The Constitutional court, in a majority decision of 4-1 has dismissed an application by ruling party MPs challenging President Yoweri Museveni's sole candidature in next year's general elections.
11 National Resistance Movement (NRM) leaning members of parliament challenged a decision by the top party organ, the central executive committee (CEC) to endorse Museveni as the party's sole presidential candidate for the 2021 elections and beyond.
A panel of the Constitutional court chaired by the acting chief justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, Cheborion Barishaki, Kenneth Kakuru, Christopher Izama Madrama and Egonda Ntende delivered the verdict today Thursday.
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 19, 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 CEC is inconsistent with several articles of Uganda’s constitution. They 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. 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 the 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 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 safeguarding, 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 he relinquished his powers as president while chairing the meeting. 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. Ntende directed the NRM to pay costs to the applicants.
The applicants informed court through their lawyer, Medard Lubega Ssegoona shortly after the judgment that they are dissatisfied and will appeal the decision. The judgment was read by the Constitutional court registrar, Mary Babirye.