legal researcher and Sunday  Apollo as the principal communication and engagement officer. Kiiza is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda and specialist in Civil Military Relations works with Niwagaba & Mwebesa Advocates and will offer   free legal aid for one month after which LBT will either hire him or other advocates or compensate his firm for the time he will be off

“They are leading lawyers form that region and can interview the suspects using in the local language which makes work easier for the defense team but we are hoping the trial is completed in one month,” Ssemakadde said.

Kiiza told The Independent that his team has interacted with other lawyers representing some of the suspects and have all agreed that all teams shall work together and defend all the suspects.

Bwambale said the government has not arrested the right attackers and has also failed to explain the underlying reasons for the clashes. He is also blaming Gen. Kale Kayihura for fuelling friction by training Bamba and Basongora as crime preventers but with the main objective to fight the Bakonzo, whom he says were also affected by the July mishap.

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