Uganda: Mbabazi Fronts 60 Lawyers for Petition

By Anthony Wesaka

Kampala - The high profile legal battle between president-elect Yoweri Museveni and former ally John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who is challenging his victory, starts today at the country's highest court, the Supreme Court, in the leafy Kololo suburb.

Court convenes today morning for a pre-conference hearing where administrative disputes are settled.

An administrative law judge has the power to hold the conferences for the settlement or simplification of issues for an expeditious disposal of the matter before court.

The pre-hearing conference usually happens before the actual hearing of the case.

During today's pre-hearing conference, lawyers representing all the parties involved, including Mr Mbabazi, the former prime minister (petitioner), Mr Museveni, (first respondent), Electoral Commission (second respondent), and the Attorney General (third respondent), will sit to sort out agreeable issues in the petition with the contentious one left for court.

In a March 2 notice issued by the registrar of the court, Mr Tom Chemutai invited all concerned parties to attend the pre-hearing conference without fail.

"The honourable justices of the Supreme Court have set [Monday, March 7, 2016] as the pre-hearing date for the petition referred to above," reads the notice in part.

Daily Monitor understands that all the nine justices of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Bart Katureebe are expected to preside over the pre-hearing conference. The practice has been that it presided over by one judge.

The legal showdown that has attracted more than 100 lawyers follows an election petition No. 1 of 2016, filed at the Supreme Court Registry on Tuesday last week by Mr Mbabazi challenging the election of Mr Museveni in the February 18 presidential election.

The petition seeks to annul the election of Mr Museveni, who has been in power for 30 years on grounds that the Electoral Commission failed to comply with gazetted laws.

The petition cites outright vote rigging, bribery claims, including the distribution of hand hoes to the people of West Nile by Mr Museveni's handlers and dishing out Shs250,000 to voters in the villages across the country to refrain from voting Mr Mbabazi or any other candidate.

He also cites Mr Museveni's unwillingness to hand over power, if he lost, quoting a statement in which the president said he was not ready to hand over power to emishega (wolves) and that whoever would vote for them would be 'mad'.

The Electoral Commission declared Mr Museveni as winner of the February 18, elections polling 60.7 per cent of the total votes.

FDC's Kizza Besigye polled 35 per cent followed by Mr Mbabazi, who polled 1.39 per cent.

Article 104 of the Constitution indicates that a presidential election petition is conducted and concluded within 30 days from March 1, which means that six days have already been consumed.

"The Supreme Court shall inquire into and determine the petition expeditiously and shall declare its findings not later than thirty days from the date the petition is filed," the article reads in part.

Last week Mr Chemutai indicated, if need be, the justices will sit even on weekends in a bid to beat the 30-day deadline.

Mr Mbabazi also cites late delivery of voting materials by the Electoral Commission to a number of polling stations as having disfranchised a number of people from voting.

Source: All Africa