Court Dismisses Soroti City, Toroma County Election Petitions

The High Court in Soroti has dismissed three election petitions filed against the Members of Parliament of Soroti City East, Soroti City West and Toroma County.

In Soroti City East, the petition arose from the by-election that was conducted in July 2022 when Herbert Edmund Ariko was declared winner, defeating the incumbent, FDC’s Moses Attan Okia.  

Attan was thrown out of Parliament by the Court of Appeal in May 2022 over the wrongful boundaries. The court noted that the election was conducted in non-existent wards of Aloet and Opiyai.   The wards were erroneously annexed to Soroti City West Division by the High Court in Soroti.

But Ariko, one of the candidates who lost in the election petitioned the court on grounds that the two wards were annexed to another division. Ariko claimed that the two wards were his strongholds. 

In the by-election, Ariko was declared the winner with 9,407 votes against Attan’s 8,771 votes.

Attan, petitioned the court on grounds that the elections were not conducted in accordance with the Constitution, and electoral laws. He alleged that at various polling stations, several election offences and irregularities were committed by National Resistance Movement officials, security personnel, Electoral Commission and the Soroti City Returning Officer, Christine Eyuu.

Attan also alleged that at various polling stations, there was multiple voting and ballot stuffing and this substantially affected the election results to the benefit of Ariko and to his disadvantage.

But Justice Musa Ssekaana, said that Attan failed to adduce sufficient evidence to prove his case. He said that the petitioner made general claims on ballot stuffing without specifying the number of ballot papers stuffed. 

“In this petition, therefore like in all Election Petitions, it is the petitioner who bears the burden of proving his allegations to the satisfaction of the Court. It is only after the Court is duly satisfied that the grounds raised have been proved to its satisfaction that it will invoke its powers under Subsection (1) of Section 61, read together with Subsection 4 (c) of S. 63 of the Parliamentary Election Act of 2005”, the judgement reads in part. 

On the involvement of the security personnel in the election processes, Justice Ssekaana said that the security presence was justified since the Soroti City East by-election was highly charged between the NRM and FDC supporters.

Justice Ssekaana also dismissed Election Petitions from Soroti City West Division where voters dragged Jonathan Ebwalu to court over boundary issues. He said that the court did not have the mandate to interpret boundaries.  

“It is clear that the petitioners had a right to bring an appeal petition under section 15 above. They were aggrieved by the decision of the Commission which they had a right to appeal. However, the orders being sought in this petition are orders that can only be achieved had the petitioners brought this petition under section 60 of the Parliamentary Elections Act. This court has no jurisdiction to interpret or construe clear provisions of the Constitution or a statute in the guise of promoting democracy when the enabling law does not allow”, the judgement reads in part. 

For Toroma County, Justice Ssekaana said that the petitioner Solomon Ossiya Alemu failed to adduce evidence to pin the incumbent, Joseph Andrew Koluo on electoral offences under the Electoral laws in Uganda.

“Indeed, he tried to make the election of Toroma County Constituency to have been one of the worst ever organized elections in Uganda. This would show the level of desperacy the petitioner had in order to win the election and also to ensure that the same is overturned at whatever cost”, Ssekaana noted.

All the petitions were dismissed with costs except for Toroma County.

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