The Electoral Commission has requested High Court to dismiss a petition challenging the election of Hon. Muhammad Ssegirinya as the Kawempe North Member of Parliament. Ssegirinya defeated nine other candidates with a land slide victory of 41,197 votes against his closest challenger Sulaiman Kidandala who gathered 7,512 votes during the January 2021 polls.
His victory was challenged by Kidandala who claimed that Ssegirinya didn’t have the required academic qualifications to run for a parliamentary seat.
The law requires all persons contesting for a parliamentary seat to have an A-level or it’s equivalent. But according to Kidandala’s petition, the academic documents that Ssegirinya presented to the Electoral Commission were forged, which constitutes a crime under the Parliamentary Election Act.
Kidandala also alleges that Ssegirinya’s nomination was not accompanied by the names and signatures of a minimum of ten persons who are registered voters in the Kawempe North constituency, as required by the law. The appeal also claims that Ssegirinya’s nomination paper was not signed and countersigned in accordance with the Parliamentary Elections Act.
The appeal further indicates that Ssegirinya was never a registered voter of Kawempe North or anywhere in Uganda. This was because, by the time he officially changed his name from Richard to Muhammad Ssegirinya, the Electoral Commission had already finished updating the voter register.
According to documents filed in support of the petition, Ssegirinya gazetted his deed poll to change his name on October 13, 2020, one year after the closure of the update of the voter register.
But by the time this appeal was filed, Ssegirinya had been arrested and later remanded to Kitalya Prisons for holding an unlawful assembly. Kindalala was unable to serve Ssegirinya with the petition prompting him to ask court to allow him to serve the legislator through the OC of Kitalya Prisons.
The Uganda Electoral Commission which is the second respondent in the case says that Ssegirinya was never served as a respondent in the case, which makes the case bad in law, according to an affidavit sworn in by Lugolobi Hamidu, a legal officer working with the Electoral Commission.
“The court ordered that the respondent herein serves the said Ssegirinya Muhammad with notice of presentation of the petition through the officer in charge of the prison who should witness personal service… and the registrar of the court affixes the notice presentation of the petition on the court notice board…That the respondent did not serve the notice of presentation of the petition on the said Ssegirinya Muhammad,” Lugolobi’s affidavit reads in part.
He adds that under the law, the respondent was supposed to apply for substituted service within three days upon failure to serve the applicant, and in the event of failure to serve in time, the respondent was supposed to apply for an extension of time in which to serve the notice of presentation of the petition.
The affidavit adds that the officer in charge of Kitalya Prisons, Mugirya Felix confirmed that indeed Kidandala never served the notice of presentation of the petition on Ssegirinya as directed and ordered by court. However, Kato Fred one of Kindandala’s lawyers maintains in his own affidavit that when the High court allowed them to serve Ssegirinya while in prison, he indeed served him but he declined to sign the papers.
“…following a telephone call, the said warden requested a prison officer whose uniform was bearing the name of Ahebwa to give the documents to another officer he referred to as deputy officer in charge of prison and requested that I followed the said officer inside the prison offices at Kitalya Mini Max Prison which I did,” Kato’s affidavit reads.
The affidavit adds that after over 15 minutes, Ssegirinya Muhammad came to the office of the deputy officer in charge of the Kitalya prison where Kato was waiting from. The deputy officer in charge of the prison reportedly handed over the notice of presentation, the petition and the court order to Ssegirinya.
“He read through the same but upon my request that he signs, on my copy for proof of service, he declined and stated that he could not sign them while in prison and without consulting his lawyers… the said officer told him that the documents were his and that service to him in prison was accompanied by court order but he still declined to sign.” the affidavit adds.
The hearing is on today we will keep you updated.