“Most people believe that judicial decisions are determined purely on the basis of law and justice… I regrettably discovered that some judges can be greatly influenced by factors other than law and justice while considering and determining matters that seriously affect fair play and impartiality in adjudication. These are not always economic, but plenty of them are political and sectarian”.- Prof. George Kanyeihamba.
GULU- UGANDA. Although it was not unexpected, the Uganda Supreme Court’s nine-member panel of judges, Thursday March 31 2016, declared incumbent President Yoweri Museveni of 30 years’ rule, as the duly elected President of Uganda in the February 18 poll.
This will mean Museveni will have ruled this Great Lakes country for 35 years uninterrupted when his term expires in 2021, making him the president to have ruled longest in the region. At 71 years of age, this may mean this will be his last term in office unless he changes the Constitution to allow him continue to rule beyond 75 years of age.
Museveni was declared elected President by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission Dr. Badru Kigundu with 60.9% of the total votes cast in the February 18, 2016 polls. His main challenger, Dr. Kizza Besigye came second with 35% in a contest which attracted eight candidates.
Former Prime Minister and Secretary General of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, Mr. John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who came third with less than 2% of total votes cast, filed a petition against Museveni win in the Supreme Court, who is mandated to deliver their findings within thirty days from the date when the petition was filed.
Article 104 (3) of Uganda Constitution says “the Supreme Court shall “enquire” into and determine the petitions expeditiously and shall declare its findings not later than thirty days from the date the petition is filed”. Clause (5) says after due enquiry under clause (3) of this article, the Supreme Court may:
- Dismiss the petition; (b) declare which candidate was validly elected; or (c) annul the election.
“After due enquiry into the petition, this court finds the first respondent (Museveni) was validly elected and we therefore dismiss the petition but make no order to costs”, read Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, on behalf of his colleagues on the panel, to a fully packed court room.
This is the third time the Supreme Court of Uganda is dismissing election petitions against Museveni wins. Political analysts say these rulings will see to it that few people will turn up to vote in subsequent election. Fewer people have been turning up to vote since the 2001 and 2006 elections which were challenged by runner up, Dr. Kizza Besigye in the Supreme Court.
In all the petitions of 2001, 2006 and now 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that although there were irregularities, they would not substantially affect the final results.
“In determining the 2001 and 2006 election petitions, the degrees of non-compliance are very important. Mathematical impacts of the results are very important. Court must take into the majority as enshrined in article 1 of the Constitution”, said Justice Katureebe.
The Electoral Commission declared Museveni winner in the February 18 2016 poll without results from 1787 out of 28010 polling stations. The Supreme Court today ruled that that anomaly could not have affected the final result substantially.
According to a book titled “The Blessings and Joy of Being who you are” by Prof. George Kanyeihamba, the Supreme Court in Uganda fears to annul Presidential elections because of Article 104, Clause (7) of the 1995 Constitution which declares that “if after a fresh election held under Clause (6) of this Article there is another petition which succeeds, then the presidential election shall be postponed; and upon expiry of the term of the incumbent President, the Speaker shall perform the functions of the office of President until a new President is elected and assumes office”.
“The principles of free and fair elections were compromised by briery, intimidation and violence. The principles of equal suffrage, transparency and secrecy were infringed by multiple voting, vote stuffing and incorrect methods of ascertaining the results” says Kanyeihamba. He wrote a minority judgment in the 2001 election petition filed by loser Dr. Besigye.
In the March 31, 2016 ruling, the Supreme Court noted areas of concern which come out at every election petition. These areas includes incumbency advantage over other presidential candidates, use of State Resources by incumbent, unbalanced State media, bias Electoral Commission among other concerns.
They recommend Structural and Legal Reforms for free and fair elections since they limit the foundation for free and fair elections, declaring; “it is high time for legal reforms in our electoral laws”.
There has so far been no demonstration reported for or against the ruling in the usually volatile Kampala city.