Constitutional Court dismisses suit challenging Museveni’s sole candidature

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President Museveni chairing a CEC meeting at state House recently; PPU Photo

The Constitutional Court has dismissed an application by eleven legislators challenging a resolution by the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the ruling National Resistance Movement-NRM party endorsing President Yoweri Museveni as their sole presidential candidate for the 2021 elections.

In a majority decision of four to one, a panel of the Constitutional Court justices chaired by the acting Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo, Justice Cheborion Barishaki, Kenneth Kakuru and Christopher Izama Madrama, delivered the verdict on Thursday morning.

The decision stems from an application filed by 11 NRM leaning Members of Parliament challenging the decision of the top NRM party organ to endorse Museveni as their sole presidential candidate for the 2021 elections and beyond.

The applicants included Theodore Ssekikubo, Lwemiyaga County, Barnabas Tinkasimire, Buyaga West, John Baptist Nambeshe, Manjiya County, Patrick Oshabe Nsamba, Kassanda North, Mbwatatekamwa Gaffa, Kasambya County, Samuel Lyomoki, Workers MP, Silvia Akello, Otuke district, Susan Amero, Amuria Woman MP, James Acidri, Maracha East County and Bildad Moses Adome, Jie County.

Through their lawyers of Alaka and Company Advocates, Niwagaba Advocates and Solicitors and Barirere, Muhangi and Company Advocates, the legislators challenged the resolution that was adopted on February 19th, 2019 at Chobe Safari Lodge declaring Museveni as the party’s sole presidential candidate.

In their application, the legislators noted that the decision by the Central Executive Committee is inconsistent with several articles of Uganda’s constitution.

The legislators also argued that the decision by the NRM chief whip and NRM parliamentary caucus chairperson to block them from attending the seven-day retreat in Kyankwanzi in March 2019 was arbitrary since they were never given a fair hearing. They asked the Constitutional Court to quash resolutions which were made by NRM CEC.

However, in their judgment, the judges dismissed the application arguing that there was nothing constitutional for them to interpret. They observed that the issues in the application could have been determined by High Court since it has powers to enforce rights.

They argued that the matter was wrongly filed before the Constitutional Court saying it lacks jurisdiction to entertain their issues. The judges ordered the petitioners to meet the costs of the suit.

However, in a minority judgment, Justice Egonda Ntende disagreed with his colleagues saying the decision by Museveni to chair and participate in the CEC meeting that declared him sole candidate was contrary to the provisions that provide for safe guarding, protecting and upholding the constitution.

He noted that whereas he understands that Museveni attended the meeting in his capacity as the NRM party chairperson, he cannot be sure whether to relinquish his powers as president while chairing the meeting.

Justice Ntende observed that there was clear violation of constitutional principles that require political parties to ensure that all Ugandans have access to leadership positions at all levels to allow fair competition.

He noted that it was clear that the legislators were denied a right to participate in their own party elections which also violated democratic principles and national objectives. As such, Justice Ntende directed the NRM to pay costs to the applicants.

Shortly after the judgement was delivered, the applicants through their lawyer, Medard Lubega Ssegoona, informed court that they are dissatisfied and will appeal the decision.

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