On December 18, the seventh prosecution witness, Capt Edward Twebaze, came in for some tough questioning from Brig Michael Ondoga’s defence lawyer.
At the end of the cross-examination, the State witness, who often contradicted himself, was branded an “offensive, terrible and unforgivable liar” by the defence. Ondoga, a former commander of Uganda’s African Union Mission contingent in Somalia, is battling several impropriety- related charges.
Several times, the State prosecutor tried to rescue his witness, a primary five drop out, but to no avail. Siraje Lubwama recorded the proceedings and below is an abridged version.
Kangwamu: My lord, I am Maj Fredrick Kangwamu for the state, assisted by Lt Ambrose Bagenda. The accused is represented by Frank Kanduho.
The case comes up for further hearing and we have the seventh witness ready to take the witness stand. [Witness enters and prefers to testify in Swahili].
Kangwamu: Tell court your particulars.
Twebaze: I am RO Capt Edward Twebaze, a Protestant, 54 years of age.
Kangwamu: Are you currently deployed?
Twebaze: Under Naads in Ndorwa West, Kabaale under 493 brigade.
Kangwamu: Where were you before?
Twebaze: In Somalia, where I was deployed in September 2012.
Kangwamu: Who was your contingent commander?
Twebaze: Brig Ondoga.
Kangwamu: Do you know him.
Twebaze: Yes, he is the one in the dock.
Kangwamu: Who was the UGABAG 10 commander?
Twebaze: Lt Col Muwanguzi.
Kangwamu: What was your appointment in BG [Battle Group] 10?
Twebaze: I was the transport officer.
Kangwamu: Address your mind to the 20th of January 2013 and tell us where you were that day.
Twebaze: I was at Baidogole headquarters with my colleagues planning to capture Bukahabo. I got communication from Maj Bagenda, who was the contingent MTO [Military Transport Officer], telling me that operation fuel was ready for collection. Lt Col Muwanguzi cleared me to collect that fuel. On January 25, 2013, the contingent MTO gave me the fuel voucher of 40,000 litres of diesel. After filling the two tanks of my vehicle, we waited for a convoy to escort us to Lego, where we were supposed to take the fuel.
In the meantime, Maj Bagenda told me to remove 5,000 litres and pour it into a small tank vehicle. He told me he was instructed by Brig Ondoga. There remained a balance of 35,000 litres which I took with the convoy and reached Lego at 4pm. I reported to Ondoga and he said fine.
Here, Ondoga instructed me to take back 15,000 litres to Baidogole and hand it to Maj Matua. I asked him: “the fuel is meant for operation, why are we taking some back?” He asked me whether I was trying to side-step orders. I briefed Muwanguzi that I was being instructed to take back 15,000 litres to Baidogole and I didn’t know the reason. He told me: “If the boss has said so, let the fuel go back. I also informed WOII Kashunguzu of SIB about this. This was February 2013.
Kangwamu: My lord, we are through with examination-in chief.
Kanduho: At one time you served as MTO Kibaale, yes or no?
Twebaze: Yes in 2007 and I left in 2009.
Kanduho: You were suspended from Kabamba Military Academy for squandering fuel, yes or no?
Twebaze: No, I was not and have never been suspended.
Kanduho: What were the vouchers you got from Baidogole for?
Twebaze: Processing fuel.
Kanduho: Do you have those vouchers in court?
Twebaze: I took them to the intelligence department.
Kanduho: You have no evidence here in court that you received 40,000 litres of fuel, confirm or deny your story?
Twebaze: I have no evidence right here.
Kanduho: Are you in position to confirm that Ondoga gave you instructions to remove 5,000 litres at Baidogole or it is just a statement you got from Bagenda’s lips?
Twebaze: I was not there when Ondoga was instructing Bagenda.
Kanduho: At the time you received the 40,000 litres, I want to suppose that the fuel had become the property of BG 10.
Kanduho: Am I right to say that regulations bind you to ensure that whoever gets fuel from you signs for it?
Twebaze: He could sign.
Kanduho: Bagenda took 5,000 litres, where did he sign?
Twebaze: He did not sign.
Twebaze: There was no where to sign.
Kanduho: Now at Lego when Ondoga instructed you to take back 15,000 litres, am I right to say that the aance to Buhakaba had been halted?
Kanduho: Apart from Baidogole being BG 10 headquarters, it was also a logistic supply point, yes or no?
Twebaze: No, supplies for a week were supplied on arrival, because there was no store.
Kanduho: Can you tell the registration number of your fuel vehicle tank?
Twebaze: It was numberless but from UN.
Kanduho: Did you record a statement with SIB in this investigation?
Twebaze: Yes, I was called and recorded a prime statement and later an additional one. I don’t remember the months.
Kanduho: If given the two statements, are you able to identify them?
Twebaze: Yes. [He is given his statements].
Kanduho: Confirm they are your statements.
Twebaze: They are mine, with 12 pages.
Kanduho: When are they dated?
Twebaze: August 12, 2013 and the second one October 10, 2013 [statements tendered in].
Kanduho: When you reached Lego, how soon was an order issued to take back the 15,000?
Twebaze: It was a question of minutes.
Kanduho: Who took the fuel back?
Twebaze: Maj Matua.
Kanduho: I want you to read those words on page 10 of your statement beginning with the word ‘friend’ because you signed it in English.
Kangwamu: It is unfair to tell the witness to read the statement in English because he opted to use Swahili.
Kanduho: Let the witness do it as he wishes, he should read Lingala, Kikuyu or Swahili.
Twebaze: I have eyes problem.
Kanduho: Let me read it for you: “I wish to state that by the time fuel was taken back to Baidogole, there were no operations in Buhakaba.” About 17 minutes earlier you said that operations were not halted. Should court take you for a liar? What should it believe?
Twebaze: Take what I have told court.
Kanduho: So, you were telling investigators lies? On page two of your prime statement, you stated that you were with Bagenda when Ondoga instructed you to remove 5,000 litres. In your statement on oath today, you stated that you were not with him, which is which? Let me put it to you that you are an unforgivable, offensive liar and I’m disappointed.
Twebaze: I have not told lies.
Kanduho: Court will deliver its verdict on that? What is your level of education?
Twebaze: I stopped in P5 in 1977.
Kanduho: Who appointed you MTO?
Twebaze: The Chief Logistical Officer here in Uganda.
Kanduho: Does your role as MTO involve verifying vouchers, ensuring fuel in and out is recorded?
Kanduho: Was it your responsibility to make sheets for fuel?
Kanduho: Do you remember preparing accountability for February and May 2013?
Twebaze: Yes and I signed on accountability returns.
Kanduho: Was that accountability prepared by you?
Kanduho: Are you the one who made the entries in terms of litres of fuel, who took it?
Twebaze: It was the fuel attendant who used to supply.
Kanduho: You said you prepared it now you are throwing it to the fuel attendant.
Twebaze: He prepares and brings it (entries) to me for approval after fuel has been taken.
Kanduho: So what are you approving after fuel is already taken?
Kangwamu: For fair justice, bear with the witness, you have known his education level.
Kanduho: So in a day, how many times would somebody take fuel?
Twebaze: At times, three, but it also depends on the number of times he goes for operation.
Kanduho: On that accountability sheet are you the one who wrote your name as E. Twebaze and put an ID number?
Kanduho: When you wrote your name, did you do it as a verifying officer?
Twebaze: Yes, after fuel was taken.
Kanduho: You said in that document that “this is a true copy of the original,” you wrote your name and signed. I am requesting that you be given three blank papers and on each write those words, your name and sign.
Kangwamu: I think this is meant to embarrass the witness. He has told you he has bad eyes. It can be addressed in your submission that the witness failed to write.
Kanduho: We should not try to be legalistic. [to witness] The witness said he prepared the document.
Judge aocate (JA): When you made these documents, did you have glasses on?
Twebaze: No, I even don’t have them now. I can’t write.
JA: How do you access your salary from the bank?
Twebaze: It is my madam who picks it. Because of diabetes, I cannot see even with spectacles.
Karuhanga: Write your name and sign. (Witness does it).
Kanduho: The fuel you gave out on February 24, 25 and 26 and March 1, 2013, where were you keeping it for seven days when you said you had no store?
Twebaze: In the fuel tank.
Kanduho: Between you and Sgt B. Kiwanuka who recorded your statement, who is a celebrated liar fit to go to hell.
Twebaze: I am going to heaven because Kiwanuka was asking me in Swahili and he chose to write the statement in English which I don’t understand.
Kanduho: In your 35 years experience in the army, if a brigadier gives you orders, do you complain to a lieutenant colonel?
Twebaze: After Ondoga’s orders, I only went to Muhanguzi to brief him on the developments [court adjourns for 10 minutes].
Kanduho: I will give you a medal for being a terrible liar. When did you join UPDF?
Twebaze: In 1979.
Kanduho: Have you done any course in transport management?
Twebaze: Yes I did it for one year together with another course in maintenance management in 2010 at Jinja Staff College.
Kanduho: Am I right to say Baidogole was an operation area.
Twebaze: Yes, part of the operation area between February and March 2013.
Kanduho: Was the water good or bad at Alivisca?
Twebaze: There were two types of water: salt water meant for washing and processed water and each one chose to drink water of hisher choice.
Kanduho: No further questions.
Kangwamu: When you were taking that statement, did you take oath like you did today?
Kangwamu: In the statement, you were asked how you were ordered to take back the fuel at Baidogole, what language was the investigator using?
Kangwamu: From what they have read to you from your statement, did you indicate anywhere that you were present when Ondoga was giving orders on the 5,000 litres?
Kangwamu: Where were you supposed to take the fuel?
Twebaze: BG 10 at Bahakaba through Lego.
Kanduho: When Bagenda was communicating to you Ondoga’s orders, did you have any reason to believe he was telling you a lie?
Twebaze: I did not have any.
Kangwamu: Why did Bagenda not sign for the 5,000 litres?
Twebaze: Because he was in the control of the contingent commander [Ondoga].
Kangwamu: You also acknowledged that Matua did not sign for the 15,000 litres, why did he not sign?
Twebaze: Ondoga is the one who instructed me to give Matua fuel.
Kangwamu: At what stage does a recipient sign?
Twebaze: After receiving fuel because we were in an operation area.
Kangwamu: You were faulted that you do not have evidence in court that you received 40,000 litres, where is the evidence to this effect?
Twebaze: I attached this supply request form dated January 25, 2013 to my statement.
Kangwamu: We are through with re- examination.
Kanduho: (seeks to cross examine witness over the supply request form arguing that it introduced a new matter and is granted) Are you the one who requested for fuel?
Kanduho: This document shows the number of the fuel tank vehicle as SD50 – 10549 Renault. So, you were earlier telling lies?
Twebaze: That is the UN label registration number, I used to take the fuel. I did not lie.
Kanduho: Can you read the date on the stamp on that document?
Twebaze: It is January 25, 2013.
Kanduho: Under the stamp, what words do you see?
Twebaze: JSOC agency that approved fuel supply?
Kanduho: Didn’t you state in your statement at SIB that you got 40,000 litres from Base camp in Baidogole?
Twebaze: Yes that is what is contained there.
Kanduho: Read the supply document, and tell court who received the fuel?
Twebaze: P. Kyunku.
Kanduho: You still maintain that 40,000 litres were given to you and you delivered it?
Kanduho: You earlier on said everybody who got fuel would always be given a voucher from the contingent commander.
Kanduho: Where is the evidence that you received the said voucher form since the request was made by the receiving person and not you?
Twebaze: I received the document.
Kanduho: That is the end.
Kangwamu: We pray that you discharge the witness and adjourn the case for further hearing. I propose January 7, 2015.
Kanduho: I will be available but I have a small prayer to make. I pray that the witness is transferred from the military facility where he is currently kept and since he is an officer with a high rank he can be taken to the officer’s mess at Kololo to change life.
The reason is that Lt Col Kansiime was with in the same jail with the witness and he testified against him and we don’t know who may come next. This is a family court meant to try family members. I humbly pray that you take the accused from prison within prison.
JA: By the time Kansiime testified he was still staying with the accused but he now left. But as court thinks about it, think about special circumstances for your prayer.
Kanduho: But an accused can request to be remanded elsewhere and court has the right to put him in another holding facility.
Karuhanga: Case adjourned to January 7.
Ondoga: Happy Christmas to you all [salutes and leaves]
Source : The Observer