Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Attorney General has petitioned the East African Court of Justice seeking an extension of the time within which to file the government defense in a case where lawyer Male Mabirizi is challenging a decision to declare Yoweri Museveni as the duly elected President of Uganda.
In March 2021, the Supreme Court of Uganda led by Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo declared Museveni as the duly elected President of Uganda after former presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu who was not happy with the election outcome had challenged it on grounds related to electoral malpractices.
However, Kyagulanyi later withdrew his petition alleging frustration by the court. He said the court had declined to grant him extra time to file additional evidence against Museveni, Electoral Commission and the Attorney General whom he had listed as the respondents to the case.
Following the withdraw, the Supreme Court declared Museveni as the duly elected President of Uganda. But Mabirizi petitioned the East African Court of Justice saying that the Supreme Court of Uganda usurped powers not granted to it under the laws of Uganda.
He argued that the Presidential Elections Act doesn’t give powers to the Supreme Court to declare a person duly elected upon withdrawing of the petition but instead, such a declaration can only be made once the petition has been heard to its logical conclusion which was not the case with Kyagulanyi’s election petition.
Mabirizi asked the court to nullify the decision saying that there was no legal backup of the court to validate Museveni’s victory.
However, the Attorney General of Uganda who was listed as the only respondent in the petition had only 45 days from April 13, 2021, when the matter was filed to have the defense for the government of Uganda.
According to the application filed before the East African Court of Justice, the Attorney General wants time to extend such that he can file and serve a response out of time.
The supporting affidavit sworn by the State Attorney Hillary Nathan Ebila indicates that Mabirizi served them the documents when he filed his case and he(Ebila) is part of the team that was tasked by the Attorney General to handle it but the file got misplaced in a department meant for payment of court awards and compensation.
“That I know that on the date when the statement of reference was filed in our registry, the registry staff inadvertently placed the file containing the reference among files that were due for payment of court awards and compensation”, reads the affidavit in part.
It adds that, “the said file was discovered by the Accounts department who referred it back to the registry of civil litigation for appropriate action. According to Ebila, he was then informed by Halima Nakato, the officer in charge of the Civil Litigation registry whose advice he believes to be true that “the file was inadvertently placed among the files due for payment of court awards and compensation and sent to our Finance and Accounts Department.”
“That I know that by the time the file containing the statement of reference was discovered and returned to our civil registry, the time within which to file and serve the response had since elapsed”, adds Ebila’s affidavit.
The evidence before the court further shows that the government of Uganda also imposed a lockdown to mitigate the spread of the second wave of Covid-19 and restricted the movement of both private and public transport which also caused further delay.
Now the Attorney General says that Mabirizi will not suffer any prejudice if the orders sought are granted.
“It is just equitable and fair that the court grants the orders sought in this application in the interest of justice”.
The matter which has been filed and received before the Kampala East African Court of Justice sub registry is yet to be fixed for hearing.