FDC faction faults judge over ruling 

FDC president for the Katonga faction Erias Lukwago (centre), Kira Municipality MP Ssemujju Nganda (with blue tie) and other FDC members address the media at their offices on Katonga road on October 10, 2023. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • At yesterday press conference, Mr Ssemujju seized on the decision to declare that the judge did not treat them well during the hearing of the case and delivered the judgment by email at midnight after permitting them to make oral rejoinder submissions for only 20 minutes.

A faction of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has said it is “not happy” with a High Court judge for failing to stop an October 6 National Delegates’ Conference convened by the party secretariat.

Kira Municipality Member of Parliament Ssemujju Nganda, who speaks for the splinter group, said it was “unfortunate” that Judge Musa Ssekaana, the head of the Civil Division of the High Court, rejected all their prayers.

Twenty-eight members of the faction in miscellaneous application number 962 of 2023 sued Mr Boniface Toterebuka Bamwenda, the FDC chief electoral commissioner.

They averred that Mr Bamwenda and the party Vice Chairman Kibuka Mukalazi had no powers to convene the then planned delegates’ conference and that any elections they presided over would be illegal.

The petitioners then asked Justice Ssekaana to grant temporary and interim injunctions restraining the respondent, his agents, servants or employees from holding the office of the FDC chief electoral commissioner, convening the National Delegates’ Conference and organising the ballot for the party’s internal leadership structures until a separate civil suit number 387 of 2023 they filed is determined.

They argued that by calling the delegates’ conference, the respondent plotted to usurp the powers of the National Chairman to convene and chair such conferences as provided in Articles 23 and 28 of the FDC Constitution.

The petitioners asked court to award costs, taking into the judicial chambers an intra-party fallout. 

Until the 2021 vote, the FDC was Uganda’s largest Opposition party. 

However, claims made first by its four-time presidential flag bearer, Dr Kizza Besigye, that its President Patrick Oboi Amuriat and Secretary General Nandala Mafabi received “dirty money” ahead of the poll to sell the party out to President Museveni, prompted his believers to break ranks.

The dissenters, among them National Chairman Ambassador Wasswa Birigwa and spokesman Ssemujju, found home at Dr Besigye’s private office on Katonga Road in Kampala from where they claimed leadership of the party, and convened a splinter delegates’ conference which re-elected them.

After that vote, which was held despite a court order against it, Ambassador Birigwa and co-petitioners asked court to block the ballot that the secretariat planned for October 6. Ambassador Birigwa, court heard, paid and reserved nomination form for a re-election run in the very elections he joined with others to challenge.

In his reply, Mr Bamwenda argued that he could not be sued in personal capacity for doing official work and questioned why the FDC party on whose behalf he acted was excluded as a respondent. 

He further told court that he was appointed FDC’s chief electoral commissioner by the party’s 14th National Council meeting held on October 8, 2020 to replace Mr Yusuf Nsibambi who resigned to successfully run as an MP.

Mr Bamwenda submitted that the elections programme he was implementing, which the Katonga group challenged, was in line with FDC’s road map duly endorsed by the 13th National Council meeting held on December 13-14, 2019, which Ambassador Birigwa chaired.

The party’s National Council approved the road map on July 28, 2023, he told court.

In his ruling, Justice Ssekaana noted that the case before him pitted rival individual members of FDC and since FDC was not party to the suit, granting orders that would affect its operations and future would be unjustified as neither side could purport to represent the “wider” national interests of the party they were fighting over.  

He observed that it was “borderline of professional misconduct” for Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, a former FDC deputy president elected last month as the rival party president, to represent the applicants in court when he potentially could be summoned as a witness in the main suit for his role in the infighting.  

Justice Ssekaana then ruled that the applicants had failed to prove before him a prima facie case with reasonable probability of success; that there was no evidence that they would suffer irreparable damages; and, that on the “balance of convenience”, court could not grant the orders for temporary injunctions and costs.

“This application fails on the preliminary considerations … and also on the grounds adumbrated for the grant of temporary injunction,” the judge said, citing what he called the applicants’ failure to satisfy court on conditions for discretionary grant of remedies they sought.

At yesterday press conference, Mr Ssemujju seized on the decision to declare that the judge did not treat them well during the hearing of the case and delivered the judgment by email at midnight after permitting them to make oral rejoinder submissions for only 20 minutes.

“We are not happy with the way Judge Musa Ssekaana treated us when we appeared before him on October 5,” he noted, adding that the judge made them on the fateful day to wait for two hours and said he would be available for only an hour when he appeared at 2pm. 

“Justice must not only be done, but [be] seen to be done,” Mr Ssemujju said.
Judiciary view

Judiciary spokesperson, Mr James Ereemye, yesterday said the aggrieved parties should use “legal means” provided in the law to challenge decisions of courts they disagree with.

“To grant or not to grant [an injunction] was entirely in the discretion of the trial judge,” he said

Asked yesterday why they had not sought a judicial review or appealed against Justice Ssekaana’s ruling, Mr Ssemujju said that there was no time since the decision was rendered close to the date of the delegates’ conference that was held as scheduled  on October 6.