KAMPALA, UGANDA: The Supreme Court will convene on Thursday, March 4, at 9:30 am to hear Robert Kyagulanyi’s application for withdrawal of the presidential election petition.
Judiciary Spokesperson Solomon Muyita confirmed the development. This follows the gazetting of an application in which the National Unity Platform (NUP) leader, Kyagulanyi, asked the Supreme Court to withdraw his election petition.
Having the application to withdraw an election petition published in the Uganda Gazette is one of the requirements that an applicant is supposed to fulfill before the application is heard.
On February 24, 2021, one of Kyagulanyi’s senior lawyers, Medard Sseggona, applied to the Supreme Court to withdraw the case, and Chief Justice Alfonse Chigamoy Owiny-Dollo explained to him that a withdrawal of a petition must be accompanied by affidavits.
The Chief Justice cited rule 20 (3) (1) of the Presidential Election Petition rules that requires an application for leave to withdraw a petition, to be supported by an affidavit of the petitioner and his or her advocate, if any, stating to the best of their knowledge and belief that no agreement or terms of any kind has or have been made, or undertaking made in relation to the petition or, if any lawful agreement has been made, stating the terms of the agreement.
Section 61 (3) of the Presidential Elections Act bars any candidate from withdrawing the petition under any influence or consideration. It adds that court may substitute as a petitioner any applicant under sub-section (2) and may further, if the proposed withdrawal has been, in the opinion of the court, induced by any corrupt bargain or consideration, by order, direct that any security given on behalf of the original petitioner shall remain as security for any costs that may become payable by the substituted petitioner and that the original petitioner shall be liable to pay the costs.
According to the gazette dated March 1, Kyagulanyi’s election petition number 1 of 2021 has been publicized for withdrawal.
“Notice is hereby given that (an) application has been made to the Supreme Court of Uganda for leave to withdraw the petition presented by Kyagulanyi Sentamu Robert (applicant/petitioner) touching the election to the office of the President of Yoweri Museveni Tibuhaburwa Kaguta (first respondent),” read the notice filed on February 26 and signed by Harriet Nassali Lukwago, the Supreme Court registrar.
Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine filed a petition in the Supreme Court contesting the declaration of President Yoweri Museveni as the winner of the January 14 presidential elections.
However, hardly a month after filing his petition, Kyagulanyi instructed his legal team to withdraw the case and they filed the withdrawal application last Wednesday.
Following his application to withdraw the case, the Supreme Court ordered Kyagulanyi to swear an affidavit affirming that he had not been compromised into withdrawing the petition.
A member of his legal team was also asked to swear an affidavit. Counsel Ukasha Ssekajja swore the affidavit in which he affirmed that Kyagulanyi was not compromised into withdrawing the election petition.
The lawyer’s affidavit was filed on Wednesday (February 24), and Kyagulanyi’s affidavit was by Friday yet to be filed to court as required.
Ssekajja said; “I, together with other lawyers on the legal team representing the applicant (Kyagulanyi) have interviewed him and confirmed that his decision to withdraw the petition has not been influenced by any corrupt bargain or consideration from the respondents or any other person.”
Ssekajja’s affidavit followed a court order issued by the Chief Justice, Alphonse Owiny-Dollo, who is leading a quorum of Supreme Court judges that was hearing Kyagulanyi’s election petition.
The other justices on the nine-member panel are; Esther Kisakye, Paul Mugamba, Faith Mwondha, Stella Arach Amoko, Rubby Opio Aweri, Ezekiel Muhanguzi, Mike Chibita, and Percy Night Tuhaise.
Ssekajja said that after Kyagulanyi’s legal team failed in their attempts to file in the court the amount of evidence they wanted to strengthen the petition, they had no option but to opt-out of it.
“Owing to the foregoing, the applicant found it inadvisable to proceed with the petition with the evidence that was disallowed, and, therefore, instructed us to withdraw the petition hence the instant application,” stated Ssekajja.
During a press conference at the NUP headquarters in Kamwokya, Kampala, on February 22, Kyagulanyi made a U-turn where he declared that he was going to withdraw the election petition. Among other things, he said he has no confidence that he would get justice from the Supreme Court.
Earlier, Kyagulanyi had asked three of the nine judges, including the Chief Justice (Owiny-Dollo), Chibita, and Muhanguzi, to recuse themselves from the case. Kyagulanyi argued that the trio had had a close working relationship with Museveni, who is one of the respondents in the petition, and that they would therefore be ‘biased’.
Lawyer Male Mabirizi also separately made an application in which he sought the Chief Justice to recuse himself from the case on account of the conflict of interest.
Mabirizi argued that the Chief Justice was President Museveni’s defence lawyer in the 2006 presidential petition in a case filed by the former presidential candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye, and he, therefore, cannot be impartial in this petition.
However, the Chief Justice in his ruling declined to quit the case. “I have perused the application and the supporting affidavits and listened carefully to the submissions by the applicant. I decline to recuse myself. I will give the reasons in my detailed ruling to be delivered on notice Owiny-Dollo ruled.
Following the application to withdraw the petition, another former presidential candidate, Willy Mayambala, wrote to the Supreme Court seeking to ‘inherit’ Kyagulanyi’s election petition.