The Supreme Court on Friday allowed National Unity Platform leader, Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine to withdraw his presidential election petition that sought to overturn the incumbent President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s victory.
The Friday decision brought down the curtain on a rigorous process that had many twists and turns that started as early as filing the petition.
The first twist happened when the request by Kyagulanyi’s lawyers to file the petition on a Saturday was declined by the court.
Article 104 of the Constitution as amended in 2017 allows a presidential candidate up to 15 days after the declaration of results to file a petition in the Supreme Court and this year’s election results were announced on January,14, 2021.
Because the deadline for filing the petition was to fall on a Sunday, January,31, 2021, the lawyers had rushed to court on Saturday( a non-working day) to seek for permission to file the petition to avoid any “eventualities” but they were told the same would be received on February,1,2021 which was a Monday.
Request to amend petition
Kyagulanyi, the runner-up in the January 14 polls through his lawyers led by Medard Ssegona asked court to amend the petition to allow for more evidence.
He argued that after the presidential elections, he was placed under house arrest which subjected him to post-election detention trauma that hindered him from putting together all the evidence he had for his petition in the stipulated 15 days’ time and in this, he presented 15 new electoral offences in the application.
However, the request was denied by the panel of nine justices led by the Chief Justice, Alfonse Owiny Dollo on grounds that the matters brought in the application were new and had been filed out of time.
New evidence rejected
The court in another attempt by Kyagulanyi’s lawyers to file new evidence in form of affidavits yet again declined the request.
Kyagulanyi’s lawyers had sought to file 127 affidavits in form of documents, audio and video compact discs (CDs) in support of the petition challenging President Museveni’s victory but the court declined to receive them for being filed out of time.
Lawyer asks Dollo to recuse
In another twist, lawyer Male Mabirizi requested the Chief Justice, Alfonse Owiny Dollo , the head of the panel of nine justices to recuse himself from the case over conflict of interest.
Mabirizi argued that having been President Museveni’s defence lawyer in the 2006 presidential petition, Dollo could not be impartial in this petition.
However, the Chief Justice declined the request to recuse himself from hearing the petition.
Kyagulanyi withdraws petition
Following the earlier setbacks, Kyagulanyi brought in another twist to the 2021 election petition when he decided to withdraw the case from the Supreme Court.
“The petitioner lost time during the illegal house detention but this honourable court is more inclined towards the strict timelines which has disadvantaged the petitioner to the advantage of the respondents,” he said.
“After deeply reflecting upon the foregoing circumstances, I reached a decision that withdrawing the instant petition is the right thing to do since this court is not handling the petition with the independence, impartiality and equality I expected of it.”
However, in another twist, Willy Mayambala, another presidential candidate in the 2021 election asked court permission to take over the petition withdrawn by Kyagulanyi.
The court advised Mayambala to follow the laid down procedure before filing a formal application to take over the matter through his lawyer.
Lawyers’ practicing certificates
Hearing of the application to withdraw the petition hit a dead end for a day after Kyagulanyi’s lawyers led by Medard Ssegona told court that their practicing certificates had expired and they had not yet got new ones.
The court had to adjourn the hearing to the following day and ordered that the lawyers be provided with temporary practicing certificates to enable them continue with the case.