Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Justice Musa Ssekaana has dismissed an application seeking to stop Electoral Commission from nominating candidates from the National Unity Platform-NUP party. He delivered the ruling on Tuesday in response to an application filed by Basile Difas and Hassan Twaha who sought to block the nomination of NUP candidates because of the recent changes in the party leadership.
The duo had sued Moses Nkonge Kibalama, the founding leader of the National Unity Reconciliation and Development Party-NURP, NUP party president Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine, David Lewis Rubongoya the secretary-general, party spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi, the Deputy Secretary-General, Aisha Kabanda.
The others are the NUP woman affairs secretary Flavia Kalule Nabagabe, National mobilization secretary Fred Nyanzi Ssentamu and Senior Administrative secretary Paul Ssimbwa Kagombe. In their suit, the applicants asked court to block the nominations of NUP candidates on grounds that they were denied a chance from participating in the party electoral process.
They also argued that the NURP leadership was fraudulently passed on to Kyagulanyi and other leaders in disregard of the right procedures. The applicants argued that they would suffer irreparable damage should court fail to grant their prayers pending the determination of the main suit.
When the matter came up for hearing on Tuesday afternoon before Justice Musa Ssekaana, in an unusual occurrence, the representatives of government, Electoral Commission and NUP sat on the same side and put up a spirited fight against the application.
NUP’s lawyer, Anthony Wameli was the first to respond to the application. He told court that the applicants have no cause for action against his clients because there’s no proof to show that they are registered members of NURP. He also said that there was no proof that the applicants have ever paid membership fees to obtain NURP registration party cards.
Electoral Commission lawyers Eric Sabiiti and Hamidu Lugoolobi who relied on an affidavit by Samuel Kiyingi, the principal election officer at the Commission argued that the commission is mandated with registering and monitoring political party activities. They argued that there is no evidence indicating that the applicants are founding members of NURP.
Sabiiti told court that according to Kiyingi’s affidavit, it wasn’t the first time the NURP leadership was approaching the Electoral Commission to make changes in the party leadership. But the previous attempts failed because of lack of proper documentation.
Court heard that on November 22 2012, the NURP leadership requested to shorten their name to National Unity Platform -NUP party but their request was rejected due to failure to follow the procedures laid down in the party constitution.
Court also heard that the same party made a request to the Commission on February 4, 2020, to change its name to the Independent National Unity Party- TINA but the Electoral Commission didn’t act due to lack of the requisite documents.
According to the affidavit, the same party made another on March 4 2019, which was rejected until September 12, 2019, when the request was approved and published in the National Gazette. The approval followed an extra-ordinary meeting held on March 11, 2019, at which, a resolution to change its name was passed and a notification to change it followed on June 14 2019.
According to EC, after complying with all the requirements, they then issued the party with a certificate of registration. The party then held meetings for its executive committee followed by an extraordinary national delegates conference.
The Commission contends that even the request to change the party symbol was made and rejected several times until the party leaders complied with the laid down procedures, which included filing a resolution from the national delegates conference.
Following the submission, EC asked court to dismiss the application on grounds that the party changes were made within the required procedures under the law. The Attorney General who was represented by Jeffrey Atwine concurred with the submissions by the EC lawyers.
In his ruling, Justice Musa Ssekaana declined to block the party nominations saying it would be improper for his court to issue an interim injunction before listening to the merits and demerits of the case. He said since the electioneering process has already started, issuing an interim injunction could stir confusion since NUP has already participated in some elections.
The EC lawyer Eric Sabiiti welcomed the decision saying it was fair for all those involved.