Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | In November 2020, as the Electoral Commission nominated presidential candidates for the January 2021 polls, the National Resistance Movement-NRM expected a presidential election petition and started preparations to defend their candidate Yoweri Museveni.
So when Robert Kyagulanyi, Museveni’s closest contender ran to court on February 1st 2021, the legal team at the NRM secretariat was ready to put up defense against the applications.
The party director of legal services Oscar Kihika says that having handled the 2006 and 2016 presidential petitions, it was prudent for them to be alert and plan ahead of time just in case a petition was filed.
It was Dr. Kizza Besigye and Patrick Amama Mbabazi, both former NRM cadres that challenged Museveni’s victory in 2006 and 2016 respectively.
Kihika says they have experience in handling such petitions and hence started preparing in November 2020 for a probable presidential election petition. He says they started looking at probable grounds knowing that defending against such a petition is not an easy thing.
Kihika who didn’t go deep in details told press at the NRM Secretariat on Kyadondo road that they can never anticipate a decision of court and can only do their best to put up a defense. He says the judges swore to deliver justice and that what they do which should be respected.
He says the legal team is doing all they need to and for now, are waiting to receive further evidence from the National Unity Platform-NUP such that they can prepare their response.
By close of business on Saturday 13th, the petitioner, NUP presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi had not furnished the Supreme Court with further affidavits. Yet today, Sunday 14th February marks the final day for them to file them.
The defendants, Museveni of the NRM and the Electoral Commission have until Saturday 20th February 2021 to respond while the petitioner is expected to make any rejoinders by Tuesday 23rd 2021.
Kihika says until the petitioner files the affidavits, they cannot tell how much work awaits them but nonetheless are ready to receive them and put up defense.
Anthony Wameli, one of Kyagulanyi’s lawyers said they plan to file the additional affidavits later Sunday afternoon.
A panel of nine justices headed by the Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo shall determine the case next month. However, city lawyer Male Mabirizi has petitioned the Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo to recuse himself from the panel.
Mabirizi says he has information that the Chief Justice was a lawyer representing Museveni in the 2006 presidential petition and that his participation in the case erodes the confidence not only in him but the entire judiciary because “judgment must be rooted in confidence and confidence is destroyed when right minded people go away thinking the judge was biased.”
Asked what he thinks of Mabirizi’s petition, Kihika says that it has no merit because he (Mabirizi) is not a party to the petition and did not follow procedures of filing an application for recusal.
The Constitutional (Recusal of Judicial Officers) (Practice) Directions, 2019 states that a party who seeks the recusal of a judicial officer shall by letter copied to all the parties and the Registrar of the court or orally in open court in the presence of the parties, request the judicial officer to recuse himself or herself.
The officer is then given chance to respond, they accept or decline to recuse themselves depending the reasons given.