By Andante Okanya
Vice President Edward Ssekandi’s lawyer Kiwanuka Kiryowa has defended his use of official government vehicles during the 2011 parliamentary campaigns, saying it was done in accordance with the law and not misused as purported.
Kiryowa made his stance at the Constitutional Court in Kampala. The court, consisting of a panel of five Justices, had convened to hear a Constitutional petition filed by Ssekandi’s political rival Jude Mbabaali.
Ssekandi was absent, while Mbabaali was present, together with his lawyers Alex Candia and David Wandera.
The panel of five Justices led by Remmy Kasule, comprised Eldad Mwanguhya, Opio Aweri, Kenneth Kakuru, and Solome Balungi Bbosa.
Kiryowa, who was flanked by Thomas Ochaya, also on Ssekandi’s legal team, stated that Ssekandi acknowledged using the facilities by virtue of being in the position of Speaker of Parliament.
“The respondent(Ssekandi) states that he used facilities in accordance with his entitlement as Speaker of Parliament.The petitioner should prove that the facilities were not used in accordance with the law,” Kiryowa stated.
In the petition filed on June 20, 2012, Mbabaali purports that during the campaigns for the Bukoto County Central seat, Ssekandi who was Speaker of Parliament at the time, breached the Parliamentary Elections Act 2005 and the Constitution.
He claims Ssekandi diverted five government vehicles and fuel estimated at sh120m, plus government employees and other facilities attached to the office of the Speaker, for his campaign activities.
Mbabaali lists the vehicles as UG 0080H, UG 0163H, UG 0062H and UG 0069H, plus a police truck, registration number UP 2601. He asserts that the truck’s loud siren and bright lights purportedly attracted voters’ attention to Ssekandi.
In addition, he wants Ssekandi barred from contesting for elective office for seven years, as prescribed in the Leadership Code.
But Kiryowa also submitted that Mbabaali was abusing court process by disguising an earlier withdrawn election petition as a Constitutional petition.
He was referring to an election petition against Ssekandi that Mbabaali withdrew on July 27, 2011. Kiryowa stated that Mbabaali’s petition was filed in a wrong, since election disputes are a preserve of the High Court.
“This court is not intended to resolve election disputes.The jurisdiction to hear election petitions rests with the High Court. This court is intended to interprete the Constitution,” Kiryowa said, and implored court to dismiss the case with costs awarded to Ssekandi.
Earlier, Mbabaali’s lawyer Candia insisted that Ssekandi misused government property and that court should fault him and compel him to resign as vice president.
As Candia submitted, Justices Kakuru, Mwanguhya, and Aweri made interjections, and wondered what would form the basis for Constitutional interpretation of the case.
They quizzed Candia on whether the query on purported misuse of government faciltiies, cannot be solved by other enforcement agencies.
But he reiterated his earlier submissions, saying the case was filed in the right court.
Accordingly, Justice Kasule said the ruling date would be communicated on notice.
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