Uganda: Judges Miss Deadline for Mbabazi Judgment

Supreme court justices missed a June 30 deadline to release their detailed individual judgments, 90 days after they dismissed on March 31 the presidential election petition filed by former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, challenging the outcome of the February 18 general election.

When he delivered the summary Judgment on March 31, chief justice Bart Katureebe said the nine justices of the Supreme Court would give their detailed judgments in 90 days. The 90 days passed on June 30 and no full judgments have been released.

Asked to explain the delay, Chief Justice Katureebe speaking through Solomon Muyita, the judiciary's senior communication officer, said on July 11 that one justice, Dr Esther Mayambala Kisaakye, is sick and out of the country.

"Justice Kisaakye, a member of our panel, has been in hospital in USA since June and was recently operated. As soon as she gets better and comes back, the court will set a day for delivering the detailed reasons of our March judgment," said Muyita.

Mbabazi filed his petition on March 1, 2016, urging the Supreme court to nullify the February electoral victory of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni citing a string of irregularities. Mbabazi's petition was unanimously rejected by the Supreme court justices.

In the ruling read by justice Katureebe, the justices said Museveni, the first respondent, was validly elected. The judges also refused to order a vote recount in the 44 districts where Mbabazi alleged massive rigging.

However, one lawyer who did some work on the Mbabazi petition told us on July 11 that from what she knows, the said judgments are not ready.

"The court seems not to have convincing grounds to deliver; that is why they don't care writing the grounds. If Justice Kisaakye is sick, that is bad news but time will tell whether this court has grounds to table," she said.

Muyita, however, insists the detailed judgments are ready. Interviewed for a comment on July 12, Mbabazi's lead petition lawyer Mohmed Mbabazi said the detailed judgment is just a postmortem, which does not help his client.

"We still believe we proved a case in the Supreme court and if there was a chance of appealing that verdict, it would have been overturned but this is the highest court in the land," Mbabazi said.

But FDC President Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu said on July 10 that what the nation needs is an independent audit of the February 18 general election, not the detailed grounds for dismissing the petition because his party still believes its candidate, Kizza Besigye, won that election.

In dismissing the Mbabazi petition, the Supreme court justices said Mbabazi, a third-place finisher in the election, filed affidavits from people who could not be believed by court; for instance, those purporting to be members of the Kifeesi (criminal) group. The former premier was also faulted for not bringing evidence to prove that Museveni bribed voters.

"Most of his evidence was based on hearsay. He had no proof that his supporters were intimidated and that it was the first respondent who sanctioned the intimidations. He had no substantial proof to pin the Electoral Commission on noncompliance with electoral laws," the Supreme court unanimously ruled.

On the issue of non-compliance, court reiterated that there was no evidence to directly link the proven instances of non-compliance to Museveni adding that failure to comply does not automatically lead to annulment of an election.

"There was non-compliance but we are not satisfied it affected the results in a substantial manner," Katureebe said.

Court also ruled that the petitioner didn't adduce evidence to show that he sought and was denied equal media coverage. Court also cited a report by African Center for Media Excellence (ACME) that showed that the New Vision gave fair coverage to all candidates.

Court, however, faulted the EC for leaving out results from 1,777 polling stations on declaration day. The petition was instituted under the Presidential Elections Act (PEA) against Museveni, EC and the Attorney General for noncompliance with the PEA and the constitutional mandate.

Some of the offences Mbabazi accused Museveni of committing included voter bribery, intimidation, making derogatory statements against opponents, use of state resources without proper authorization, meting out violence on supporters of his opponents and war mongering.

He accused EC of failing to properly compile a national voters' register, retiring the previous register illegally, illegally nominating Museveni, giving preferential treatment to Museveni, delayed delivery of polling materials, chasing away of other candidates' polling agents from polling stations, allowing people to vote before and after polling time and allowing the commencement of the polls with pre-ticketed ballot papers.

The EC on February 20 declared Museveni winner with 60.7 percent of votes cast, followed by Kizza Besigye (35.3 percent) and Mbabazi (1.43 percent). The other justices on the panel were Jotham Tumwesigye, Stella Arach-Amoko, Kisaakye, Augustine Nshimye, Eldad Mwangusya, Rubby Opio-Aweri, Faith Mwondha, and Dr Lillian Tebatemwa-Ekirikubinza.

Source: The Observer

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