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BYABAKAMA: I had no power to stop arrest of Kyagulanyi campaign team

The Electoral Commission Chairman, Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi,

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT  | The Electoral Commission Chairman, Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi, has said although his Commission was fully in charge of organizing last month’s elections, he had no power to intervene when campaign agents of National Unity Platform-NUP former presidential candidates were arrested.

In his response to the petition filed by Kyagulanyi Ssentamu Robert challenging the election and declaration of Yoweri Museveni as president elect, Byabakama said he couldn’t ‘interfere’ in the work that is a preserve of law enforcement agencies.  

“The 2nd Respondent [Electoral Commission] received a letter dated January 4 2021 in which the petitioner [Kyagulanyi] informed the 2nd respondent that members of his team had been arrested in Kalangala and demanded that the 2nd Respondent intervenes and ensures that they are freed immediately; the 2nd respondent has no power to ‘interfere’(sic) in the criminal justice system,” Byabakama’s affidavit, sworn in in support of the Electoral Commission reads in part.

On December 30, last year, the entire campaign team of Kyagulanyi was arrested at Kalangala where he had gone to campaign. That day, it was only Kyagulanyi who was spared although he was also airlifted back to his home in Magere in Wakiso district.

About 50 of those arrested were later released on bail by the Masaka Chief magistrates court. However, another 49 some of whom had also been granted bail by the court were rearrested and brought to Kampala where they were charged afresh in the General Court Martial for being found in possession of ‘military stores ‘ -meaning 4 bullets- a preserve of the armed forces, at Makerere.

Since then, they have been remanded at Kitalya and Kigo prisons as they wait for court to finish hearing their request for bail next week. Meanwhile, Byabakama who also wants the Supreme Court to dismiss the petition with costs says Museveni did not commit any electoral offences or illegal practices that would make the elections neither free nor fair to lead to their annulment.

“The 2nd Respondent performed its functions under the Constitution independently in accordance with the principles of a free and fair election without any preferential treatment in favor of or in discrimination of any candidate,” the affidavit reads in part.

Byabakama also denies having knowledge about the government blocking or applicability of Kyagulanyi’s election app known as U vote that was going to be used in the transmission and tallying of election results in his parallel tally center.

“I know that it is the exclusive duty of the 2nd respondent to ascertain, publish and declare in writing under its seal the results of the elections which the 2nd respondent did,” Due to the government shutdown of the internet which the Attorney General contends in his own response to the petition that it was meant to safeguard the country as it went about voting, rendered irrelevant the application that is internet enabled.

This, Kyagulanyi says in his petition, didn’t only deny the citizens the right to communication but also interfered with his capacity to collect and transmit his Declaration of Result Forms from across the country. President Museveni who is the first respondent in the petition is expected to file not later than tomorrow his own response to the challenge.

The Supreme Court that has the original jurisdiction over presidential election petitions, has 45 days from February 1 when the petition was filed to hear and determine it.

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