Uganda: Public Address system, Power Switched off, Case file Confiscated as Justice Esther Kisakye delivers Ruling

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Dissenting Supreme court judge, Esther Kisakye has defied orders of the Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo and read out her minority ruling in the election petition (now withdrawn) filed by form National Unity Platform Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine. 

Kisakye accused the chief justice of confiscating the file containing her minority ruling in which she disagreed with her eight other colleagues on allowing Kyagulanyi to file more evidence since he had been locked up and constrained at home by the security. She said Owiny-Dollo had told her that her ruling could only be delivered after the other members of the panel had debated it. 

Watch video on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INtCai5dxoI

“That my ruling would be read at a later date…after he and the other members of the coram probably debated my ruling. I found that order unconstitutional and I chose to disobey it.” she said.

“When I was appointed a judge of this court in 2009, I swore to uphold the constitution of Uganda and I also took a judicial oath and am acting based on those undertakings I made. I felt it is my constitutional duty to disobey the unlawful orders of the chief justice and fulfil my duty as a member of this quorum to deliver my decision within the 45 days under Article 104,” added justice Kisakye, who addressed the media in near darkness after the electricity and the public address system were switched off. 

Before withdrawing the election petition, Kyagulanyi accused the Supreme court of bias after it denied him the opportunity to file more affidavits to support his case against President Yoweri Museveni, the Election Commission and the Attorney General Kisakye to have Museveni’s election victory annulled. 

“With all due respect to the council of respondents and my colleagues on this coram, I do not subscribe to the alleged legal position that a presidential election petition cannot be amended after the expiry of the 14 days following the declaration of those results. As I noted earlier, all the respondents conveniently ignored the binding precedent of this court of Amama Mbabazi where they allowed the petitioner [to amend the petition,” she said. 

HOW THE DRAMA STARTED

It all started shortly after the nine-member panel of the Supreme court led by the chief justice delivered its detailed judgment explaining why they okayed the withdraw of Kyagulanyi’s petition challenging Museveni’s controversial election victory. The court also ordered each party namely Museveni, Electoral Commission and Attorney General to meet its own costs of the suit. 

Immediately after delivering their detailed ruling, the chief justice said the court would break off and reconvene at 1:30 pm without giving any reason. This prompted the registrar to follow the chief justice to his chambers to find out whether he made the announcement in error or there was still pending business.

Court reconvened at around 2:30 pm. However, the respondent’s lawyers led by the Attorney General William Byaruhanga were summoned to the chambers for consultations on an unknown matter. They returned shortly after the meeting that didn’t take long, packed their belongings and hastily left the court premises.

Shortly after, a judicial official came and ordered the team from Photo Genix Company, which was contracted to erect a tent and provide the public address system to the court to disconnect their equipment as justice Kisakye looked on since she had remained alone on the bench.  

She told journalists that the full panel was supposed to reconvene. She later revealed that she didn’t have her file with her but said that she wouldn’t reveal internal matters of the court.

However, after sitting for about 15 minutes on the bench alone, she broke her silence, saying that her file had been confiscated on the orders of Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo for unknown reasons.

Kyagulanyi’s lawyer, Samuel Muyizi who had remained in court, said this was the first time he was experiencing such an incident. Minutes later everyone was ejected from the courtroom amidst tight security by counter-terrorism police when Kisakye left to search for her missing file. 

The Judiciary spokesperson, Solomon Muyita had just started explaining to journalists what was going on when Justice Kisakye returned, saying that she had failed to trace her file. Nevertheless, she went ahead to start reading her ruling, saying that she had managed to access her draft copy, accusing Owiny-Dollo of using “barbaric means” to abuse his powers. 

Owiny-Dollo has particularly come under scrutiny after he was accused of presiding over a case in which he was accused of bias towards Kygulanyi and ruling in his own favour. 

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