When the news was read on Friday evening that former Old Kampala Division Police Commander Joram Mwesigye had been convicted and sentenced to a fine of million Shillings and for assaulting journalist Andrew Lwanga, traders in one of the shops in down town Kiyembe, where I was seated, reacted with anger.
“What can five million do to a person whose back was broken? Asked one man who sells apparels used in making school uniform. “The least they would have given him is fifty million. And that is the least, because he must have spent so much more than that. “That is not justice,” said another woman who sells Gomasi in the shared room.
Buganda Road Court which was presided by Grade One Magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu, found the former Division Police Commander (DPC) of Old Kampala, Joram Mwesigye guilty of assaulting a WBS Television journalist, Andrew Lwanga.
Mwesigye was fined (Sentenced) to one million shillings (USD 282), and Five million shillings (USD 1,409) compensation to the assaulted journalist which he has to pay in 30 days. If Mwesigye fails to make the payments within 30 days, he will serve one year in prison.
“After two years of waiting for justice and you get one million? We women are unfortunate with our children. [perhaps referring to Lwanga]” added another woman aged about 60.
A number of journalists and members of the Public who filled the courtroom also reacted with anger at the fact that the judge had dismissed the case of malicious damage to property despite a video that the judge accepted she viewed and included scenes where Mwesigye was captured hitting Lwanga’s camera.
Court rejected Lwanga’s demands for compensation against the Malicious damage to property, on grounds that there was no proof of ownership of the said items, like receipts by the prosecution led by Patricia Chingitho.
The reactions of the ordinary businessmen and women as well as journalists have captured the sense of dissatisfaction that was felt among sections of Uganda’s population with the court’s decision.
Lwanga, who is still unable to stand on his two feet because of a 2015 well documented assault by Mwesigye, also complained after the Court’s decision that the ruling would only encourage rather than discourage other Police officers to commit similar or even worse crimes.
Lwanga added: “Am dissatisfied with the outcome of the court. This judgement is a mockery of justice, and I will appeal against the sentence and the acquittal on the two counts. Joram has walked away scot-free with such a light fine, yet for me, am still suffering and undergoing treatment, I have no job, I lost my property in the process and remain deformed.” said Lwanga.
Lwanga was assaulted on January 12, 2015 at Florina bar and Guest house on Namirembe road in Kampala, as he and other journalists were covering unemployed youths who were taking a petition to IGP Kale Kayihura, and carrying placards reading, “we want jobs.”
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda described the judgement as an insult to journalists.
“We were surprised when court acquitted Joram of malicious damage to property yet he is seen in the video -which the Magistrate said she watched many times, hitting the camera with a stick. The sentence handed to Joram is also not deterrent to perpetrators from assaulting journalists on duty.
We believe the judgement is an insult to journalists and renders them more susceptible to attack by such errant security officers. This judgement should be appealed against.” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala