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EC appeals against decision to throw FDC MP Okia Attan out of parliament

Moses Okia Attan talking to journalists after court ruling. URN photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The decision to throw Forum for Democratic Change MP Moses Okia Attan out of Parliament as the Soroti City East legislator has been challenged by the electoral commission.

On August 31st 2021, Soroti High Court Judge Anne Mugenyi nullified the January 14th 2021 victory of Attan saying that his election was conducted in nonexistent wards of Aloet and Opiyai.

The Lady Justice’s decision was based on a High Court judgement issued on March 10th 2021 that saw Justice Wilson Masalu Musene revert Opiyai and Aloet to Soroti City East division.

The two wards had previously been annexed to Soroti City West division by the same judge in November 2020. But Justice Musene said that he had not been served with documents for the creation of Soroti City from Parliament and declaration of the cabinet on the same, hence his decision.

As such, Mugenyi relied on the same decision noting that there was gross non-compliance with the electoral laws which affected the results in a substantial manner because there was disenfranchisation of 5,233 voters from both Aloet and Opiyai.

Justice Mugenyi thus ordered the Electoral Commission to conduct fresh elections before condemning them together with Attan to pay costs of the case filed by the former MP Herbert Edmund Ariko Okworo. Ariko sought to overturn Attan’s victory on grounds that there was malpractice and disenfranchisation of voters.

However, not happy with Mugenyi’s decision, Attan through his lawyers of Galisonga and Company Advocates and Alliance Advocates appealed on September 7th 2021 and now the Electoral Commission has also put in an appeal to defend his victory.

In its appeal, the Electoral Commission just like Attan also raises six grounds of appeal which are almost related to his.

The Electoral Commission contends that the learned trial Judge erred in law and fact when she held that the reconstitution of the boundaries of Soroti City West constituency by removing the two parishes of Aloet and Opiyai from Soroti City East constituency and placing them in Soroti City West constituency was done illegally by the Commission.

“That the learned trial Judge erred in law and fact when she found that 5,233 registered voters in the two parishes of Aloet and Opiyai were disenfranchised from the right to vote their leaders”, reads the appeal in part.

The Electoral Commission also faults Justice Mugenyi for having relied on the court orders issued by Justice Musene on November 26th 2020 and March 15th 2021 and applied them retrospectively before declaring the election conducted by the commission a nullity and a sham.

“The learned trial Judge erred in law and fact when she found that there was noncompliance with the electoral laws by the Appellant/EC in Soroti City East Constituency and that the result of the election was affected in a substantial manner”, reads the appeal.

Adding that, “the learned trial Judge erred in law and fact, when she unfairly and erroneously condemned the Appellant in costs on account of allegedly illegally conducting the elections in Soroti City East Constituency despite existence of a binding court order.

The Electoral Commission through its external lawyers of Magna and Company Advocates now wants the Court of Appeal to quash the orders of Soroti High Court Judge and substitute the same with an order dismissing Ariko’s petition.

The elections body also wants court to order Ariko to pay costs of the appeal and in the lower Court.  The records show that the former FDC MP Ariko who stood on an Independent Ticket for the 2021 polls but has since joined the ruling National Resistance Movement garnered 7,167 votes against FDC Attan’s 7,606 votes, thereby being defeated with a margin of 439 votes which compelled him to petition the lower Court.

This appeal is among the 12 so far filed in the Court of Appeal arising from the 2021 elections.

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