Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Court of Appeal in Kampala has upheld the victory of Jim Muhwezi, as the Rujumbura Constituency member of parliament in Rukungiri district.
The panel of three Court of Appeal Justices comprising Cheborion Barishaki, Stephen Musota, and Christopher Gashirabake delivered the verdict on Tuesday shortly after dismissing an appeal by Muhwezi’s rival Fred Turyamuhweza, citing the lack of sufficient evidence to support the voter bribery allegations.
The Court of Appeal registrar Susan Kanyange, read the verdict on behalf of the justices. Following the January 14th, 2021 elections, the Electoral Commission declared Muhwezi who contested on the National Resistance Movement party ticket as the winner of Rujumbura Constituency poll with 23,990 votes against 20,556 votes garnered by his Forum for Democratic Change-FDC rival, Turyamuhweza.
Dissatisfied with the poll results, Turyamuhweza petitioned the High Court in Kabale citing voter bribery, ballot stuffing, and voter intimidation. He accused Muhwezi of making donations during the campaign period to churches, funerals, several meetings, and other public places to influence the outcomes of the polls.
However, Justice Phillip Odoki dismissed the petition with costs saying that Turyamuhweza had failed to prove the allegations to the satisfaction of the court. Turyamuhweza decided to appeal the decision on the grounds that the Judge had erred in law and fact by failing to evaluate the evidence brought before him and as such ended up arriving at a wrong decision, which resulted in the miscarriage of justice.
He asked court to overturn Muhwezi’s victory and order by-elections in Rujumbura Constituency. However, the Court of Appeal Justices agreed with the lower court decision, saying that Turyamuhweza failed to prove any of the grounds to their satisfaction.
“We have not found evidence to support the Appellant’s allegations of bribery against the first Respondent/Muhwezi. The learned trial Judge was therefore right in finding that the Appellant did not cite any provisions of the law not complied with for the petitioner to obtain a remedy under the Parliamentary Elections Act,” reads the judgment.
Adding that, “since election litigation is a matter of great national importance in which courts should carefully consider the question of awarding costs so as not to unjustifiably deter aggrieved parties from seeking court redress, each party should bear its own costs both in the Court of Appeal and the Lower Court.”
Muhwezi together with his lawyer Mwesigwa Rukutana welcomed the decision after the court verdict, saying that it’s now time to work for the development of the people of Rujumbura.