High Court upholds election of MPs Muhwezi, Niwagaba

Security minister Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi (centre) with his lawyer Mwesigwa Rukutana (4th left) and others  following the court ruling in Kampala yesterday. PHOTO | ISAAC KASAMANI

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  • Reaction. “I am very happy that justice has been done. The Bible says in John chapter 8:32, that you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. That is what happened in this case because we told the court the truth,” Jim Muhwezi, Security minister.

The election of Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi Katugugu as the MP for Rujumbura in Rukungiri District was yesterday upheld by Kabale High Court.

The Security minister’s election had been challenged by Mr Fred Turyamuhweza Tumuheirwe, a former contestant for the same seat on the Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party ticket.

Mr Tumuheirwe had alleged that Gen Muhwezi committed various illegal practices and election offences  and that the EC failed to intervene and restrain him despite several pleas.

But while upholding Gen Muhwezi’s January 14 election, Justice Phillip Odoki held that Mr Tumuheirwe failed to satisfy court that indeed, the minister engaged in bribing the voters.

“I, therefore, find that the petitioner (Mr Tumuheirwe) failed to prove to the satisfaction of court that the 2nd respondent (EC) did not conduct the elections in accordance with the electoral laws,” ruled Justice Odoki yesterday.

“The election of the 1st respondent (Gen Muhwezi), therefore, reflects the choice and will of the majority voters of Rujumbura County Constituency, Rukungiri District,” he added.  

The petitioner had alleged was that the minister had donated 150 iron sheets in Bwambara Sub-county to three different churches; Nyabugando Church of Uganda, Bugarama Church of Uganda and Kyabahanga Catholic Church for the explicit purpose of influencing votes.

But the judge said that whereas the witnesses said the churches received the iron sheets, they did not explain how the same iron sheets were delivered and by whom.

He added that the church leaders also denied receipt of the iron sheets.

“The position of the law is that their evidence needs independent corroborative evidence in order to stand. Bribery is a criminal offence in which both the giver and the receiver are culpably responsible thereby making the receiver an accomplice, hence the need for corroboration,” he ruled.

The other bribery allegation labelled against the minister were that on November 5, 2020, he made a donation of Shs500,000 to the family of the late Jane Nshemereirwe at her burial ceremony where he expressly campaigned and urged the mourners to vote for him.

But the judge said he had not found any corroborating evidence in the the incident.

Reacting to the ruling, Gen Muhwezi told journalists at the chambers of his lawyers of Mwesigwa Rukutana & Co. Advocates in Kampala that justice has been served.

Mr Rukutana, the former Labour minister, said he knew the case was going nowhere for lack of merit.

In a related development, the same court upheld the election of Mr Wilfred Niwagaba as the MP for Ndorwa County East after his opponent failed to produce sufficient evidence to annul his victory.

His victory had been challenged by Mr Protazio Begumisa.

Mr Begumisa had alleged that there was non-compliance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA) and other election laws, which affected the results in a substantial manner and that the MP had committed various illegal practices and electoral offences.

Compiled by Anthony Wesaka, Juliet Kigongo & Robert Muhereza

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