THE verdict is out. Defence minister Amama Mbabazi has lost his Kinkizi West constituency seat and the Appeal Court has ordered a by-election
THE verdict is out. Defence minister Amama Mbabazi has lost his Kinkizi West constituency seat and the Appeal Court has ordered a by-election.
The final election petitions appellate court yesterday dismissed Mbabaziâ€™s appeal in which he challenged the nullification of his election in 2001 by the High Court.
The nullification followed a challenge by Mbabaziâ€™s arch-rival James Musinguzi, who cited numerous irregularities such as ballot stuffing, voter intimidation, bribery, violence and harassment.
Musinguzi also said Mbabazi was armed throughout the electoral process and that the Electoral Commission (EC) contravened the law.
The three-judge panel unanimous decision was delivered by Registrar Joseph Murangira. It, however, cleared Mbabazi of wrong-doing.
Deputy Chief Justice Laetitia Kikonyogo, Justices G. M. Okello and C.N.B. Kitumba said Mbabazi did not bribe voters or carry arms.
They said the EC failed to restrain the State machinery from harassing and intimidating voters and prejudicing them against Musinguzi whom they branded a rebel and a government enemy.
The judges also cleared trial judge Egonda Ntende of bias as Mbabaziâ€™s lawyer Dr. Joseph Byamugisha alleged.
â€œI would uphold the trial judgeâ€™s decision and dismiss the appeal with costs in favour of the respondent,â€ the lead judgement by Justice Okello read. Justice Kitumba concurred.
â€œI have nothing useful to add. Since Kitumba J.A. holds a similar view, this appeal is dismissed with costs to the respondent in this and the High Court,â€ Kikonyogo said.
Mbabazi was escorted to the court by his family and UPDF bodyguards. The soldiers waited outside. Mbabazi declared after the ruling that he would recontest for the seat. He said he was glad the court cleared him of wrongdoing. Musinguzi was escorted to court by family members, Reform Agenda, the Uganda Peoples Congress and the Democratic Party supporters. He said he had not yet decided to run for the by-election.
Musinguzi said Mbabazi should resign his ministerial post. He said Parliament should make a law barring MPs whose election has been nullified from standing again.
Earlier, Mbabazi and Musinguzi shook hands and chatted. After the ruling, Mbabazi stood up and shook hands with the lawyers before joining supporters in the yard.
Musinguziâ€™s supporters who included Betti Kamya and Night Kulabako ululated in the courtroom as the registrar moved out.
The supporters shouted, â€œTwamuhezaâ€ (We have finished him), then broke into a vigorous kiga dance.
Mbabazi loses seat