Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Justice Musa Ssekaana has declined to recuse himself from a case in which Electoral Commission chairperson; Justice Simon Byabakama is accused of failing to resign from the Court of Appeal.
The applicants want court to issue a permanent injunction restraining Justice Byabakama from holding the office of Electoral Commission chairperson until he resigns from the Appellant Court.
However, in December last year, the applicants led by Erias Lukwago and Male Mabirizi asked Justice Ssekaana to excuse himself from the matter since he reportedly served as an external lawyer for the Commission prior to his appointment as High Court judge.
This morning, Justice Ssekaana declined to step down from the matter in his ruling read by the Deputy Civil Division Registrar, Sarah Langa, arguing that he took oath to be independent, saying no one can influence his decisions.
He said the applicants asked him to step down from the matter so as to threaten and intimidate him for political reasons, since the country is in election mood. Justice Ssekaana said he will not bore down to intimidation, adding that despite being transferred to Mbarara as resident Judge, he will hold on the case file and deliver justice in the matter as expected.
The judge confessed having served as a lawyer for the Commission both before and after being appointed High Court judge, he handled some cases where the Commission won some matter and lost others. Key of the cases where Ssekaana represented the Commission was when Kabagambe Asol sued EC for nominating Dr. Kiiza Besigye for the 2006 Presidential Elections when he was in prison. He also represented the Commission in the election petition of Muwanga Lutaya Vs Kenneth Lubogo.
Speaking to journalists shortly after the ruling, Erias Lukwago, who represented the People’s Government, said the ruling clearly indicates that Justice Ssekaana has personal interest in the matter. Mabirizi was equally not happy with the decision. This isn’t the first matter against EC that Justice Ssekaana is handling as a judge.
Last year, Justice Ssekaana decided on in a case where Catherine Osupelem, the Forum for Democratic Change-FDC party candidate sued the Commission for disqualifying her from the Pallisa Woman Parliamentary race. She challenged the Commission for failing to nominate her on grounds that her names didn’t match those on her academic qualifications, which saw the Commission declare her rival, Faith Alupo as an opposed.
In 2019, the Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe issued “The Constitutional (Recusal of Judicial Officers Practice) Directions, 2019, in which he advised judges to step out of cases before them, should the applicant raise issues of bias against them. Last year, Justice Anglin Ssenoga stepped down from the criminal trial of Dr. Stella Nyanzi when her lawyer, Isaac Ssemakadde raised issues of bias against her.