Lango to elect new paramount chief today

Members of Lango ethnic group peep through Lira Hight Courtroom's widows as they struggle to follow the hearing of the petition seeking the block the election of the new paramount chief on February 29, 2024. Photo | Bill Oketch

What you need to know:

  • The petitioners contended that the position of won nyaci is in imminent threat and danger of having two parallel won nyaci if the respondents are allowed to conduct the said election

Members of the Lango ethnic group in Northern Uganda are today (Friday) headed to Akii-Bua Stadium to elect the new paramount chief (won nyaci), after Lira High Court Thursday dismissed with costs a petition in which five clan leaders had sought to block the election.

Mr James Robert Ajal, Benson Walter Dila, Denis Obia Acila, Benjamin Okii and Robert Tile ran to court on February 27 – two days before the much-anticipated poll contesting the manner in which the whole process was being organised.

The petitioners contended that the position of won nyaci is in imminent threat and danger of having two parallel won nyaci if the respondents are allowed to conduct the said election.

The respondents were; Eng Dr Moses Michael Odongo Okune, George Ojwang Opota, Willy Omodo Omodo, Tom Otim, Hamza Okello, Vincent Oling, Beatrice Amongi Lagada, John Elem, Ben Ogwete Otim and Peter Acuda Obong.

The petitioners further averred that the current Won Nyaci, Mzee Yosam Odur Ebii, is still alive meaning the position is not vacant. They maintained that the respondents are illegally posturing to conduct the process for the election of new won nyaci before the abdication date set for November 1, 2024, as per the Institution of Tradition or Cultural Leaders Act, 2011.

On Thursday, the application came for hearing before Godfrey Ngobi Ssalaamu, Lira High Court’s Assistant Registrar.

The applicants were represented by lawyers; Emmanuel Egaru Omiat and Innocent Okuny. The respondents were represented by counsels; Adams Makmot Kibwanga, Quirinus Oyugi Onono, Simon Peter from Odoo, Ponsiano Okello, and Gabriel Obua.

Both sides made oral submissions and further, the respondents sought and were granted leave to cross-examine applicant number two, James Robert Ajal.

At the commencement of the hearing, the respondents’ counsel raised preliminary objections. The objections related to, among others, non-service of the process onto other respondents and on the legality of the first applicant (Lango Cultural Foundation), whether or not it is incorporated, thus being a legal entity with the capacity to be sued or to sue.

However, all counsels agreed that for an interim order to be granted, there must be proof of prima facie case by the applicants, irreparable loss or that the balance of convenience tilts in favour of the applicants.

The Assistant Registrar said he carefully examined this application and all the supporting affidavits.

“I have also had the opportunity to peruse the pleadings in the main suit and application altogether. Further, I must say that I have greatly benefited from the submissions of all the learned counsels in this application,” he said.

Ngobi Ssalaamu ruled that the orders are not granted as of right simply because the main application is pending before the court. The party seeking the order should show that there is sufficient cause to warrant the grant and that if the order is not granted, there will be irreparable loss caused.

“In an application of this nature, this court is being called on to maintain the status quo and not to dismiss the impugned electoral commission of the first applicant (Lango Cultural Foundation),” he ruled.

“Given the above, and aware that a grant of an Interim Order is discretionary, I find no basis for this court to exercise its discretion and this court hesitates to grant the application. The application is hereby dismissed with costs in the cause.”

This ruling means all the 150 plus Lango clan heads are eligible to be elected in the position of won nyaci on March 1, 2024. The new leader will succeed outgoing paramount chief Mzee Yosam Odur Ebii, who will hand over office on November 1, 2024.