Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Electoral Commission has asked the High Court in Kampala to dismiss a petition challenging the election of Muhammad Ssegirinya as Kawempe North member of Parliament.
Ssegirinya defeated nine other candidates when he scored 41,197 votes against his closest challenger Sulaiman Kidandala who had 7,512 votes in polls held on January 14, 2021. But this victory was challenged by Kidandala when he alleged that Ssegirinya didn’t have the requisite academic qualifications to contest for a Parliamentary seat.
The law requires all persons contesting for a parliamentary seat to have A-level or it’s equivalent. But according to Kidandala’s petition, the academic documents that Ssegirinya presented to the Electoral Commission were forged, which constitutes a crime under the Parliamentary Elections Act.
Kidandala also alleges that Ssegirinya’s nomination was not accompanied by the names and signatures of a minimum of ten persons who are registered voters in the Kawempe North constituency, as required by the law. Worse still, the petition alleges Ssegirinya’s nomination paper was not signed and countersigned in accordance with the Parliamentary Elections Act.
The petition further says that Ssegirinya was never a registered voter of Kawempe North or anywhere in Uganda. This was because, by the time he officially changed his name from Richard to Muhammad Ssegirinya, the Electoral Commission had already finished updating the voter register. According to documents filed in support of the petition, Ssegirinya gazetted his deed poll to change his name on October 13, 2020, one year after the closure of the update of the voter register.
But by the time this petition was filed, Ssegirinya had been arrested and later remanded to Kitalya prisons for holding an unlawful assembly. Because of being in prison, Kindalala was unable to serve Ssegirinya with the petition prompting him to apply to the court to allow him to serve through the OC of Kitalya prisons.
Now the Electoral Commission which is the second respondent in the case says that Ssegirinya was never served as a respondent in the case, which makes the case bad in law according to an affidavit sworn in by Lugolobi Hamidu, a legal officer working with the Electoral Commission.
“The court ordered that the respondent herein serves the said Ssegirinya Muhammad with notice of presentation of the petition through the officer in charge of the prison who should witness personal service… and the registrar of the court affixes the notice presentation of the petition on the court notice board…That the respondent did not serve the notice of presentation of the petition on the said Ssegirinya Muhammad,” Lugolobi’s affidavit reads in part.
He adds that under the law, the respondent was to apply for substituted service within three days upon failure to serve the applicant, and in the event of failure to serve in time, the respondent was supposed to apply for an extension of time in which to serve the notice of presentation of the petition.
As proof, the affidavit adds that the officer in charge of Kitalya Prisons Mugirya Felix confirmed that indeed Kidandala never served the notice of presentation of the petition on Ssegirinya as directed and ordered by court. However, Kato Fred, one of Kindandala’s lawyers maintains in his own affidavit that when the High Court allowed them to serve Ssegirinya in prison, he indeed served him but he declined to sign the papers.
“…following a telephone call, the said warden requested a prison officer whose uniform was bearing the name of Ahebwa to give the documents to another officer he referred to as deputy officer in charge of prison and requested that I followed the said officer inside the prison offices at Kitalya Mini Max Prison which I did,” Kato’s affidavit reads.
It adds that after over 15 minutes, Ssegirinya Muhammad who he knew very well as a public figure, having been a councillor at Kampala Capital City Authority came to the office of the deputy officer in charge of the Kitalya Prison where Kato was waiting from and that the Deputy Officer in charge of the prison handed over the notice of presentation, the petition and the court order to Ssegirinya.
“He read through the same but upon my request that he signs, on my copy for proof of service, he declined and stated that he could not sign them while in prison and without consulting his lawyers… the said officer told him that the documents were his and that service to him in prison was accompanied by court order but he still declined to sign.”
But another affidavit sworn in by Mugirya Felix, the deputy officer in charge of Kitalya Prisons labels as false claims that Kindandala’s lawyers ever served Ssegirinya and that he witnessed personal service of the notice of presentation of the petition.
“It’s therefore not true that I witnessed the service of the notice of presentation of the petition on Ssegirinya Muhammed and that he refused to sign on them after reading through as alleged or that the documents were left at the prison,” Mugirya’s affidavit reads in part.
Today before the main case can start, Judge Henrietta Wolayo will have to first determine the Electoral Commissions’ application to dismiss Kindandala’s petition. Ssegirinya never submitted defence in the main petition owing to the fact that he maintains that he was never served.