Uganda: Lawyers in poll petition to speak for 30 minutes

Mamos Media

Bobi Wine’s lead lawyer Medard Sseggona (right) engages Attorney General William Byaruhanga (seated) and other counsels (left to right) Kiryowa Kiwanuka, Edwin Karugire, Joseph Matsiko and Elison Karuhanga at the pre-trial of the presidential poll petition at the Supreme Court in Kampala yesterday. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA

By Anthony Wesaka & Ephraim Kasozi

The Supreme Court has given just two hours and 20 minutes to all the four parties to the presidential petition to make oral submissions for or against the suit filed by former presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, who is challenging President Museveni’s election victory.

The panel of nine justices chaired by Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo issued the guidelines yesterday.
Unlike in the previous three presidential petitions, this time round, the justices have directed the parties to file written submissions.

“…Then on March 5, counsel will make oral submissions strictly for purposes of highlighting their written submissions. Counsel of both sides, you know what material court needs, please do not meander all over the earth. Do not bring us volumes,” the Chief Justice said.

He added: “On March 5, highlighting will be strictly for 30 minutes. When your 30 minutes clock, the Chief Justice will have the unpleasant duty to ask you to sit down. The rejoinder will be for 20 minutes and that will conclude the hearing.”
There are four parties to the petition: Bobi Wine (petitioner), President Museveni, Electoral Commission and Attorney General (respondents).

Other justices hearing the petition are Stella Arach Amoko, Rubby Opio Aweri, Dr Esther Kisaakye, Faith Mwondha, Paul Mugamba, Mike Chibita, Ezekiel Muhanguzi and Night Percy Tuhaise.

Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo also revealed that after receiving the written submissions, court will start writing the judgment to beat the 45-day constitutional deadline to dispose of a presidential election petition.

“Court will then retire and use a period of 10 days to write its summary judgement to be delivered on March 18 so that we are within the 45 days,”  he said.
Yesterday, Justice Owiny-Dollo reminded the lawyers that 10 days had already elapsed and they must beware of the time constraints ahead.

He cautioned the parties to the petition to adhere to the new directives.
“As you are all aware, a presidential election petition is one which by the Constitution and the Presidential Elections Act must be handled expeditiously. The court has no power to expand it,” Justice Dollo said.

“Beginning last Tuesday, we must determine this matter within 45 days. It is important that we abide by these rules because we may end up in a crisis,” he added.
The court gave Mr Kyagulanyi’s legal team up to Sunday to file all their affidavits in support of their petition.

Thereafter, court gave Mr Museveni, the EC and Attorney General up to February 20 to file their affidavits in response.
The justices said if Mr Kyagulanyi has any additional affidavits or make rejoinder to the respondents’ submissions, he has up to February 23 to do that.
The court announced February 25 and 26 for the parties to cross-examine any witnesses of their choice and also present electronic evidence that may arise.

Earlier, Mr Kyagulanyi’s lead lawyer Mr Medard Sseggona Lubega, asked court to adjourn the pre-hearing session that had been set for yesterday to another date, citing unpreparedness on their side.
He said some of their witnesses had been abducted and dumped in Mbarara City, causing a setback in filing their evidence in court.
He said for that disruption, they could not meet the lawyers for the respondents the previous day as had been expected.

“My lords, we start by apologising. We suffered setback. Some of our witnesses had gone missing until yesterday (Wednesday) early morning when we received telephone calls from Mbarara where they had been dumped. That took a large part of the day. As we attempted to access them, we were told that some of them were engaged in a meeting with the Deputy IGP [Inspector general of Police]. As a result, we were not able to meet the opposite party yesterday,” Mr Sseggona said.

He added: “Our prayer my lords, is to have the pre-hearing adjourned to another convenient date as you may be pleased. We will undertake to be more organised and prepared. We believe by that time, we would have sorted out most of the issues that have to do with the scheduling, including documents, some of which may not be discussed now.”
Mr Sseggona told court that despite the setbacks, they would file 50 affidavits by close of yesterday and 50 more by Monday next week.

However, Attorney General William Byaruhanga objected to Mr Sseggona’s bid to have the pre-hearing postponed.
He cited the limited time in which a presidential petition has to be determined.
Justice Owiny-Dollo said a desk would be set up at the court premises so that after filing any documents, the parties can immediately serve each other the stamped copies.

He said the court registry will be open from 8am to 5pm during weekends to enable the parties file their evidence without time limitations.
Mr Kyagulanyi filed his petition on February 1 seeking court to annul Mr Museveni’s victory in the January 14 election, which he alleges was rigged.
 
He wants an order for fresh elections on grounds that Mr Museveni was not validly elected.
In response, Mr Museveni, the former presidential candidate of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), has asked court to dismiss the petition with costs for lack of merit.

He says the petition was filed late (outside the recommended 15 days from the date of announcing election results).
Mr Museveni also submits that his re-election for the sixth term, that will take his reign to 40 years,  was conducted in accordance with the electoral laws and therefore he was validly elected.

TIMELINE
 
• February 11 – 14 – Kyagulanyi lawyers to file and serve all affidavit evidence
• February 14 – 20 – Museveni, EC and AG file their replies
• February 23 – Filing Kyagulanyi’s affidavit evidence in rejoinder
• February 24 – Pre-hearing session and handling of applications if any.
• February 25 and 26 – Cross examination of witnesses and presentation of electronic evidence if any.
• February 27 – File Kyagulanyi’s written submissions
• March 3  – Respondents (Mr Museveni, EC & AG) file their written submissions in response.
• March 4 –  Mr Kyagulanyi files his rejoinder.
• March 5 – Court convenes for lawyers to highlight their oral submissions, with each party taking 30 minutes and 20 minutes for rejoinder.
• March 18 – Delivery of court summary judgment
 Other highlights                                           • Desks shall be availed at the court premises for each party to enable expeditious service
• Court registry shall be open during weekend to enable filing of documents
• Documents filed late shall be rejected
• Electronic evidence must be received (3 copies each) and checked by IT- officer to confirm what is received.

Source Daily Monitor.

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