The actual hearing of the presidential election petition challenging the re-election of President Museveni kicks off today at the Supreme Court in Kololo, Kampala.
According to the programme issued by Chief Justice Bart Katureebe last week, the legal team of the petitioner, Mr Amama Mbabazi, will present its case first to the panel of nine justices led by the Chief Justice.
Justice Katureebe said Mbabazi and his legal team have two days (today and tomorrow) to present their case and the subsequent three days will be for each of the respective three respondents to give their side of the story.
This means the three respondents - President Museveni, the EC and the Attorney General will each, through their lawyers, respond to the allegations, with each side taking one day. Therefore, the hearing of the petition is expected to end this Friday.
A new notice pinned at the Supreme Court notice board by the Registrar of the Court, Mr Tom Chemutai, indicates that the court will deliver its verdict on March 31. As mandated by the Constitution, the Supreme Court is to make an inquiry into a presidential election petition and pass its verdict within a period of 30 days.
However, before the court commences the hearing of the petition this morning, there will be a ruling on two applications brought by nine Makerere University lecturers and eight members of civil society, seeking to be joined to the petition in the capacity of ‘friends of court’, legally referred to as amicus curiae.
The practice in election petitions is that evidence is brought before court in form of sworn-in affidavits. It’s only in rare circumstances that a concerned party can seek leave of court to summon a witness to physically appear in the witness dock and be cross-examined on their affidavit if need arises.
The current petition arose on March 1 when former presidential candidate Mbabazi petitioned the court, seeking nullification of President Museveni’s election victory, citing non-compliance of the electoral laws and outright rigging.
However, barely a week later, Mr Mbabazi successfully applied to court to have his petition amended on grounds that he had made general allegations and he wanted to improve it by narrowing down to specifics.
In his amended petition, Mr Mbabazi accuses Mr Museveni, through his agents, of bribing voters in every village throughout the country with Shs250,000 on two occasions with the intention of refraining them from voting Mr Mbabazi. The former premier also alleges that the President bribed voters in West Nile with hoes with the aim that they should vote him and not any other candidate.
In faulting the EC that organised the elections, Mr Mbabazi claims that some of its agents (presiding officers) pre-ticked ballot papers in favour of the incumbent President.
Among the reliefs that Mr Mbabazi is seeking from the highest court in the land are for an order to have a vote recount in 45 districts, including Kampala and Wakiso. He explains that the recount is necessary to determine the substantial effect of malpractices and non-compliance of the EC in the conduct of the election in question.
The other requests that Mr Mbabazi seeks from court are declarations that Mr Museveni was not validly elected president and also an order that the election the former NRM presidential candidate be annulled and also costs of the petition be provided to him. The past week was spent on levelling the ground legally called pre-hearing conference where issues and facts were sorted out.