Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Paul Kato Lubwama, the former Rubaga South Member of Parliament breathed his last early Wednesday morning while still entangled in a protracted legal dispute that has dragged on for eight years. Lubwama, known for his successful career as an actor before venturing into politics, is reported to have succumbed to complications related to heart ailments in Kampala.
In the 2016 parliamentary elections, Lubwama emerged victorious as an independent candidate, securing 27,268 votes and defeating seven other contenders, including the incumbent Ken Lukyamuzi, Mayanja Faridah Mpiima, and Siraje Kifampa. However, his victory was soon challenged by Habib Buwembo, a concerned voter.
Buwembo filed a petition in 2017, asserting that Lubwama had gained admission to Makerere University under the mature entry scheme in an illegitimate manner, as he fell short of the required age. According to Buwembo, Lubwama’s enrollment in 1992 for a Diploma in Music and Drama violated the age eligibility criteria of the scheme.
Furthermore, Buwembo, represented by lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde, criticized the Electoral Commission for nominating Lubwama as a parliamentary candidate despite the inconsistencies in his academic records. The petition faced a time constraint, as electoral petitions must be filed within 30 days after the elections.
However, with the approval of High Court Civil Division Judge Margaret Omro Oguli, the petition was submitted beyond the stipulated period. Unsatisfied with Judge Oguli’s decision, Lubwama sought to halt the proceedings by appealing to the Court of Appeal. He argued that the late application filed against him in the High Court was malicious and made in bad faith, as it was lodged long after the specified period.
The Court of Appeal, comprised of Justices Elizabeth Musoke, Geoffrey Kiryabwire, and Irene Mulyagonja, granted Lubwama’s request, temporarily suspending the High Court proceedings. They also directed him to file an appeal challenging Judge Oguli’s decision within 14 days. Additionally, the Court of Appeal ordered that the pending petition in the High Court would be determined by Lubwama’s appeal, emphasizing the need for the expeditious handling of election-related matters. However, in September 2021, Lubwama’s appeal was dismissed on a technicality.
His failure to appear in court, despite claiming to have been served with hearing notices, resulted in him being liable for double costs, both from the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Despite the protracted legal battle, Lubwama had completed his five-year term in Parliament. Nevertheless, his rival, Buwembo, continued to seek his removal from office.
Lubwama filed an application to reinstate his appeal, which remains pending and unheard of to date. The case has been marred by panel switches and subsequent orders, contributing to significant delays and frustrations. Lawyer Luyimbazi Nalukoola, who represented Lubwama in the case, expressed sorrow over Lubwama’s passing, highlighting the unresolved question at the core of the legal dispute.
“His question was whether the High Court has residue power to extend the time within. which one can contest or challenge the victory and or declaration of a member of Parliament upon expiry of 30 days from the time of getting the results of the Elections by the electoral body,” said Nalukoola.
Nalukoola emphasized the importance of timely resolution of such disputes, particularly those pertaining to elections. Buwembo, the petitioner, expressed his sadness over Lubwama’s death and stressed the need for the courts to promptly resolve disputes to maintain public trust in the judiciary and prevent the rise of vigilantism.
Meanwhile, Samuel Muyizzi, another lawyer on Lubwama’s legal team, noted that with his passing, the pending cases against him cease. But Buwembo’s lawyer Ssemakadde says that under the stewardship of Justice Kavuma and Owiny-Doll, the Court of Appeal had manipulated the judicial process to protect Lubwama through convenient delay.
“He was able to finish the full term while he enjoyed a “stay of execution” of the decision by Justice Oguli while the court of appeal collaborated in his plan to stage hoax after hoax to defeat the ends of justice,” said Ssemakadde. In 2017, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni awarded Kato Lubwama with a medal during the heroes day celebrations in Luwero District.
After the function, Lubwama who was a strong member of the Democratic Party said he hadn’t received the medal because of politics but rather his contribution to art through drama.