In another desperate move to stall his trial in the Anti-Corruption court, Apolo Senkeeto, a key suspect in the Mukono-Katosi road fraud case, has written to the Principal Judge, Yorokamu Bamwine complaining that trial judge Lawrence Gidudu is “incapable of rendering a fair judgement”
In his six-paged letter, Senkeeto believes that Justice Gidudu who heads the Anti-corruption court is too conflicted to handle the case. Senkeeto cites a March, 14, 2017 event when Gidudu though still handling the Mukono-Katosi case, where it’s alleged that Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) lost over Shs 24 billion, the same trial judge presided over the swearing in ceremony of the authority’s new board of directors.
“This represents conflict of interest of the highest order by the judge,“ Senkeeto writes in his letter dated January 10.
“As though that was not bad enough, the judge proceeded to make speech in which he implored Unra not to contract any more 'quack' companies to construct roads in Uganda,” added Senketo.
The above utterances by Justice Gidudu, according to Senkeeto, implies that as early as March 14, 2017, the judge had already formed his opinion that Eutaw the construction company which is at the centre of the case, was a quack company and thus was fraudulent and hence stole the Shs 24 billion.
“The judge made this further clear in his ruling of case to answer wherein he calls me a thief that stole Shs 24.7 billion from Unra yet all evidence on record is to the contrary,” Senkeeto writes.
In the trial which is going into its third year, Abraham Byandala, the former minister for Works and Transport, is charged with abuse of office, disobedience of lawful orders and influence-peddling. His co-accused include Ssebbugga Kimeze, a former acting executive director of Unra; Joe Ssemugooma, Unra’s former acting director for finance and administration, and Marvin Baryaruha, the former Unra legal counsel.
Senkeeto, who introduced himself as the country representative of Eutaw, and Isaac Mugote, a former Housing Finance bank employee, are accused of aiding Eutaw to forge a bid security document that helped the company win the contract.
Also on the charge sheet is Wilberforce Senjaako the former Unra regional accountant. The case will resume on February 18 when Byandala starts to give his much-awaited testimony.
Another accusation, Senkeeto has instituted against the trial judge is that, he has consistently interfered during proceedings through giving evidence from the bench.
Though it is a well known principle of law that “no judge can give his own evidence", Senkeeto says contrary to that principle, Justice Gidudu did just that when in his ruling of case, he stated that the complainant was the Inspector General of Government (IGG) yet the prosecution had stated that the complaint was the Commissioner for Patriotism in the President’s Office.
Senkeeto, furthermore, accuses Justice Gidudu’s court of failing to provide any member of the defence with an accurate record of proceedings in order to enable them to adequately defend themselves.
“The provided record of proceedings is not only highly erroneous, but also heavily edited to that much of what actually transpires in the court is missing from the record.”
The businessman’s last accusation against Justice Gidudu’s is respect to what he terms as "derogatory" and "unprofessional" comments which he says could not have been made by what he calls “an unbiased judge“ on the bench.
Some of the of Justice’s “derogatory comments” Senkeeto says were directed to his former lawyer Peter Mulira. The comments were so demeaning, Senkeeto claims, to the extent that Mulira asked the judge to apologize because he made them in his absence.
By way of example, Senkeeto says that Justice Gidudu’s comments included: ´Counsel [Mulira], problems of accused five [Senkeeto] are higher than the highest mountain of the world and are beyond [your] ability to solve.”
Senkeeto says that other “ridiculous” comments by Justice Gidudu were in respect what he calls Mulira’s “inadvertent” oversight to renew his practicing certificate in time.
“The judge in this matter has acted so unprofessionally and with absolute disregard of the law so much so that my lawyer [Mulira] who happens to be one of the most senior lawyers in the Uganda today was forced to boycott these proceedings as a way of showing his dissatisfaction with the judge,” Senkeeto writes.
“I’m now left with no lawyer and yet I have to continue with this highly biased judge. I believe my only chance of a fair trial is to remove this judge and review all the wrongs that he has so far done.”
In addition to comments about Mulira, Senkeeto claims that the judge has also made comments in relation to the case such as: “This is a case of great public concern and no more adjournments will be granted no matter the reason.” With that, the suspect says such comments have left him wondering of Justice Gidudu cares about the “letter of the law “or his only interest is in “appeasing the public with a quick conviction”
“It is no surprise therefore that in his ruling of case, he called me a thief even if all the evidence on record clearly shows that I did not steal any money” Senkeeto says in the letter which has been copied to Bart Katureebe, the chief justice and the attorney general William Byaruhanga.