Brig Gen Mugabe's third term sparks human Rights Concerns

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Brig Gen Mugabe's third term sparks human Rights Concerns
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Human rights activists and legal experts are urging reforms in military courts, emphasizing the need to uphold human rights and proper judicial practices. Their concerns have intensified following President Museveni's decision to extend Brig Gen Robert Freeman Mugabe's tenure as head of the Makindye military court for a third term.

"With the 2026 elections on the horizon, we fear that human rights violations will escalate," said Dr. Livingston Ssewanyana, a prominent human rights advocate. "The continued extension of Brig Gen Mugabe's term raises serious concerns about the politicization of military courts."

Brig Gen Mugabe was first appointed as chair of the Makindye military court in 2022, succeeding Lt Gen Andrew Gutti, who led the court for six years. Mugabe's term has already been extended twice, and President Museveni's latest decision means he will remain in his position until June 2025.

"Since his appointment, Mugabe's tenure has been marred by human rights abuses," said George Musisi, a lawyer representing over 100 NUP supporters facing various charges in the military court. "We've seen mistreatment of detainees, obstruction of justice, and the blocking of journalists from covering certain cases. Despite this, Mugabe has made some efforts to improve."

Musisi pointed out that Mugabe's leadership has been characterized by legal violations and arbitrary practices. "The military court has been heavily politicized, undermining the rule of law," he added.

The activists are now calling on Brig Gen Mugabe and his colleagues to prioritize laws that protect human rights and ensure the court provides justice for all. They also advocate for reforms in military court procedures to ensure they align with proper judicial standards.

"The upcoming elections add to the urgency," Dr. Ssewanyana said. "We are worried that Mugabe's third term might see many opposition figures unfairly tried in this court."

Musisi and Ssewanyana are hopeful that the Supreme Court will soon deliver a final ruling on the issue of trying civilians in military courts, a practice previously ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.

In his new term, Brig Gen Mugabe will work alongside Col Joseph Ecelare Okalebo, Lt Col Sam Ntungura, Lt Col David Baguma, Col John Mark Ssemanda, Maj Gift Agiri Kaganda, Maj Cyprian Sande Magezi, and Capt Abdu Basajjabalaba. The court's leadership will also include Capt Marion Akandinda Kagumire, Maj Richard Turyahabwe, Maj Angella Catherine Laker, Maj Sarah Ssonko Asiimwe, Capt Lucy Nicole Etoru, and Robert Nyarare. Lt Col Raphael Mugisha has had his term extended as head of government prosecutors in this court, with Maj Kamanda Silas Mutungi serving as a lawyer for those without representation, and Col Richard Tukachungurwa as an advisor.

"The military court system needs urgent reform," Musisi emphasized. "We need to ensure that it serves justice and upholds the rule of law, not political interests."

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