Uganda Elections: supreme court upholds Museveni’s victory

Chief Justice Bart Katureebe reading the verdict affirming President Yoweri Museveni's victory.

Uganda’s Chief Justice Bart Katureebe reading the verdict affirming President Yoweri Museveni’s victory.

The Supreme Court of Uganda has dismissed a petition filed by former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi seeking to nullify the re-election of the incumbent President Yoweri Museveni in February’s controversial polls, which extended his 30 year stay in power in the East African state

A Coram of nine justices of the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that in some instances there was none compliance of the Electoral Commission in conducting the elections but they were not satisfied that it substantially affected the outcome of the results.

Mbabazi, who was one of the candidates in the Presidential elections that were held on 18th, February, petitioned the Supreme Court under the Constitution, Presidential Elections Act and the Electoral Commission Act, challenging the results of the election and sought a declaration that President Yoweri Museveni was not validly elected and therefore the election be declared null and void.

But Court found that Mbabazi’s legal team had no evidence to prove that President Yoweri Museveni bribed voters and had no substantial proof to pin the Electoral Commission on noncompliance with the electoral laws adding that most of the evidence was based on hearsay.

Court however agreed with the petitioner that there were some cases of non-compliance such as interferences by Resident District Commissioners, arrests of Opposition candidates and unequal coverage to presidential candidates by public media, especially the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation.

“Having made due inquiry into the petition, we find that the first respondent (Museveni) was validly elected president in accordance with article 104 of the constitution and section 59 of the Presidential Elections Act. Accordingly, this petition is dismissed with no order as to costs,’’ Chief Justice Bart Katureebe said as he read the Court ruling.

However the court expressed concern that the executive and parliament have failed to address issues noted in the two previous court petitions including the incumbent’s use of his position to the disadvantage of other candidates, use of state resources, unequal use of state media and late enactment of relevant legislation.

Court also described as “gross incompetence and inefficiency” on the side of the Electoral Commission for failing to deliver voting materials in time to nearby places such as Kampala and Wakiso districts.

The Justices, however, said the petitioner did not provide evidence in court to prove most of his allegations such as disenfranchisement of voters, under-age voting, ballot stuffing and multiple voting and irregular tallying, transmission and announcement of the results.

The petitioner Amama Mbabazi told reporters in the capital Kampala shortly after the Court ruling that losing in court is part of the game but their supporters should take heart because the struggle continues.

Mbabazi, who came a distant third in the elections, said the panel of judges had no alternative but to rule against him because his team was unable to adduce sufficient evidence to support claims that the election was fraudulent.

“Well the truth of the matter is that we have the evidence but we were unable to present it and court had no option because our offices were raided and over 300 affidavits were stolen from the chambers of Muwema and Co. Advocates as well as Mbabazi and Co. Advocates and in addition to this witnesses were intimidated by state machinery, others arrested and some killed,” Mbabazi explained.

He added that the incidents before the hearing didn’t warrant them enough time to gather new evidence but court was also unable to use its discretion to inquire into the matter for purposes of delivering justice.

Mbabazi called for a continued perusing of the idea of having constitutional and political reforms so that petitioners are accorded enough time to produce evidence and the court to inquire properly.

Meanwhile, the US government has called upon all Ugandans to respect the Court’s decision, and express their views in a peaceful manner.

In a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Kampala regarding the ruling of Uganda’s Supreme Court on the February 18 elections, the US said that it notes the Court has acknowledged some instances of non-compliance by Election Commission officials and interference by security authorities.

The US urged the government to address the grievances voiced by its own people in the wake of the elections and take the necessary steps to enact reforms that will guarantee political inclusivity, transparency, accountability and free and fair elections, adding that Uganda’s future prosperity and democratic progress will depend on such actions.