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Lawyers protest fresh election petition against NUP’s Joel Ssenyonyi

NUP party spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The legal team of Joel Ssenyonyi, the Nakawa West Member of Parliament has protested a fresh election petition filed against their client. Ssenyonyi’s lawyers from Pace Advocates led by George Musisi, argue that the amended petition filed by Shukla Mukesh Babubhai on May 10, 2021, which they received on Monday evening introduces fresh allegations and came in the court out of time.

Mukesh first petitioned the High Court on March 19, 2021, challenging Ssenyonyi’s electoral victory mainly on allegations of electoral irregularities such as under-declaring his votes, ferrying non-registered voters to participate in elections as well as ballot stuffing among others.

“The first respondent/Electoral Commission occasioned irregularities when they presented the declaration of result forms that were not signed or witnessed by the presiding officer and based on the same to declare 2nd respondent/Ssenyonyi a validly elected Member of Parliament”, reads the original petition in part. Mukesh filed the original petition on the last day of the 30-day deadline for filing election petitions.

However, two months after the deadline, Mukesh filed an amended petition on May 10, 2021 and only served Ssenyonyi’s lawyers on Monday evening. In this petition, Mukesh raised fresh allegations questioning Ssenyonyi’s academic qualifications for election as a member of parliament. Ssenyonyi ran on the National Unity Platform party ticket and defeated eleven other contenders after obtaining 31,653 votes.

His National Resistance Movement-NRM rival, Margaret Zziwa Nantongo came second with 9,450 votes followed by Kenneth Paul Kakande in third position with 2,780 votes, the Forum for Democratic Change candidate Wilberforce Kyambadde came fourth with 1,512 votes while Independent candidate Acer Godfrey Okot took the sixth position with 931 votes.

Shukla Mukesh Babubhai came seventh with 806 votes followed by Robert Asiimwe with 668 votes, Christine Gloria Katusiime 479 votes, Robert Kasozi from the People’s Progressive Party 300, Zachariah Isabirye 280, Aisha Wanyama 239 votes whereas Emmanuel Tebisuula Sserumaga trailed the pack with 196 votes.

Nevertheless, Mukesh claims in his petition that on top of informing the Electoral Commission about the irregularities, by the time of Ssenyonyi’s election, he was not qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament contrary to the Parliamentary Elections Act.

“That I requested for the documents submitted by the 2nd respondent/Ssenyonyi to the 1st Respondent/EC for nominations as a contestant for the said constituency. That upon perusal of the said documents, I discovered that the 2nd respondent’s names on the nomination documents differed from the name on his academic documents,” reads the amended petition in part.

According to the records before the court, during his ordinary and advanced levels of education, the legislator passed off as Joel Basekezi. He however explains that he was nominated as Ssenyonyi B. Joel to run for election as a Member of Parliament.

Mukesh further alleges that when he wrote to the Uganda National Examinations Board to verify his rival’s academic documents, he discovered that the school campus on his pass slip did not exist according to the year indicated. The schools in contention are St Lawrence Schools and Colleges Crown City Campus.

“That I verily believe that the 2nd respondent/Ssenyonyi committed illegal practices contrary to sections 68 and 72 of the Parliamentary Elections in connection with the said election personally, or by his agents with his knowledge and consent and approval.

Mukesh through his lawyers wants the court to declare that Electoral Commission and Ssenyonyi contravened both the law and good principles needed in a thriving democracy.

He wants the court to nullify Ssenyonyi’s victory and order fresh elections in Nakawa Division West Constituency. Lawyers from Ssemwanga, Muwazi and Company Advocates and Bwango Araali and Company Advocates are representing the applicant.

Ssenyonyi’s lawyers led by Musisi told the court that they will seek dismissal of the application when the hearing of election petitions resume, arguing that it was filed out of time. Musisi, who admitted discrepancies in Ssenyonyi’s academic documents said that their client has since sworn an affidavit showing that the person who was nominated and Basekezi Joel is the same.

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