Bobi, Masaka killings: The cases that kept courts busy

Supreme Court Justices during the hearing of Bobi Wine’s application to amend his petition challenging President Yoweri Museveni’s victory on February 9.  PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Since 2021 was an election year, it was bound to have numerous poll disputes in courts across the country, including the presidential poll petition filed by NUP president Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, against President Museveni. Anthony Wesaka brings you some of the highlights of cases that made headlines.

Bobi Wine Vs Museveni
Shortly after the January 14 presidential polls, the runner up, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, of the Opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) party, petitioned the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the victory of President Museveni and order fresh elections.

Bobi Wine filed his petition on February 1, 16 days after the declaration of the presidential polls by the Electoral Commission in favour of President Museveni. 
Mr Museveni was declared winner with 58 percent of the total votes cast, while his closet challenger Bobi Wine scored 35 percent.

Bobi Wine had listed more than 26 grounds to have Mr Museveni’s victory nullified. 

He accused him of voter bribery, ballot stuffing, intimidation, and sponsoring violence that resulted in arrests and death of people.

Mr Museveni had in his defence asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the petition on grounds that it was filed late.
He had also denied ordering security to brutalise Bobi Wine and his supporters, including confiscating their berets and other campaign materials as alleged in the poll petition.

But later, Bobi Wine through his lawyers led by Mr Medard Sseggona withdrew the petition before court could pronounce itself on it.

The NUP president accused the judges of bias for rejecting his move to amend the petition, file additional evidence to strengthen his case, and arrest of his key witnesses, among other reasons.
The petition was withdrawn with each party being ordered to meet its own legal costs.

Parliamentary and local council polls
Shortly after, parliamentary poll petitions kicked in. As of March 23, there were 155 parliamentary and local council election petitions that had been filed before the courts countrywide disputing the outcomes of the January polls.

Unlike in the past elections, this time, more than 50 MPs, whose victory had been contested by their political rivals, retained their seats due to lack of evidence. Some of the legislators include Ms Connie Galiwango (Mbale Woman) whose victory had been challenged by Ms Lydia Wanyoto, Mr Nathan Igeme Nabeta of NRM  (Jinja East), whose victory had been challenged by Mr Paul Mwiru of Alliance for National Transformation (ANT).

In other cases, MPs retained their seats because their opponents withdrew petitions for instance Kamuli Woman MP Rebecca Kadaga, and Rubaga South’s Aloysius Mukasa.

It is only a few like Mityana Woman MP Joyce Bagala and her Soroti East counterpart Moses Attan Okia who were kicked out. 

However, some like Ms Bagala, have since appealed before the Court of Appeal. The court is yet to commence hearing of the parliamentary and local council election appeals.

MPs Ssegirinya, Ssewanyana charged
In September, MPs Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) and Mr Muhammad Ssegirinya (Kawempe North) were charged before Masaka Chief Magistrate’s Court and later remanded in connection with the spate of killings in the Greater Masaka sub-region by machete-wielding men.

Prosecution alleges that on August 23 at Ssettaala Village in Masaka City with malice aforethought, the MPs killed Francis Mugerwa Kiiza, aka Nswa, and Sulaiman Kakooza.

Later, the State amended their charge sheet and added charges of terrorism and aiding and abetting terrorism.
The legislators alongside other suspects, are accused of funding the spate of killings in Masaka.

The duo applied to be released on bail pending the hearing of their cases, which the High Court in Masaka granted.

However, they were rearrested by heavily armed security personnel as they left the prison gates.

The legislators are still in detention, pending trial by the High Court.
They have since pleaded with court to release them on bail, citing poor health but in vain.

Crane Bank, Sudhir commercial dispute case ranges on
The Supreme Court was yet to deliver its ruling on who between Bank of Uganda (BoU) and Crane Bank in receivership, pays the legal costs to businessman Sudhir Ruparelia after the withdrawal of the appeal they had filed against him in the multi-billion commercial dispute.

Mr Sudhir’s lawyers led by Mr Peter Kabatsi, had at the last court appearance, argued that it was BoU that was behind the dispute but not Crane Bank in receivership as portrayed by BoU lawyers.

The contention of who pays costs follows the withdrawal of the appeal in which Crane Bank in receivership had sought to overturn the lower court’s decisions in which they held that the bank did not have powers to sue Mr Sudhir.

On June 30, 2017, Crane Bank in receivership filed a commercial case before the High Court, Commercial Division seeking to recover more than Shs397b from the businessman, accusing him of misappropriating the funds as the director and shareholder with his Meera Investment Company.

On August 29, 2019, then presiding judge David Wangutusi dismissed the dispute on grounds that Crane Bank in receivership lost its legal powers to sue Mr Ruparelia or to be sued when it was placed under receivership.
But Crane Bank in receivership was dissatisfied with the decision and lodged an appeal before the Court of Appeal.

Still a panel of three justices led by then Deputy Chief Justice (Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, now Chief Justice), also dismissed the appeal and upheld the Commercial Court.
The ruling is now on notice, and the parties will be notified when its ready for delivery.

Pastor Bujjingo, lover sued over marriage
Pastor Aloysious Bujjingo of House of Prayer Ministries International, was sued for allegedly entering into a customary marriage with his new lover, Ms Suzan Makula Nantaba, yet he is still married to Ms Teddy Naluswa Bujjingo.

Mr Bujjingo faces charges of contracting marriage by customary law when he is already married under the marriage Act. He faces up to five years imprisonment if convicted.

Lawyer Hassan Male Mabirizi privately instituted the criminal charges.

Entebbe Chief Magistrate’s Court has since summoned Mr Bujjingo and Ms Makula to appear on January 21 and plead to the charges.

Scrapping of bail for capital suspects debate rages on

The debate on whether to grant or deny bail and police bond to suspects facing capital offences ranged for the greater part of 2021.

President Museveni kicked off the debate, arguing that granting bail to suspected capital offenders was provoking the citizens to take the law into their hands. Alternatively, the President proposed that those facing capital offences be locked up for 180 days before they can apply and be released on bail.

Mr Museveni has also vowed to find a political solution to what he calls an ever persisting practice by the Judiciary, whom he accused of making bail mandatory instead of being discretionary.

However, the Judiciary argued that applying for bail is a constitutional right and releasing the suspects is the court’s discretion.

The Attorney General, Mr Kiryowa Kiwanuka, had presented the bail amendment to Cabinet for their input and action.