Controversial RDF officers Col. Tom Byabagamba and Brig.Gen (rtd) Frank Rusagara have returned to court after securing an appeal hearing against long sentences they were served by the Military High Court in 2016.
At the beginning of this week precisely on Tuesday, the officers accompanied by their lawyers embarked on another attempt to convince court to lessen or get them off the hook – it is another back and forth exchange of words before the presiding judge.
Byabagamba a former head of the Presidential guard was sentenced to 21 years in prison after court found him guilty of tarnishing state image, public insurrection, illegal possession of firearms, contempt of coats of guards, and concealing evidence in a criminal case.
Court then also ruled that Col. Byabagamba be stripped of his rank. He is accused jointly with Brig Gen (rtd) Frank Rusagara and Francois Kabayiza that respectively received 20 years and 5 years in Jail.
In submission to court on Thursday, Byabagamba questioned the legality of how Col. Chance Ndagano turned into a witness against him yet at the time of his arrest in 2014 Col. Ndagano was the same judge during his pre-trial and sentenced him to 30days in detention.
“Col. Ndagano was both a judge and witness in one case,” Byabagamba told court and wondered, “how could this be possible?”
In response to utterances that tarnished state image – a count on which he was found guilty in 2016, Byabagamba denied ever doing so arguing that there is no public gathering in which he could have uttered such statements as prosecution claimed.
He said that with the position the government had entrusted him, there is no way he could have turned against it.
“Evidence provided by the 7 witnesses submitted by prosecution was a complete set of lies done with ill motives. The Military court just believed it without considering my side,” Byabagamba told court on Thursday.
Byabagamba also wanted to know why of the seven witnesses only one appeared in court in person. He inquired whether some laws only apply to him and not others.
In response to Byabagamba’s concerns, court asked prosecution to say something on the issues raised by Byabagamba.
Capt. Nzakamwita Faustin for Prosecution told court that what Col. Chance Ndagano did was in accordance with the law and there was no erring in his application because the evidence he presented to the Military High Court is not related to what caused him to send Byabagamba to prison.
However, Byabagamba wants the appeal court to treat Col Ndagano’s evidence as a pack of lies.
After listening to both sides, the presiding judge adjourned the hearing to 16th September.
Legal experts estimate that this case may take long because of this back and forth exchanges. And so far Byabagamba alone has not exhausted his submissions to this appeal court yet Brig.Gen (rtd) Rusagara is also lined up for his own submissions.