Court to decide whether inmates, Ugandans in diaspora will vote in 2021

Tuesday July 14 2020

Voting. Last month, Justice Lydia Mugambe ruled

Voting. Last month, Justice Lydia Mugambe ruled that prisoners and Ugandans in the diaspora have a right to vote and ordered EC to cater for them. FILE PHOTO  

By JULIET KIGONGO

The High Court in Kampala has set August 3 to decide whether to give Electoral Commission (EC) more time to cater for the participation of Ugandans in the diaspora and prisoners to vote in the 2021 general election.

The EC told court yesterday that implementation of the earlier court order to allow Ugandans in the diaspora and prisoners to participate means reopening the voter registration, update and display of the voters register which exercises have been concluded.

“Reopening of the voter registration process will throw the electoral process into a fatal spin as the Constitution and the laws made put the electoral process in a straitjacket time table which, if interfered with, would jeopardise the entire process already in its advanced stage,” Mr Eric Sabiiti, the EC lawyer told Justice Esta Nambayo.

“We do not want the applicant (EC) to be in contempt of court. That is why we come to court. It is impossible to do anything in these remaining five months as currently EC is at the stage to prepare nominations,” he added.

Mr Sabiiti submitted the affidavit of Mr Hamid Lugoloobi in support of the EC arguments and said the commission also does not have funds to facilitate the fresh process. He said the only funds allocated for 2020/2021 can only handle already registered Ugandans.

However, Mr Deugratius Odokel, the lawyer of Mr Steven Kalali, a respondent in the petition, said the EC application was wrongly filed since the Commission already filed a notice to appeal the judgement which ordered prisoners and people in diaspora to vote.

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“We emphasise that a notice of appeal is a clear indication that the applicant (EC) preferred an appeal instead of review,” Mr Odokel said.

He also said it was wrong for EC to say that it has no funds as they should ask for a supplementary budget from the Ministry of Finance or the Speaker of Parliament who are responsible.
In response, Mr Sabiiti said EC abandoned the appeal.

Right to vote

Last month, Justice Lydia Mugambe ruled that prisoners and Ugandans in the diaspora have a right to vote and ordered EC to cater for them.

“As citizens, Ugandans of 18 years and above who are in prison or the diaspora have the right to vote under Article 59 of the Constitution,” Justice Mugambe said.

She ruled that even a comparative analysis demonstrates that several other democracies enforce the right to vote for prisoners and those in the diaspora. She cited countries such as South Africa, Ghana and Kenya that allow these categories to vote.

“The Electoral Commission’s conduct of depriving them of this right is illegal as it infringes on their rights in violation of articles 1, 59 and 21 of the Constitution,” she said.

Justice Mugambe directed the EC to accordingly comply with its obligation under Article 59 clause 3 and take all necessary steps to ensure the affected citizens register and vote.

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