News that 40 MPs are fighting for their political lives to save the seats they won in the January 14 polls testifies to our confidence in our courts of law as fair and impartial arbiters. But there are grounds for fears too because five years later, some MPs poll petitions in the 2016 elections remain unresolved in our courts.
It was only last month, in February, five years later that the Court of Appeal started to hear some 25 stale election cases. Some of the petitions were filed in 2015 and many have been overtaken by events since the leaders whose election the petitions sought to overturn have already served out their parliamentary tenure or terms of office, or the actions being challenged have ceased to exist.
Regrettably, this means the disposal of these election-related cases now serve more of legal significance, but offers little or no political value. Our appeal to the courts of law is that the current suits against the election of 40 MPs in the January 14 General Election must not be in vain.
Their petitions against their rivals regarding voter bribery, lack of the requisite academic qualifications, violence and election fraud, and lack of compliance with the electoral laws must be expeditiously inquired into and disposed of.
The assurances by Deputy Chief Justice (DCJ) Richard Butera that the Judiciary is ready to handle all election disputes arising from the parliamentary elections of January 14, gives us some confidence. His recent promises to the East African Community Election Observer Mission (EAC-EOM) to the General Election in Kampala should be seen through.
Even more reassuring is Justice Butera’s statement that the judiciary has already trained its judicial officers, including judges of the High Court, registrars of all courts, magistrates and lawyers, on the handling of election petitions and disputes.
Nonetheless, the Judiciary has to quickly conclude the training of judges of the Court of Appeal who handle the appeals since dissatisfied parties run to the Court of Appeal and its judges for final determination of their petitions.
We urge the courts to stick to Justice Butera’s assurances that the Judiciary will listen to all parties involved in election disputes and all the cases determined in a professional manner and in strict adherence to the laws governing elections in the country.
We, therefore, implore the Judiciary to assess the cases before them on their own merits, stretching from registration of voters, voter education, nominations by political parties, actual voting and counting of ballots, since all the processes affect the election.