The Uganda case: How Besigye lost to his arch-rival twice

Saturday March 30 2013

By GAAKI KIGAMBO Special Correspondent

In 2006, Dr Kizza Besigye, until recently the president of Uganda’s largest opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), went to the Supreme Court, as he has done in 2001, seeking the nullification of that year’s presidential election.

The election, like the one before it, had been marred by irregularities, including an unverifiable voter’s register, disenfranchisement of voters, voter intimidation and rigging.

The inconsistencies

Dr Besigye and FDC’s top leadership felt that contesting Yoweri Museveni’s electoral victory in court was important to “expose and resolve the inconsistencies.”

“While the Constitution provides for a petition challenging the validity of an election; one that is not conducted according to the law and/or is not free and fair; the Presidential Elections Act requires that the petitioner proves that the illegalities and malpractice had a ‘substantial effect’ on the election results,” Dr Besigye said after the court’s decision.

The 2006 case was also meant to “provide the Supreme Court judges with an opportunity to show that they had reflected on the 2001 presidential election petition that was generally regarded as having to show the FDC’s commitment to a peaceful and lawful political path.”

The bench in 2006 was bigger, with two new judges, George Kanyeihamba and Bert Katureebe. The previous one comprised Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki, Arthur Oder, Wilson Tsekooko, Alfred Karokora and Joseph Mulenga.

After many days of submissions characterised by tension, the court concluded that there had been non-compliance with the provisions of the Constitution, Presidential Elections Act and the Electoral Commission’s Act in the conduct of the presidential election. They further ruled that principle of free and fair elections had been compromised.

Unwarranted involvement

The judges further agreed with the petitioner that there had been unwarranted involvement of the security forces in elections, intimidation, violence, massive disenfranchisement of voters, partisan conduct by electoral officials and lack of voter education.

But, against all this, they threw out the petition on similar reasoning as previously—that the flaws were “not substantial enough” to tilt the balance of the election.