Can you highlight the issues in the continued detention of Brig Ondoga?My name is Lucie Ondoga, wife of Brig Ondoga and today is the first time I speak about Brig Ondoga’s incarceration and unfair treatment and persecution by the UPDF. I am appealing to President Museveni for children’s school fees. I have with me 18 children and orphans that Brig Ondoga has been taking care of.
I am appealing to the President as Commander-in-Chief of Uganda’s armed forces, as President, as a father of children, as a grandfather of children, as a father of the nation, that I would like him to have mercy on us on Ondoga and his family. The children and myself have equally become prisoners we are prisoners at home. Food is difficult to come by and now school fees have been blocked. (Centenary Bank, Freedom City branch has aised that Ondoga’s account was frozen)
I have watched Brig Ondoga undergo all this from September 13 to-date. I have watched him being suspended over allegations of having mismanaged logistics (in Somalia), I have watched him arrested in Kololo and taken to Makindye military police detention facility, I have watched him produced at the General Court Martial (GCM), I have seen him face three cases with 14 counts of capital nature, with penalties of death, with penalties of life imprisonment.
I highly regard the President for all the things he has brought to this country the development, peace security and stability. I am eternally grateful to the President for his personal mentorship of Brig Ondoga from the time he was a junior officer.
To the best of my knowledge as Ondoga’s wife, Ondoga is a poor officer. He earns his salary of a UPDF Brigadier, which is a little above Shs1 million per month. When he was in Amisom, he got his salary and allowances of Amisom which were reasonable but not much and he used this to support these children, he used it to build for these orphans huts, he used it to take care of his aged elderly parents. Ondoga didn’t at any one time come to me loaded with dollars
Ondoga has no house to live in, in Kampala. He lives in this flat (in Ntinda) where he met me when I was still single, he lives in my flat with me. He has no savings except the few they have also blocked in Wazelendo (UPDF cooperative).
I have attended all Brig Ondoga’s court sessions at the GCM. All prosecution witnesses the State produces against Ondoga speak highly of him.
Brig Ondoga is an upright man. For 29 years, he has fought for Uganda he has fought for his Commander-in-Chief. He has fought for Uganda he has defended our country. He has a track record of loyalty to the nation, a track record of loyalty to the Commander-in-Chief.
Personally, I have suffered since Ondoga was arrested, I have suffered a lot of persecution. Ondoga fell ill in detention. He had no medical attention. I started buying gentamicin injectables so that he looks for a nurse inside the detention facility to inject him until the situation got so bad he started rotting from the mouth and through his intestines. He had lost so much blood until he was rushed to Bombo hospital where he underwent surgery.
Even a court order which the GCM had issued for him to be taken to a hospital was defied. But eventually, the Lord helped us and we got Ondoga to the hospital. In Bombo, relatives were not supposed to enter the room until I appealed to the commandant of the Military Police, the commanders in Mbuya and then I was allowed to stay for about 10 days.
In those 10 days, Ondoga underwent emergency surgery. I would like to say: thank you to the Bombo medical team. They treated Ondoga with a lot of compassion, in a professional manner and today, Ondoga is healthy again.
We have tried over nine times to apply for bail, but there is always opposition by the GCM against the sureties of Ondoga – Brigadiers Hussein Ada, David Wakhalo and Yoasi Kiiza. Ondoga has missed so many court sessions, production warrants are issued, everyone is fearing to handle anything concerning Ondoga.
Have you complained formally to the UPDF leadership? I have nobody to complain to because we are like untouchables now the only people who support are people a bit outside this case. It is very difficult to go to anyone for help because I suspect it is the same people who have destroyed Brig Ondoga who are harassing me. So, how can you go to them when they are the ones persecuting Brig Ondoga?
Who has come to your home to harass and intimidate you as you have alleged?Several people have come to my home, they have been sent to me but I am not at liberty to say their names. They were sent to me, to threaten me. They told me that I am doing too much to help Ondoga to gain freedom and (that) I should back off. That was the message.
How has this affected the family’s relationship with the UPDF?I have told you I have a very high regard for the President for what he has done for Uganda and specifically Katakwi District where I come from. I would also like to emphasise that I also have a very high regard for the military because they have defended our country, established peace, security and stability.
As we talk, Gen Salim Saleh, when he met me regarding the same challenge — I had gone to him to try to plead for my husband’s freedom — he hired me as an expert to support him to work on the veterans’ crisis. As you are aware, the veterans, I think, demand government’s attention in terms of their benefits and development support.
I am an international expert on peace and security. I am a conflict specialist who always moves from country to country I have worked in the Horn of Africa, Central Africa, South Africa, in West Africa on governance and stabilisation programmes. Having that background, Gen Saleh has tasked me but amidst the terrible situation of Brig Ondoga’s persecution, his incarceration and now the blocking of his small money from the account, it’s very difficult for me to achieve these tasks that I have been given.
I have a lot respect for the institution of the UPDF but I am very disappointed by the way they have persecuted me, family, and husband and am very hurt. But that doesn’t take away my respect for them.
I am appealing to the President, I know he has a heart of a father, a heart of a parent, a heart of a professional soldier and he can resolve this issue and grant Ondoga freedom because he is innocent. He has never stolen anything of Amisom, he has served the Commander-in-Chief, his country loyally. I am appealing to the President to release him.
You said that you have been in touch with Gen Salim Saleh, who is also the President’s brother, have you brought up this issue of having audience with the President?I have a lot of respect for Gen Salim Saleh. I left it in his hands. I have just left him respectfully to see how to resolve it.
What was your reaction when the bank manager told you that the account to the tune of Shs1 billion had been blocked by a court order?We started crying in the bank. Brig Ondoga started crying that ‘my children are also prisoners, my wife is also a prisoner, my old parents are also prisoners what did I do to the institution of the UPDF? What did I do to my comrades? What did I do to my Commander-in-Chief? I have done nothing before God and man, to deserve this.’ That is what he said with tears in his eyes.
Were you aware that the case could result into the freezing of his account?We never expected it because he is a poor man. He does not have so much, so to go and freeze an account that has Shs12 million, really does it make sense?
Does that surprise you?Not anymore, because I have watched my husband suffer from the day the suspension message arrived which alleged that he had stolen. Actually, we were supposed to report in Kenya to take up a new responsibility in September, actually we were supposed to be in Nairobi on September 13. We had rented a house already in White Villas in Nairobi Riverside, we had already procured furniture. We had already got kitchenware, machines for the house. The CD car given to him was ready to travel while for us we would fly. But two days to all this, he was suspended.
Brig Ondoga made all attempts to meet His Excellency the President (to tell him) that ‘am really innocent and that what you have been told is lies, is rumour mongering, misinformation and deliberate malice to damage me.’ He wrote about four letters. The President had given his support all along, had been his day-to-day anchor he used to call him almost on a daily basis while he was fighting the Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu.
The President used to encourage him, and would even speak to him in Luganda asking him, ‘my son what do you need, how can I support you’. Ondoga fought with morale. The troops fought with morale in Mogadishu because they knew they had the support of the President who saw Ondoga as his son and this support made Ondoga to flash the Al-Shaabab out of Mogadishu.
Your feeling is that Ondoga was used?Ondoga was not used for anything. He is a professional soldier and that’s his job. My sense is that Ondoga is a victim of hatred, intrigue and jealousy by people who did not want to appreciate his excellent performance against the Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu. Remember what the Somalis say about him that he is the star of Mogadishu, he is the slayer of Al- Shabaab. It was because of this excellent performance that the President promoted him from Colonel to Brigadier — a one star General — and the message read, ‘Fearless Ondoga has been promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and sent to the United States Army War College in Pennsylvania.’The President was fond of him, and that is what the people who are persecuting Ondoga did not like. They never appreciated the way the President had liked his performance and they decided to destroy him. The destruction of Ondoga was meticulously planned.
Why do you say that?It was well planned, because, first of all it all composed misinformation, blatant lies, which I have observed in court because we have exhibits against some of the things they are saying.There is propaganda, the issue of tribalism. There is a particular tribe that is used to stand as court witnesses against Ondoga. It’s not something that happened overnight it is an intricate web of people who deceive the President and they are within the UPDF, very high up the hierarchy and are very close to the President—that is why he is finding it hard to believe that Ondoga is innocent.
When Ondoga was taken to Bombo, you said you were humiliated, harassedWhat happened in Bombo is that the Military Police deployed four military police officers. When I arrived at the hospital to bring utensils for cooking Ondoga’s food I was trying to organise their leader came inside the room and said, ‘madam, you only have three minutes here to get out.’
I asked him: “Where I am I going? I am the one who is the family member who is going to take care of him while he is here.” He said: “You are supposed to go away. I am giving you only three minutes” I said: “No, I have to call the authority,” and I decided to call the commander and to call Mbuya.
I was supposed to have a meeting with Gen Saleh the next day over veterans and that night I was supposed to prepare for the meeting. So I had my laptop with me, so I was requesting them to let me stay within the room. They refused and demanded that I go away. They confiscated my computer, they took my phones and Ipad.
Thirdly, there is a brother of Ondoga who usually supports me, who came to collect water. The room in which Ondoga was sleeping in was not self-contained. His brother, Bob Njima, would come and fetch four jerrycans of water. The soldiers also told him never to enter that room to see him. He pleaded that “I have come to fetch water in the morning for the General and then I will go away afterwards” but they refused. The whole atmosphere was very bad and I did not know why we’re being harassed.
But on request, that team was changed and sent back to Makindye and another team of four was sent to stay with us, they stayed for 10 days and they were very professional. They supported us, guarded Ondoga and there was no problem.
How long did the first batch stay?They only stayed overnight.
Have you put all this as a formal complaint, for instance to the Chief of Defence Forces?I cannot go to any one. I cannot talk to any of those other Generals, because I have no confidence in any of them. I do not want to put anybody in trouble, I don’t want anybody to suffer like am suffering that is why am appealing to the Commander-in-Chief to free my husband.
You are asking the President to assistSome of these children are in university, some in vocational school, some are in high school, some in Primary. So, if I could get for this term Shs15 million. No, when I calculate all fees for the 18 children I think I need more money. We are not even thinking straight and we may need more money — double that amount, like Shs35 million for all these children.
How is his health now?Brig Ondoga is well. He is eating well, his stomach is well and he can now smile. But generally he is broken, all he says is “I looked towards my Commander-in-Chief and I don’t know what I did to him that he throws me into jail”. But overall he is well.
Any final word?My final word, you know the court said that there is nothing they can do. The case is for the President to decide. My plea to the President is that I am appealing to his heart, to come to the aid of our family by releasing Brig Ondoga because he is innocent and very loyal to President Yoweri Museveni. Thank you.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor