Bobi Wine: The status of our Election Petition.
1. We were not very keen on going to the Supreme Court, given the result of all past petitions, coupled with the fact that presently, we have the most compromised bench in that court’s history. It is not surprising. Museveni has used the past 10 to 15 years to kill whatever was left of all state institutions. The example of the Electoral Commission is clear to all. When Badru Kiggundu’s term expired, we all thought he was the worst chairperson an Electoral Commission could have. But Byabakama and his team have simply outdone Kiggundu with the highest levels of impunity. No state institution, has been spared. Not even the highest court in this land!
Therefore, whereas many people advised against going to court, we took a decision to go there because on one hand, we thought that perhaps the justices could reflect deeply and appeal to their conciense and be true to their call. Secondly, we went to court because we deeply believe in the rule of law. Our trust may not be in the people who sit in the courts, but we strongly believe that we should exhaust the available legal avenues. Finally, we went to that court to expose it, should it fail to do its work in accordance with the law. The same way we have exposed other institutions such as the Electoral Commission, the Executive, Parliament, etc. Whereas we all thought the justices may express their biases during the hearing or just in the ruling, the Court (especially its head) started from the very beginning to show how compromised and biased it is.
(i) REFUSED TO FILE ON SATURDAY
Firstly, Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo rejected our request to file our petition on Saturday 30th January, 2021 even when we wrote to the Court formally. They claimed that being a Saturday, the court registry would be closed! Only one week later, Gen. Museveni’s lawyers requested the same court permission to file their response on the last day, which was a Saturday 6th February. The court wrote back to them stating that they would open the registry all day on Saturday to enable them file their response! Even with these outright double standards, we decided to be patient!
2. OWINY-DOLLO HOBNOBS WITH MUSEVENI
As if that was not enough, on February 5th, Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo invited Gen. Museveni to the opening of this year’s New Law Year and showered praises on him, while making requests to him to handle as president in the next year! Here we were, having filed our petition against and election thief, yet the person sitting in judgement in the matter seems to have predetermined the case a long time ago. It will be recalled that in the recent years, Museveni has not participated in the opening of the Law Year. The timing of the invitation was very suspect to say the least! Most importantly, the conduct of the Chief Justice was unsettling. The citizens who watched the event on TV were disturbed. Museveni concluded his remarks with an invitation to the Chief Justice to discuss the requests he had just made!
3. AMENDED PETITION REJECTED
To make matters even worse, we filed our request to amend our Petition and add some other grounds against Museveni. It will be recalled that right after the election, I was kept under house arrest until 25th January, when the High Court made orders for them to vacate. They did not withdraw immediately after, meaning that I spent 11 days of the 15 days withing which a petitioner can file a case, under illegal detention. During this period, I was not permitted to interact with my lawyers, except once when they were granted access to me for a short time. We therefore put together our petition hastily after I was released, in order to file it in time, well knowing that we had an opportunity to perfect it and file an amended one. This was not the first time this was happening.
In the Mbabazi versus Museveni petition, Hon. Amama Mbabazi was allowed to file an amended petition on 7th March 2016 a week after the petition had been filed on 1st March. In that amended petition, he introduced 15 new grounds, and the Court allowed the amendment. In our case, we sought to introduce several grounds, but most importantly, a ground to the effect that Gen. Museveni was not qualified to stand in this election on account of a 2020 amendment to the Presidential Elections Act, which clearly stipulates that anyone who is connected to the organisation of an election is not permitted to run.
We had put together evidence to show that Museveni by his own statements and actions was directly involved in the organisation and preparation of the 2021 elections. Unfortunately, Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo yet again rejected our amendment. It is our strong view that court rejected the introduction of this ground, seeing how strong it was. Even then, we decided to keep optimistic and our legal team went back, working day and night to put evidence together to support the other grounds.
4. EVIDENCE REJECTED
In the most strange manner, on 11th February, Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo directed that all our affidavits must be filed by Sunday, 14th February. Pleas from our legal team to reconsider this order went unheeded. It will be recalled that in the previous election petitions, affidavit evidence was continously filed even during hearing.
In the two cases filed by Dr. Kizza Besigye against Museveni in 2001 and 2006, then Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki stated that affidavits in Presidential Election petitions ought to be continously filed, bearing in mind the short time given to parties. Also, an election petition is an inquiry where fresh evidence oughy to be admitted as it emerges. In our circumstances, it is even more logical and necessary to file this evidence continously because very many of our witnesses are still missing, having been abducted. Others are at Kitalya and other prisons. We made it clear that some of the documents we intended to rely on in court were locked up in our offices which have been under siege by the police and the military since election day. They only withdrew from the premises yesterday, after the time for filing evidence (according to Mr. Owiny-Dollo) had passed.
Even when we were disgruntled by Mr. Owiny-Dollo’s orders, we nonetheless went into overdrive mode to assembled affidavits to the tune of 250- and we have over one hundred more affidavits which were not yet bound, given the strict timeliness. Our team went to court towards 5:00pm on Sunday and only 50 affidavits were filed. We left the other affidavits with the court, hoping that the filing process would be completed on Monday morning. Our lawyers were there as early as 7:00am. They took copies of the affidavits we intended to file and read through them. It should be noted that we have assembled so much evidence of rigging, including attaching videos of pre-ticking ballot papers.
We have evidence of very many polling stations where there was no voting at all. We have affidavits of places where Byabakama claimed that 100% of the people voted, yet we sent teams and recorded very many registered voters in those communities who died, moved out of the country, etc. Our lawyers almost took it obvious that this evidence would be filed, because up to now, it is in the custody of court. To our shock and dismay, we received a letter late in the night informing us that only 50 affidavits which were filed before 5:00pm on Sunday would be accepted. What a travesty!
5. THE JOKE OF 30 MINUTES ORAL SUBMISSIONS
In yet another strange and unprecedented move, Mr. Owiny-Dollo declared that oral submissions for our side would only take 30 minutes, and the rest of the arguments would be made in writing! You can imagine a case of this magnitude being argued in 30 minutes. The value of oral submissions lies in enabling the citizens follow the proceedings so that they understand their case better. You all recall that in the 2016 Mbabazi versus Museveni case, submissions went on for a full week, and the people of Uganda were able to follow what was going on via televisions and radio stations. Now we have gone to the Supreme Court to complain about an election which Gen. Museveni held in total darkness, and yet the court also wants to hear our case in total darkness!
6. JUSTICES WITH CLOSE TIES WITH GEN. MUSEVENI
We went to court seeking justice. As demonstrated above, all we have received so far is injustice and unfairness. It is however not surprising that Mr. Owiny-Dollo is behaving in this manner, although we hoped he would conduct the affairs of our highest court judiciously. Ordinarily, a Supreme Court is the oppressed people’s last place of refuge. But whatever Museveni has done to the institutions of this country, only God knows. Courts are enjoined by Article 126(1) of the Constitution to exercise judicial power in the name of the people, and not in the name of Museveni!
Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo’s history with Museveni is well known. He is a former minister in Museveni’s government. He also represented Museveni as his lawyer in the petition filed by Dr. Besigye on 2001! Justice Mike Chibita is Museveni’s former private secretary for 7 years. Ugandans recall quite well, how he handled the affairs of a political nature as DPP. There are other justices with very strong personal ties with Museveni and his oppressive regime. The laws of this country permit litigants with strong grounds to apply and request that justices who have clear conflict of interest in a case recuse themselves from hearing the matter. It is evident that some of these justices are clearly biased and therefore not competent to proceed and hear our petition.
We have made it clear that if the said justices refuse to step out of our case and the court continues to deny us the opportunity to file evidence, we shall be left with no option but to withdraw that Petition and take it back to the Court of the People!