Former Internal Security Organisation (ISO) chief Brigadier Henry Tumukunde was on Thursday afternoon sentenced to a “severe reprimand” by the General Court Martial, bringing the eight-year trial to a dramatic end.
Tumukunde was Thursday morning found guilty of behaving in a manner that is prejudicial to good order and discipline of the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF).
The military court however dismissed the charge of promoting harmful propaganda which carries maximum sentence of death o conviction. Court Martial Chairman, Brigadier Fred Tolit ruled that the prosecution failed to prove who was injured by Tumukunde’s utterances.
Brigadier Tolit adjourned the proceedings to 3pm when he delivered the judgement.
In his judgement, Tolit said the court was lenient and fair so as to give Tumukunde a chance to reform. He said the court put into consideration the tremendous contribution made by Tumukunde in the building of the national army.
During the sentencing, Tumukunde’s supporters in court had not understood what the verdict meant until Tolit explained that it was a caution. At this time they started ululating and congratulating the Brigadier who was still in the dock. The court martial chairperson asked them to respect his court.
After the ruling, Tumukunde moved out of court and left without saying a word, while his lawyer, MacDusman Kabega, said the verdict was fair and representative considering the lengthy trial.Earlier in the day, Kabega had asked court to consider the option of a caution or dismissal from the army but not custodial sentence for his client. The prosecution lawyer, Captain Fred Kangwamu had however pushed for maximum penalty to act as a deterrent to other errant officers.
Some of Tumukunde’s supporters including Makerere University students held placards reading “Long Live Tumukunde”, “The man we Need”, “Strong Man, Long Live”, among others.
Thus ends the case that started in May 2005, when Tumukunde was charged before the General Court Martial with spreading harmful propaganda and acting in conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline of the army. The first count was contrary to section 38(1) and (2) of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) Act 2005, while the second count was contrary to section 66(1),(2) and (5) of the same law.
Promoting harmful propaganda by a person subject to military law carries a maximum sentence of death or life imprisonment, whileconduct prejudicial to good order and discipline of the army carries a sentence of dismissal with disgrace from the army.
The charges for which the former spy chief was prosecuted related to a radio talk show he participated in earlier that month. In the talk show on Radio One, Tumukunde, an in-law of President Yoweri Museveni, allegedly criticised his Commander for his move to amend the 1995 Constitution and remove presidential term limits.
The initial appearance at the General Court Martial, then headed by General Elly Tumwine, started a legal process that would take over eight years and five court chairpersons to resolve. After Tumwine, came Lt General Ivan Koreta, the deputy Chief of Defense Forces, who was in turn replaced by Brigadier Bernard Rwehururu. Rwehururu was also replaced by Major General Charles Angina, who in August last year gave way to Brigadier Fred Tolit, the current chairman.
Tumukunde, a lawyer and qualified advocate, joined the then rebels of the National Resistance Army in 1981. His army number is RO 111. After the rebels captured power in 1986, Tumukunde served in different capacities including 4th Division Commanding officer, Director of Military Intelligence, Director of Personnel and Administration and Director General of Internal Security Organisation (ISO) among others. He also represented the army in Parliament from 1995 to 2005 when he was forced to resign just a day before he was arrested.
He attended a Command and Staff course in Kaduna, Nigeria. When he returned home, he was appointed the army’s Director of Planning.