The never-ending UPC leadership drama playing out in the courts of law sadly continues. On Monday, September 7, the Court of Appeal justices unanimously ruled that the 2015 “election” of Jimmy Akena as party president was void; effectively upholding the decision of High Court Judge Yasin Nyanzi’s ruling in 2016 that Mr Akena took over the leadership of the party in violation of the party constitution. He remains intransigent.
Recall that I have previously noted that Mr Akena has been conducting party affairs on the basis of an ‘interim’ order that was granted to him four years ago in 2016 by then Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma which stopped the implementation of the High Court decision that had pronounced his purported election null and void.
The interim order appears to have been a calculated political move by the then head of the Court of Appeal to sabotage and derail the genuine internal leadership of UPC, enabling illegitimate and illegal control of party activities for four years. Very sad that retired Justice Kavuma chose such a legacy for his judicial career.
Mr Akena remains cagey on his next steps, though he seems to suggest that Monday’s decision only applies to the fraudulent manner in which he assumed ‘leadership’ from (2015 to 2020) but strangely, that he was recently ‘elected’ fine!
None of this is very surprising. Mr Akena appears to believe that his newly found relationship with the ruling NRA/M entitles him to act with impunity and disregard court decisions. Readers will recall that I previously noted that he ignored the orders made by the justices of the Court of Appeal several weeks ago stopping him from conducting any party affairs. He would do well to reflect on the prevailing tribulations of former Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana.
In her lead judgment for the Court of Appeal justices, former IGG Lady Justice Irene Mulyagonja rightly notes that the credibility of Uganda Peoples Congress is at stake unless its leadership question is resolved. Obviously, this wise counsel has fallen on deaf ears.
I understand that Prof Edward Kakonge’s lawyers are considering seeking the intervention of the Court of Appeal to address Mr Akena’s contemptuous behaviour towards the court’s decisions.
But while my brother’s behaviour and contempt for judicial decisions that are not in his favour should not be discounted, the role of the Judiciary in creating the initial mess is re-emphasised; except for the obnoxious “interim” order issued by Justice Kavuma – whatever the motives – Mr Akena would not have been able to turn the oldest political party into a laughing stock.
Gladly, the Judiciary now has new leadership. The newly appointed Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera and Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo cannot afford to deliberately keep such critical political party disputes unresolved for years as a way of destroying their credibility and leadership.
Thus far, the Court of Appeal has performed its role commendably. The appeal was argued hardly two months ago and the court’s final decision has been delivered. There is the possibility of Akena petitioning the Supreme Court, especially if he considers that it will enable him spend another four years holding the party at ransom.
The Supreme Court cannot and, should – surely not – issue another ‘interim’ order to prolong the leadership crisis in UPC; the Judiciary must realise that it is not the credibility of UPC alone at stake but rather, that of the courts of law as neutral arbiters of political disputes too.
The Court of Appeal has belatedly passed, but now the most difficult test lies with the Supreme Court on a timely and fair finality to a long, melodrama.
Wisdom from the Judiciary and (all sides in UPC) is owed (1 Kings 3:16-28) to both party and country.
The writer is former columnist with New African Magazine and former UPC spokesperson Jop3upc@yahoo.co.uk