KAMPALA. Lawyers defending the victory of Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni in the February 18 polls have apologized for the late delivery of voting materials in some parts of the country but were quick to deny it was intended to benefit their client at the expense of other presidential candidates as alleged by defeated independent presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi’s legal team.
The apology was made by one of Mr Museveni’s lawyers Kiryowa Kiwanuka on Wednesday at the ongoing hearing of the presidential election petition before the Kampala based Supreme Court.
Mr Kiwanuka who seemed to be laboring a lot to submit on issues that are meant to be responded to by the Electoral Commission (EC), told a panel of nine justices led by Chief Justice Bart Katureebe that it was Mbabazi’s contention that the delay in delivery of the voting materials in areas such as Wakiso and Kampala districts was intended to benefit Mr Museveni who has been in power for 30 years and that he would be the most affected party in case court rules otherwise.
“Really, it was a mess (referring to late delivery of voting materials),” Mr Kiwanuka told court upon being prompted by one of the justices Eldad Mwangusya who got concerned about the delay.
“Section 28 of the Presidential Election Act requires the 2nd respondent (EC) to deliver voting materials to its returning officers within 48 hours. It is on record that in some parts of Wakiso and Kampala, this provision was not complied with. However, the petitioner (Mr Mbabazi) contends that it was deliberate to benefit 1st respondent (Mr Museveni) yet that is not true,” submitted counsel Kiwanuka.
Mr Kiwanuka, in laboring to explain why the delay in the districts that are close to the EC headquarters attributed the problem the miscalculation in printing of the declaration forms.
He further submitted that the EC begun by printing the declaration forms for the farthest districts like Kaabong and that they would deal with those closest to the headquarters last.
He also explained that the EC got concerned about the delay and that mitigating factors that included extension of voting time from 4pm to 7pm were put in place.
Mr Kiwanuka further argued that people voted as it’s evidenced by the higher voter turn up compared to previous elections.
He also argued that there is no evidence on court record by any voter who failed to vote as a result of late delivery of voting materials in the affected districts.
While presenting their case yesterday, Mbabazi’s lawyers led by Mohammed Mbabazi, claimed that the late delivery in Kampala and Wakiso districts, was intended because it’s a stronghold of the opposition as it was evidenced by President Museveni getting lesser votes against the opposition candidates. They contended that the same non-compliance by the EC to deliver the voting materials; should be one of the basis for the court to annul Museveni’s victory.
On February 18, the EC failed to deliver voting materials to most polling stations in Wakiso and Kampala districts on time (7am) with some polling stations receiving their materials as late as 2:30pm. Voting in some polling stations had to be postponed to the following day.
On March 20 this year, the EC declared President Museveni winner of the highly contested February 18 elections with 60.7 per cent of the total vote, followed by FDC’s Kizza Besigye with 35 percent and Mr Mbabazi came distant third with 1.39 percent.
Hearing continues with the third lawyer Mr Joseph Matsiko defending President Museveni’s victory.