Uganda: election challenge opens in Supreme Court

Amama Mbabazi and President Yoweri Museveni.

Amama Mbabazi and President Yoweri Museveni.

The Supreme Court in Uganda has began the process of hearing the petition challenging President Yoweri Museveni’s victory in the February 18 controversial poll.

The proceeding however, dwelt on whether or not the court should allow the petitioner, Amama Mbabazi to file an amendment to his original petition adding more demands.

After several hours of haggling between lawyers for the petitioners, representatives of the three respondents in the claim; President Yoweri Museveni, the Electoral Commission and the Attorney General, and the Supreme Court judges, the court accepted the amended petition and set next Monday March 14 as the first day to hear the case.

“Justice of the case requires that you allow this application. Even rule 6 (20), the key words are for purpose of determining the controversy. We pray that you allow this amended petition that is already on record of court so that we can proceed,” One of Mbabazi’s lawyers Mohammed Mbabazi pleaded with the court to accept their amended claim.

The Electoral Commissioner lawyer Enos Tumusime requested the court to dismiss the amendment on grounds it’s not an amendment but a new petition.

“the petition they are seeking to amend is not a simple amendment but a new petition with new prayers.” he told the justices.

Later Monday, the court ruled to accept the petition, “We have considered the Constitution that requires us to inquire into this petition and have it determined within 30 days. The inquiry is important and we shall allow the filing in of the amended petition on grounds that the amended petition be served onto respondent parties before close of business today,”Justice Eldad Mwangusya said on behalf of the court.

In the new amended petition, Mr. Mbabazi demands the court to audit results of 112 districts and 28,010 polling stations across the country. The amendment also is calling for the a recount of results in more that 45 districts.

Mr. Mbabazi, the former prime minister of Uganda and a long time Museveni ally lost to his former colleague in last month’s highly contested poll. Mbabazi garner a mere 1.39% of the vote whereas Mr. Museveni was declared (by the Electoral Commission) winner with 60.7%

During Monday’s session, Mbabazi’s legal team informed court that they facing challenges gathering evidence as many of their witnesses have been illegally detained by the security forces.

“My Lords, we are facing serious challenges with evidence gathering. 13 of our witnesses were arrested at the residence of the petitioner this morning and are now in Kireka (police station,” Mr Asuman Basalirwa, one of Mbabazi’s legal representatives said naming Robert Ngobi, Betty Kifuko, Samuel Kiyaga, Umar Kitimbo and Ronald Waiswa as some of their potential witnesses in police custody.

Upon learning of the development, the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe ordered the country’s Attorney General to investigate the issue and ensure safety of Mbabazi’s witnesses.

“Though I cannot establish the truthfulness of these allegations, court expresses concern that if anybody is being arrested without a just cause, the AG should advise them (security agencies),”  Chief Justice Katureebe said.

After losing the February 18 election, Mbabazi filed suit in the Supreme Court last week contesting President Museveni victory. The leading opposition figure in Uganda, Dr. Col (rtd) Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) failed to beat the 10-day deadline to challenge the results in court as he is under arrest. Besigye, the 4 time presidential candidate got 35% of the vote.