Uganda: Opposition Leader Robert Kyagulunyi Poised to Withdraw Election Petition from Supreme Court ‘Bought’ to Museveni’s Cause

Developments in Kampala, Uganda following January’s disputed Presidential Election continue to make world news headlines. The actions of judges of the country’s Supreme Court where a petition had been lodged calling for the cancellation of President Yoweri Museveni’s election victory appear to confirm an African proverb that “A cockroach can never be declared innocent in a gathering of fowls”

That is apparently why Opposition leader Robert Kyagulunyi otherwise known by his artist name Bobi Wine says he will be directing his lawyers to withdraw a case, in which he was challenging the declaration of Yoweri Museveni as the winner of Uganda’s 2021 Presidential Election.

Opposition leader Robert Kyagulunyi aka Bobi Wine and his supporters are not giving up (C) Council on Foreign Relations

“We have decided to withdraw from their court because it is clear that Mr. Owiny-Dollo is not interested in giving Ugandans justice,” says Bobi Wine.

Alfonse Owiny-Dollo is the Chief Justice of Uganda and he has in recent days been engaged in a war of words with Bobi Wine over the handling of the Presidential Election Petition.

Bobi Wine says that while the Chief Justice is supposed to be a just arbiter, Mr. Owiny-Dollo has clearly shown that he is incapable of being fair. Bobi Wine adds that Uganda’s Supreme Court is unlikely to be a fair arbiter, which is why he and his team have decided to take the electoral petition to members of the public.

Among the things that Bobi Wine says pushed him to withdraw his petition is the Supreme Court’s refusal to admit his new evidence. Bobi Wine attempted to file additional 127 affidavits, but these were rejected for allegedly being out of time.

The Supreme Court also told Bobi Wine’s lawyers that the election petition was to be heard through affidavits and lawyers would only summarize their case in thirty minutes. Bobi Wine says this is unfair, as the Supreme Court has previously allowed lawyers in the last three presidential petitions, where Mr. Museveni was a defendant to present verbal arguments including in 2006 when this was done for seven days.

By blocking verbal arguments, Bobi Wine says Ugandans are being denied an opportunity to listen to the evidence showing that President Museveni rigged the January 2021 Presidential Election.

The Opposition leader is the plaintiff in the matter before the Court, but Bobi Wine has been accused by Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo of playing to the gallery. This was after Bobi Wine accused three justices of the Supreme Court of being partial to President Yoweri Museveni, who was sued alongside the Attorney General and the Electoral Commission for rigging the election.

Mr. Owiny-Dollo has in the end been placed at the centre of Bobi Wine’s decision to withdraw the election petition as he wanted Justice Ezekiel Muhanguzi whose partiality has been questioned to recuse himself, as he is related to Uganda’s Security Minister, Elly Tumwine. Mike Chibita another Supreme Court Justice is a former Legal Secretary in Mr. Museveni office, while Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo has also worked with the President previously.   

In addition to Mr. Owiny-Dollo working previously as a member of a team that defended Mr. Museveni in the election petition of 2006, Bobi Wine felt he was actively doing things that suggest he is unlikely to be a fair arbiter.

Among other things, the Chief Justice is alleged to have met with President Museveni, more than once after February 1, when Bobi Wine filed his electoral petition with the Supreme Court. But the judiciary has disputed accusations of Mr. Owiny-Dollo meeting President Museveni on matters related to Bobi Wine’s election petition.

President Yoweri Museveni sits in the State House Unperturbed (C) Pambazuka

A statement from the Judiciary acknowledged the Chief Justice’s meetings with President Museveni, but said it was on business unrelated to the Electoral Petition.  

The statement notes that the top judiciary administration including Mr. Owiny-Dollo went to State House on February 10, for a swearing-in ceremony of a newly appointed judge, because the President’s presence is required by law.

“It is a requirement of the law for such a judicial oath to be taken before the President or any other person appointed by the President,” reads the statement in part.

According to the statement, Mr. Owiny-Dollo used the swearing-in ceremony of the new judge to also present the judiciary’s budget to President Museveni. The Chief Justice was back at President Museveni’s residence six days later for a ceremony commemorating an Anglican bishop killed by former President Iddi Amin Dada in 1977.

According to some experts, the meetings with President Museveni in the midst of a petition place the Chief Justice in an awkward position. The Chief Justice’s next move now remains to be seen, as the Supreme Court must decide on whether Bobi Wine should withdraw his petition.  

Unlike ordinary cases where the loss of interest by the plaintiff would mean the end, the Supreme Court has a say on whether a Presidential Election petition can be withdrawn or not, since this is a matter of public interest.