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Court of Appeal throws out Busongora South MP over vote rigging

The Court of Appeal has nullified the election victory of Gideon Thembo Mujungu and declared the Busongora County South parliamentary seat in Kasese district, western Uganda vacant. This follows a successful appeal lodged by his independent rival, Mbaju Kathika.

In 2021, the Electoral Commission declared Mujungu, who ran on the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party ticket, the winner of Busongora South parliamentary seat with 7,601 votes against 7,522 votes garnered by his rival.

Mbaju rejected defeat and petitioned Fort Portal High court citing cases of voter bribery, ballot stuffing, and the existence of ghost voters on the register. He also claimed that his rival lacked the requisite academic qualifications for election as a member of parliament.

However, justice Victorious Katamba, who listened to the application dismissed it on the grounds that the evidence presented to the court by the petitioner was inadequate. She also said that she was convinced by the evidence presented before the court that Mujungu attained the required academic qualifications. Justice Katamba also noted that there was no evidence proving the allegations of ghost voters in Busongora South.

As a result, Mbaju decided to appeal the High court judgment, saying that the judge had failed to evaluate the evidence before the court. On Wednesday, the three-member panel of the Court of Appeal justices led by Frederick Egonda Ntende concurred with Mbaju.

"There is sufficient evidence of ballot pre-ticking, balloting stuffing, and multiple voting, which is strengthened by the fact that the 100% voter turn recorded at one polling station could not have been possible given the fact that there were people who had died and some who did not vote but were still on the voters' register," the panel ruled.

They cited Katunguru primary school polling station, where some of the voters on the register were confirmed dead. The evidence availed to court according to the ruling confirmed that 7 of the claimed voters were dead at the time of the elections.

The others were Katunguru market polling station, Busunga primary school polling station, and Quran primary school polling station. The appellant set aside Mujungu's victory and ordered fresh polls.

"I would set aside the election of Thembo Gideon Mujungu as a Member of Parliament for Busongora county South, Kasese district. I would order respondent no. 2 to hold a by-election for Busongora County South Constituency in accordance with the law." the court ruled.

Mbaju couldn't hide excitement after the court of appeal verdict, saying that he has got a chance to prove to his voters that he is a worthy leader." I want to mention that this victory is not mine but those who believe in democracy, the rule of law, and that one person is entitled to one vote. This victory is for my voters," he said.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd