By Sania Babirye
The high court in Kampala has finally started hearing a case in which a Congolese national is charged with dragging a Ugandan special hire and later robbing him of his taxi valued at 30 million Ugandan shillings.
The suspect Joseph Ngoie Gunta is charged jointly with a Ugandan Agaba Enoth alias Silagi.
These had been on remand since being arrested on the 20th of july 2016, however, despite their case coming up for mention since last year, Ngoie kept on dragging the case by refusing to be tried until court provided a french interpreter only from Congo despite evidence that he spoke and understood English and Kuganda very well since he was businessman residing in uganda.
The court had provided a Ugandan french interpreter but he objected to him and told court that he will only take plea and allow trial only if court provided a Congolese french interpreter .
His case had been handled by two judges who were left with no choice but to adjourn it to another criminal session until a french interpreter only from Congo was found.
He also asked court to have his family members brought into the country before he could allow to be tried .
The brief facts about the offense is that the two suspects on the 10th day of July 2016 at Garden City Yusuf Lule Road in the Kampala district robbed Niwamanya Jason of his Motor Vehicle Reg.No.UAZ 157A Toyota Corona Premo, silver in colour, valued at 30 million Ugandan shillings and immediately or after the said Robert administered a dangerous drug which is chloroform to the said person .
These had hired Niwamanya to take them to Kawempe before the incident.
They were arrested after the brother of the victim Bahati Alex reported the matter to police after Agaba confessed to police that he knew the said car stolen but he was working for his boss a one Ngoie Gunta Joseph a resident of Lungujja zone 4 Rubaga division.
On the 20th of march this year, Kampala high court judge Vicent Tonny Okwanga also indefinitely halted their trial after the judge ruled that the suspect had played the language game to stop or delay his trial since febuary when him and his co accused were meant to take plea to the charges.
In February , Ngoei and Agaba failed to take plea after Ngoei who claims to be a businessman and a broker refused the judge to read to him the charges on grounds that he did not understand any language apart from French.
The judge labored with him to have court use English or at least the Swahili language since he was from Congo but he insisted told court that he needed a French interpreter through out his trial.
Justice Okwanga politely adjourned the case to allow state find a French Interpreter for him and further remanded him back to Luzira prison.
However, when the case came back in April for plea taking and trial, Ngoie instead objected to a Ugandan French Interpreter who was availed to interpret for him on grounds that he did not understand what the interpreter was saying.
This forced justice Okwanga to ask the French Interpreter what level of Education he had reached in which he explained that he was a qualified French teacher with a first class degree from the Makerere School of Language and that he has done French from both O and A level up to University.
Justice Okwanga wondered how Ngoei managed to live and do businesses in Uganda without knowing English yet majority of Ugandans do not understand or speak French.
The state also informed court that the suspect understands English since he was arrested in Lungujja in Rubaga Division within Kampala district with a Ugandan registered line and he also made a statement at Police in English with no French interpreter.
The judge also observed that the suspect communicates only in English with the two Ugandan government lawyers allocated to him who do not speak or understand French because he didnot have a private lawyer.
This forced the Judge to conclude that Ngoie understood the English language and speaks it fluently but he was playing the language game because he does not want to be tried.
Justice Okwanga also stated that Ngoie is using the pretex of not understanding English to either build up on Material to argue an appeal if he is convicted or to cliam that he was denied justice by unnecessary delay of his trial .
In conclusion Justice Okwanga then ruled that since he cannot try Ngoei in an English language which the suspect claims to not understand well, or use a Ugandan french interpreter that he also claims to not understand, the only option was to rather adjourn the case to the next convenient session that could be next year to give the court deputy Registra ample time to find the suspect a comfortable interpreter.
The judge has also expressed dismay over Ngoei’s tricks that have cost the state financially since all the witnesses were all secured from Kabale and Mukono, and were ready to testify but now, have to be refunded all their transport and other resources they have used to stay in Kampala since Monday this week and then sent back until when court will re-summon them back to testify.
However, after hearing the judge’s arguments , Ngoei who had refused to be tried in English had a change of mind but ot was too late since the Judge had already ruled and sent the two of them back to Luzira prison until the next convenient session .
Justice Vicent Tonny Okwanga expressed dismay over a decision by suspects including Ngoei who prolong their case hearing by demanding language interpretation despite understanding available languages in court.
Justice Okwanga expressed the concern while presiding over a court session of capital offenders who have been on remand for more than two years without trial.
These were mainly charged with aggravated defilement, aggravated robbery and murder among other capital offenses.
However when some of their cases came up for plea taking including that of Ngoei, they requested for language interpreters buy pretending to neither understand English, Luganda and Swahili the common languages spoken in Uganda and ready available in court .
The judge was even forced to inquire from the Luzira prison authorities to tell court on how they communicated with such suspects who claimed to only speak and understand Rutooro, Lugbara, Iteso, Runyankore,and French for those from Congo.
But when the prison authorities revealed to court that the alleged suspects understood English, Luganda and Swahili some suspects later had a change in mind and accepted to take plea.
However this was too late because the judge had already adjourned their cases and ordered state to provide different interpreters from the Makerere school of Language.
Justice Okwanga then wondered how someone who has spent such a long time on remand without trial could waste his chance he has finally gotten to seek justice by choosing to not understand any language available im court.
The court was also amazed by the fact that the said suspects were living in Uganda for along time with some transacting their businesses in Kampala were almost everyone speaks the said common languages.
He remanded them to Luzira prison on grounds that they seemed to be enjoying free food and accommodation in Luzira prison and warned them against complaining of their alleged constitutional rights being violated when they are the same people wasting courts time by asking for unnecessarily personal demands that requires funds and time.