The Supreme Court in Uganda has ruled that Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the National Resistance Movement,NRM, party‘s candidate, was legitimately elected.
This was contained in the ruling in which the Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by former presidential candidate John Patrick Amama Mbabazi challenging the election of President Museveni in the 2016 February 18th polls.
President Museveni now waits to be sworn into office on May 12 this year.
A panel of nine judges of the Supreme Court led by Uganda’s Chief Justice Bart Katureebe Magunda dismissed the petition with no costs on Thursday in the capital Kampala.
All nine judges concurred that the petitioner, former Prime Minister in the NRM regime Amama Mbabazi failed to present compelling evidence to prove that the Electoral Commission did not comply with the law.
On the issue of the use of the unreliable Biometric Voter Verification Machine and failure by the Electoral commission to identify voters, the court found that the use of the BVVM did not, in itself, constitute noncompliance under the Presidential Elections Act and did not disenfranchise voters.
“It is therefore our finding that the use of the Biometric Voter Verification Machine did not, in itself , constitute noncompliance under the PEA and it did not disenfranchise voters” Chief justice Katureebe noted.
The Court found that the Electoral commission complied with the law when it used the National ID for identifying voters instead of the voter’s card, and that this did not result in the disenfranchisement of voters.
Amama Mbabazi had asked court to nullify the election of Yoweri Museveni on the grounds of the late delivery of polling materials and that voting did not commence until 2:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. in some places, ending after 1:00 a.m. also.
The Court in its wisdom found that the Commission did not comply with its duty under Section 28 of the Presidential Elections Act-PEA.
“The failure to deliver polling materials to polling stations within such close proximity to the Commission was evidence of incompetence and gross inefficiency by the electoral body” read part of the ruling.
The nine judges agreed that claims by the petitioner that the electoral commission failed to control polling materials could not be verified by the Court, and the allegation was not proved.
Justice Bart Katureebe also ruled that there was no evidence whether the pre-ticked ballot papers were actually cast as alleged and the claim of multiple voting could not be proven by evidence because the allegations could not be verified, given the nature of the evidence adduced before the panel of nine justices of the Supreme Court.
The ruling NRM party welcomed Thursday’s court ruling saying it respected the decision of the people who voted for Yoweri Museveni.
“Justice has been done; all nine justices have respected the people’s will, and president Museveni has been cleared of all the alleged electoral offences” said Justine Lumumba the party secretary general.
Lumumba also extended an olive branch to members who jumped out of the bus [NRM party symbol] to get in round table discussions to iron out issues that made them leave the party.
Petitioner Amama Mbabazi told the media in Kampala that he will sit with his team to review the court ruling and decide the next cause of action.
Mbabazi agreed with the court ruling on the lack of evidence saying that there was no evidence to defend his petition because it was stolen when unknown people broke into his lawyers’ offices days after the hearing of the case started.
Meanwhile the United States Embassy in Kampala, in a statement issued shortly after the delivery of ruling, encouraged all Ugandans to respect the Court’s decision, and express their views in a peaceful manner.
“We note that the Court acknowledged some instances of non-compliance by Election Commission officials and interference by security authorities. We hope that the government will now address the grievances voiced by its own people in the wake of these elections and take the necessary steps to enact reforms that will guarantee political inclusivity, transparency, accountability and free and fair elections. Uganda’s future prosperity and democratic progress will depend on such actions” read the statement.
President Museveni was re elected for his fifth term in office with a 60.75% win, followed by retired Col. Dr. Warren Kifeefe Kizza Besigye with only 35.37%, while the petitioner Mbabazi finished the presidential race with only 1.43%.