KAMPALA, UGANDA: The High Court sitting in Kampala has dismissed with costs the case in which 23 members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) sought to challenge the party’s decision to ring-fence six positions of members of parliament for the East African Legislative Assembly-EALA to the incumbents.
The members through its lawyer Counsel Robert Rutaro of Elgon Associates last month sued the NRM top organ and its Electoral Commission for denying them the right to participate in the said party primaries, claiming that it was a violation of their constitutional rights to stand for and be elected to any position for which they qualify.
The applicants wanted the high court to declare that the CEC resolution to endorse/nominate the incumbent NRM representatives to the EALA as party candidates for the 2022-2027 term of office without holding valid elections is tainted with illegality, irrationality, unreasonableness, procedural impropriety, discriminative of other aspiring contestants and therefore null and void.
However, in his ruling delivered on Tuesday, August 2, Justice Musa Ssekaana of the high court agreed with the party’s lawyers that NRM Electoral Commission is not a corporate body thus it cannot be sued in its name.
“A political party in the eyes of the law and under the constitution is a corporate legal entity represented by its national officers not sectional branches or segments which do not qualify as political party,” Justice Ssekaana ruled.
The judge while citing the case of Wembabazi Beatrice Vs NRM Election Disputes Tribunal and Hon Busingye Harriet Mugeny – High Court Miscellaneous Cause No.15 of 2020; ruled that section 6 of Political Parties and Organisations Act recognizes one political party registered as one corporate entity thus NRM Electoral Commission was wrongly sued and is accordingly struck off with costs.
Court also ruled that the group’s act before court was premature and baseless since the party has regulations which govern their internal party electoral processes and the court does not exercise its jurisdiction as a self-imposed restriction.
“The courts are loath to interfere and decide for a political party who to nominate and who not to nominate for an election,” Justice Ssekaana ruled.
“The NRM party Central Executive Committee has vetted and recommended certain candidates for EALA, the applicants are at liberty to present their names to the NRM Parliamentary Caucus rather than rushing to court to stop the organ from vetting whom they think are better to take the party forward,” he added.
Court further explained that the party took a decision in its best interests thus if they are aggrieved and feel they can’t breathe, they are at liberty to leave the party in order to breathe freely.
Out of the 130 applicants, CEC resolved to ring-fence the available positions in favour of the incumbents including; Rose Akol Okullu, James Kakooza, Mary Mugyenyi, Paul Musamali Mwasa, Dennis Namara as well as George Odong.
Mr Usama Sebuufu who presented the two affidavits (Mr Oscar John Kihika the Director of Legal Affairs and Dr Tanga Odoi, the NRM Electoral Chairman), told court that the group did not exhaust all the available remedies within the NRM structures under its reprinted constitution of 2020, NRM Election Regulations and NRM Parliamentary Caucus Rules of Procedure 2014.
“The NRM‘s election regulations provide for an election disputes tribunal that is responsible for all disputes arising from the party’s electoral processes,” he explained.
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