Supreme Court throws out electoral reforms petition

The Supreme Court has dismissed an application seeking to find the Attorney General in contempt of its orders for alleged failure to table the proposed electoral reforms.

The application was filed by Professors Frederick Ssembebwa, Fredrick W. Jjuko and Kituo Cha Katiba, a civil society organization.

It stemmed from orders issued by the Supreme Court on electoral reforms in its judgment on the 2016 Amama Mbabazi Presidential election petition.

In its judgment, the panel of nine Supreme Court judges led by the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe directed the Attorney General to implement ten orders so as to improve electoral democracy in the country.

They included reviewing the time for holding fresh elections in case a presidential election is nullified, the use of technology and nature of evidence, unequal use of state owned media, late enactment of relevant electoral legislation, and the involvement of public officers in political campaigns among others.

The justices hoped that the reforms would level the electoral ground by the 2021 general elections so as to avoid anomalies that characterized the previous polls.  The justices directed the relevant organs of government to enact the reforms within two years from the judgment.

However, nothing was done prompting Professors Frederick Ssembebwa, Fredrick W. Jjuko and Kituo Cha Katiba to sue the attorney general for contempt of court.

This afternoon, the panel of six Supreme Court judges comprising of Justices Stellah Arach Amoko, Eldard Mwanguhya, Opio Aweri, Richard Buteera, Paul Mugamba and Augustine Nshimye threw out the application.

The judges noted that the Attorney General has been making efforts to fulfill the orders issued by court. They asked the petitioners to respect the fact that the Attorney General is not working alone but with other state organs including parliament and executive, which is a gradual process.

They noted that government has tabled the proposed electoral reforms in parliament including increasing the time for determining and evaluating evidence in a presidential election petition from 30 days to 45 days, extending the time of filing presidential election petitions from 10 to fifteen days and the use of use of oral evidence alongside affidavits, which wasn’t the case previously.

Government has also proposed to increase the time for holding fresh presidential election in case of nullification from 20 to 60 days.

Court has ordered the Attorney General to prioritise the implementation of all court recommendations in consultation with other organs including parliament and the executive.

Court has also directed the attorney to table the remaining proposals before parliament within a month’s time from today and report the progress to court within three months.

The court noted that since this was a public interest matter, each party will bear its own costs.

The Deputy Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana who was in court welcomed the judgment. Robert Kirunda, one of the lawyers who represented the petitioner, said he was happy with the new court orders.