It was a highly apprehensive atmosphere at the Supreme Court on Tuesday as Journalists, Court Clerks and opposition supporters anxiously waited for Presidential Petitions from the defeated candidates to beat the 10-days’ deadline.
Hope, frustration punctuated by news of intermittent arrests of former FDC Presidential Candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye, characterised the talk, only for former Prime Minister and Go Forward Presidential candidate, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, to salvage the day at around six minutes past the official working time of 5:00 O’clock.
To some Journalists, the wait started around 10:00am, others mid-day and by 4:30pm gloom was what one could read from their faces as they made and received incessant phone calls to and from their bosses and sources over the subject matter.
It was around 4:37pm when a ray of hope manifested through the appearance of one of Mbabazi’s lawyers Michael Akampurira who spoke to none and went straight to the cashier’s office.
He stayed there for some time and when he got out he assured the Journalists that certainly their client Mbabazi was going to file the petition and his colleague Severino Twinobusingye was on the way.
He however, also at some point looked lost for words when it clocked five minutes to 5:00 O’clock and his colleague Twinobusingye was nowhere. “Counsel where is your colleague? It is coming to five….” a court Clerk, Mugoya, asked him and he responded: “He has not yet arrived but I know he’s coming. I am calling him and he is not picking. I don’t know what he is up to.”
After about four minutes, Severino arrived and Journalists mobbed him taking photos of him and other televisions covering him live as he entered the Supreme Court.
He was heading straight to the Registry but he was redirected by Mugoya to go to the chambers of the Supreme Court Registrar Tom Chemtai.
Reaching there, he just kept quiet as the registrar made arrangements for Journalists to position themselves and create seats for him and Akampurira to address him.
“I hope you have come to file a presidential petition,” Chemtai said and Severino just nodded as Akampurira answered ‘Yes Your Worship’.
After they took their seats and Akampurira informed him that their Client Mbabazi was dissatisfied with the February 18 concluded elections and had sent them to lodge an electoral Petition against President Yoweri Museveni, the Electoral Commission (EC) and the Attorney General (AG).
Chemtai then asked them whether they have fulfilled all the conditions for filing the petitions.
He asked whether they had deposited the filing fees of Shs400,000 and Akampurira replied that they have and he had photocopied receipts from the cashier.
He also asked whether they had brought the requisite 10 copies of the petition and they said they had three at the moment but they were to bring the rest as soon as possible.
Chemtai also wondered whether they had the Shs1m security for costs and they confirmed.
He however called the cashier to come and personally confirm to him that indeed the receipts had been issued by her and she confirmed.
After that confirmation, he allowed them to proceed to the Registry and file the petition.
It was then registered as Presidential Election Petition No.1, of 2016 at around 5:19pm.
After filing Chmtai told Journalists outside court that Mbabazi’s was the only petition from the past elections they have received and they do not expect any anymore because the Constitution allows any dissatisfied candidate to file a petition challenging the election within 10 days.
“Those who will be coming if they have not filed by now, they cannot come. The law merely mentions 10 days, it doesn’t envisage public holidays or any circumstances,” he said when asked about whether Kizza Besigye who has been under disguised house arrest since the elections ended, can come and apply for extension of time.
He said the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe will constitute the panel to hear this petition within 30 days from today (yesterday).
He said they will have to serve the other parties (AG, EC and Museveni) who will have to respond to the petition within three days.
“The hearing will be marathon including public holidays and we will create an enabling environment for whoever will be willing to come and listen to the proceedings. We will provide tents outside court and giant screens for people to follow what will be going on inside the courtroom from outside,” he noted.
He said the hearing will kick off within five days from yesterday.
What Mbabazi Wants
Twinobusingye revealed that it has been a big challenge for them to piece up evidence for this petition.
“Yesterday 20 of our witnesses who had come to swear affidavits were arrested and to date are unaccounted for. Our candidate believes firmly in the rule of law that is why he has come,” he said.
He further noted that their main ground is none-compliance with the law. He said the EC did not substantially comply with the requirement of the law.
“There was no tally center; so where was Kiggundu (EC chairman Eng. Badru) getting the results he was announcing? There were also issues of bribery so we believe the non-compliance substantially affected the elections and we will ask court to annul them,” he said.
Akampurira said that because they had fulfilled the conditions for filing in time, it meant that they had filed the petition in time.