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Court halts hearing of election petition against MP Kato Lubwama

Kato Lubwama’s lawyer Samuel Muyizi at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |   The hearing of an election petition that was filed against Rubaga South Member of Parliament Kato Lubwama by Habib Buwembo has been halted. 

Three judges of the Court of Appeal Justices Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Elizabeth Musoke and Irene Mulyagonja halted the proceedings pending the determination of an appeal by Lubwama on whether a person can be allowed to file an election petition outside the stipulated 60 days. 

Lubwama through his lawyers of Alaka and Company Advocates ran to the court of Appeal in 2017 demanding to be granted permission to file an appeal seeking to block an election petition filed against him four years ago by Buwembo in the High Court. 

In the petition, Buwembo argued that Lubwama had connived with Makerere University to illegally facilitate his admission on mature entry, yet he was below the required age for the scheme. 

Buwembo noted that by 1992, when he was admitted at Makerere for a Diploma in Music and Drama, Lubwama was 22 years, yet the mandatory age was 25 which meant that he was not yet mature to qualify for the scheme.

In the same petition, Buwembo through his lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde faulted the Electoral Commission for nominating Lubwama to contest for a parliamentary seat with such inconsistencies in his academic papers.

However, there was an issue on time within which to file electoral petitions. The petition filed in 2017, was submitted out of time with approval from the then High Court Civil Division Judge Margaret Oumo Oguli. The current law limits such petitions to a period of six months after the elections. 

Not satisfied with Justice Oguli’s decision, Lubwama went to the court of appeal to block the proceedings. He said that the application filed against him in the High Court was in bad faith and malicious, especially because it was sanctioned long after the stipulated period. 

Court further heard that he was to suffer irreparable damages should the proceedings in the lower court fail to be blocked and should he fail to gate permission to appeal.  

He asked the court of appeal to grant him time to file an appeal challenging Oguli’s decision such that it can be clear if anyone can file an election petition outside the stipulated time of 60 days.

However, in their ruling delivered on Thursday by the Acting Court of Appeal Registrar, Mary Babirye, the Justices have concurred with Lubwama’s arguments and halted proceedings in the High Court. They have also granted him 14 days from now to file an appeal challenging Oguli’s decision.

The Justices also ordered the Registrar to ensure that once the appeal by Lubwama is filed, it should be placed before a panel of Justices for expeditious disposal as it is required in election matters.

They also ordered that the hearing of the pending petition in the High Court will be determined by the appeal which Lubwama is going to file as well as costs.

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