Former Ugandan presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, alias Bobi Wine, Tuesday suffered an early setback in his petition challenging President Museveni’s victory when the Supreme Court dismissed his application to amend the suit and include new grounds.
After the hearing of submissions by both Wine’s and Museveni’s lawyers, the court adjourned for a few hours to give a ruling on the application.
When court resumed at 4pm, Justice Stella Arach Amoko, who read the unanimous ruling, dismissed Wine’s application on grounds that the issues he intended to add to the petition had already been included in the original one.
The justices advised Wine’s legal team led by Mr Medard Lubega Sseggona to file evidence by affidavits to prove the grounds they raised in the original petition.
Other justices on the panel are Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo, justices Rubby Opio Aweri, Esther Kisaakye, Faith Mwondha, Paul Mugamba, Mike Chibita, Ezekiel Muhanguzi and Night Percy Tuhaise.
The justices said they could not allow Wine’s new ground in the intended amended petition which indicated that Mr Museveni was illegally nominated in the presidential race. Wine had argued that Museveni was illegally nominated for the presidential election since he is the head of state, head of government, commander-in-chief and chairperson of the National Security Council.
Wine’s legal team had pleaded that Articles 102 (2) (b) and 219 of the Constitution bar a person holding such positions from running for president.
The court reasoned that the amendment of the petition was a new issue brought up after the lapse of the mandatory 15 days within which a petitioner can challenge a presidential election from the date results are declared by the Electoral Commission (EC).
The court has set Thursday for the pre-hearing session on the petition where both parties will agree on the issues to be determined by the judges.
Interest of justice
During the hearing earlier in the day, Wines’ lead counsel, Mr Sseggona, asked court to allow the amendment of the petition, saying it would enable the judges effectively probe the alleged issues in interest of justice.
Mr Sseggona argued that immediately after the election, Wine was placed under house arrest and released only five days to the deadline for filing a presidential election petition.
He said the confinement constrained Wine and denied him enough time to gather more evidence.
“If allowed, the respondents (accused parties) will be allowed to respond on all matters in controversy and it would enable the court to adjudicate on all matters effectively and arrive at a just decision,” Mr Sseggona submitted, adding that they were aware of the need for a speedy hearing of the petition required by law but it should be the undertaking of all parties.
He had also asked court to strike out a sworn statement by Museveni’s lawyer, Mr Oscar Kihika, which objected to the application.
Mr Ssegona reasoned that no authority had been attached as proof that he was allowed to swear it on behalf of Mr Museveni.
He reasoned that Mr Kihika, a director of legal affairs at the National Resistance Movement secretariat, did not follow the rules.
He added that Mr Museveni is a not corporation to have another person swear an affidavit in his name.
However, Museveni’s lead lawyer, Mr Ebert Byenkya objected to Mr Sseggona’s assertions, saying they were misconceived because Mr Kihika swore the affidavit in his capacity as a director of NRM, a party which sponsored Mr Museveni in the election.
He asked court to dismiss Wine’s application for amendment of the petition on account that it is time-barred and the law governing presidential election petitions does not provide for amendments.
“There are rules governing determination of presidential election petitions and provide for fixed number of events; that is filing, service in two days, answer in three days and hearing in a very fixed timeframe. The time for hearing is upon us as of tomorrow,” Mr Byenkya submitted.
The EC counsel, Mr Joseph Matsiko, argued that the amendments presented by Wine raised new cause of action which is untenable under the law.
He said: “The amendment introduces new grounds which is not permissible in the Presidential Elections Act. The proposed amendments are fresh grounds brought after 15 days laid out in the law.”
AG William Byaruhanga asked the court to throw out Wine’s application with costs, reasoning that the amendment sought to defeat their defence.
“In consideration of the application, consider the reality that the country is waiting for confirmation of the president. The court should also consider the 45 days within which it must deliver its decision,” said Mr Byaruhanga, adding that the amendments cannot be brought at the expiry of the stipulated time.