By Sania Babirye
A UBC Journalist Deogratius Peter Otai has dragged to the High court civil division the controversial Ugandan Ambassador to Burundi Rt. Major General Matayo Kyaligonza seeking over 400 million shillings as damages for allegedly assaulting him.
The suit follows an alleged incident in which the journalist recorded the retired senior soldier together with his two body guards assaulting a female Traffic officer last month in Seeta.
Otai who is also the station manager of Magic FM which is an affiliate station of the National Broadcaster (UBC) says the Maj.Gen and his bodyguards assaulted him while on duty after he recorded them assaulting traffic officer Esther Namaganda on the 24th of February 2019 at Seeta round-about and shared the absurd incident on different social media networks.
In a petition filed jointly with the Uganda Journalist Association (UJA) through their lawyer of Kiiza and Company advocates against Amb. Kyaligonza , his two guards ; CPI Peter Bushindiki and John Robert Okurut and the Attorney General, Otai wants court to order the defendants to compensate him for the violating his fundamental rights to torture, ill-treatment and abstraction from executing his journalistic duties .
According to documents before court,the petitioner claims that he was shocked to Kyaligonja’s two body guards dresses in full UPDF military attire and the Ambassador slapping and cocking a gun to Namaganda.
And that it was this ill and cold treatment that prompted him and to take out his phone and started video recording the incident.
Otai further claims that when the two guards saw him , they confronted him by demanding to know who he was and he introduced himself as a journalist working with the National Broadcaster(UBC), but instead of letting him continue with his work, the guards surprisingly surrounded him , cocked their guns at him , slapped and kicked him with their Military boots while demanding that he deletes the videos and pictures he had taken .
He says that this was done as the crowd that had gathered watched on and by that time he was already fearing for his life when one of Kyaligonza’s guards drew a sword around his neck forcing him to run for his life.
He explains that in total fear, he run to the nearest Health facility and while there, he shared the assault video that went viral on social media networks .
They now want court to declare that Amb Kyaligonza’s actions including physical and verbal torture and threatening to injure the journalist amounted to an infringement of his rights and freedoms protected by the constitution.
The incident received a massive public criticism with members of Parliament asking President Museveni to recall Kyaligonja from Birundi while Women activists also demanded Maj.Gen.Kyaligonja’s resignation for allegedly assaulting a woman.
However, while reacting to the incident, President Museveni did criticize the incident but only advised the senior retired soldier to take his much energy to the battlefield in Somalia but did not recall him from Burundi.
The victim also revealed to the media how she was allegedly slapped by Kyaligonja and manhandled by his body guards as she tried to stop them from making a U turn in the middle of a road.
The army later came out and stated that it cannot charge Maj.Gen.Kyaligonja since he is not an active soldier following his retirement.
The Uganda Police later took charge of the assault file a d forwarded it to the Director of Public Prosecutions but he also returned back to police on grounds that he needed more witnesses to be able to sanction and forward the file to court so that the retires soldier can be prosecuted for his actions .
The retired UPDF officer is a member of the ruling National Resistance Movement party and also the vice chairperson for Western Region on top of being a member of the High Command of the Ugandan army.
He is also not new to violent behavior and it is alleged that in 1989 he was demoted for allegedly slapping the OCs Jinja road police station ASP Tumusiime.