Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Security Minister Rtd Major General Jim Muhwezi has told the Court of Appeal in Kampala that he did not bribe anyone while conversing for votes in Rujumbura County Constituency in Rukungiri district.
Muhwezi was today appearing before a panel of three Court of Appeal Justices comprised of Cheborion Barishaki, Stephen Musota and Christopher Gashirabake for hearing of an election appeal filed against him.
The appeal was filed against Muhwezi by his rival Fred Turyamuhweza, who lost the elections for the Rujumbura County seat. Turyamuhweza stood on the Forum for Democratic Change ticket.
Muhwezi of the National Resistance Movement obtained 23,990 votes against Turyamuhweza’s 20,556 votes in the January 14th, 2021 parliamentary elections. He was accordingly declared and gazetted as the winner by the Electoral Commission.
But Turyamuhweza rejected the results and petitioned the High Court in Kabale with his major grounds being voter bribery, ballot stuffing and intimidation of voters. The Court heard that there were donations given out by Muhwezi in his election campaign period to churches, in several meetings and other public places such that they can vote him.
However, Justice Phillip Odoki dismissed the petition with costs stating that Turyamuhweza failed to prove to the satisfaction of the court all the grounds he had levied against Muhwezi.
Not happy with the decision through his lawyers led by Jude Byamukama, Turyamuhweza challenged Justice Odoki’s decision in the Court of Appeal on grounds that he had failed to evaluate the evidence on record thereby reaching a wrong conclusion that Muhwezi’s election was in compliance with the law.
When the matter came up for hearing on Thursday, Muhwezi through his lawyers led by Mwesigwa Rukutana asked court to dismiss the appeal against his victory on grounds that there is no evidence of bribery against his client.
At this point, Justice Barishaki the leader of the panel asked the former Deputy Attorney General Rukutana to define bribery. According to Barishaki, the entire appeal against Muhwezi is majorly rotating on bribery allegations in several places including churches, meetings, funerals and other public places.
In response, Rukutana said that in election matters, bribery means a token given to people to influence voting in one’s favour.
In the same way another Judge on the panel Gashirabake asked Turyamuhweza’s lawyer Byamukama if a candidate goes to a funeral and gives condolences (cash) whether it amounts to bribery. Gashirabake was wondering also if everyone at the funeral is a legible voter.
In response, Byamukama said that it wouldn’t amount to bribery but the messages accompanying that condolence are what make it a bribe.
According to Byamukama, once you give a condolence and after tell the mourners that ‘don’t forget me’, it means that you influencing their decision making and therefore it’s a bribe. But Rukutana who was in court with his client Muhwezi maintained that voters were not bribed.
The Justices then promised to deliver their judgement on notice.