KAMPALA — The impartiality of Uganda’s Judiciary was tested on Tuesday when a High Court judge lost his cool in a trial and accused two lawyers of making “rubbish submissions” in a case against the Electoral Commission (EC).
Trouble started when Justice Musa Sekaana was accused of conflict of interest after he ruled that EC chairman Justice Simon Byabakama cannot be summoned to defend himself in a case where he is accused of illegally holding office, alleging that he has not yet resigned his role as Supreme Court judge.
The case was filed by lawyer Male Mabirizi and the People’s Government represented by Erias Lukwago.
“The exercise of discretion must be exercised with caution since it may defeat the policy considerations for a special procedure or judicial review matters. The intended cross examination if granted would defeat the expeditions disposal intended under the rules,” the judge held.
But this did not go down well with Mabirizi, who pointed out that Justice Sekaana ought to excuse himself from the case since he had earlier in his career represented EC as it’s lawyer.
“I have heard enough of your bias and this appears as if I am before Byabakama or Rwakoojo’s lawyer, please excuse yourself from this case,” Mr Mabirizi said.
To this the judge retorted: “Male Mabirizi you have pushed me to the extreme, you may end up in Luzira prisons now. Do not push me to the wall. You think everyone is going to be part of your nonsense?” Justice Sekaana said.
This calmed Mabirizi down and he sat down.
Justice Ssekaana reserved his ruling on whether to step aside from the case on notice but proceeded to give timelines within which parties should file their written submissions starting from January 7, 2020.
The judge also declined to summon the EC’s Secretary Mr Sam Rwakwojo who is accused of occupying office ahead of the 2021 election yet his contract expired.
Mr Lukwago said since this is a matter of great national importance, he feels justice Ssekaana’s background cannot enable him deliver the justice required in this case.
In his defence, Justice Byabakama contends that since his appointment as EC chairperson in January 2017, he relinquished his position in the Court of Appeal judge to concentrate on this his role as the EC boss.
He explained that he no longer attends workshops or engage in any other activities organised by the Judiciary something that would make him an active justice of the Court of Appeal while Mr Rwakoojo stated that his term of office as the secretary that expired on September 19,2019 has since been renewed for another 5 years.
Mr Lukwago and Mr Mabirizi wanted Justice Byabakama and Mr Rwakoojo to be cross examined on theirr affidavit evidence regarding the transfer of Justice Byabakama’s file from the Judiciary to the Electoral commission, issues of national register and voter verification exercise and to explain how Rwakoojo’s term of office was renewed to 5 years.
Mr Mabirizi and the people’s government are is seeking for a declaration that the continued holding of the position of chairperson, EC by Justice Byabakama without resigning his position is illegal and his position should be declared vacant.
The two officials through their lawyers Kiryowa Kiwanuka and Kandeebe Ntabirweki have now asked Justice Sekaana to dismiss the entire application for being incompetent .