Giving out hoes by government during this year’s election campaigns could form a good ground for anyone to challenge the outcome of next week’s general election, Peter Walubiri, a constitutional lawyer, has said.
The warning was part of Walubiri’s presentation during Wednesday’s training for justices of the Court of Appeal and Supreme court in handling election petitions at Protea hotel in Kampala. According to Walubiri, President Museveni’s directive to government departments to distribute hoes is a clear case of “voter bribery.”
“The hoes were supposed to be bought in the next financial year but, all of a sudden, the programme was fast-tracked and now they are being distributed during election time. Isn’t that voter bribery?” Walubiri asked.
On Monday, government started distributing some of the 18 million hoes President Museveni promised last November. The first hoes were given out in Terego county, Arua district. The handover ceremony was presided over by Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, who talked up Museveni as a leader who keeps his promises.
But Walubiri told judges that should any petition be lodged challenging the outcome of the general election, the judges should expect the “hoe” to be the hot-button issue in such a case.
“I think there is a lot of unfair competition; if a participant is giving out hoes amidst campaigns, that is clear voter bribery,” Walubiri said.
Walubiri, who was the lead lawyer in Kizza Besigye’s failed court challenge against the results of the 2001 presidential elections, took a swipe at article 104(2) of the constitution. The article stipulates that the presidential election petition must be lodged within 10 days after announcing results.
“Judges want a lot of evidence; how can you get all of that evidence within the 10 days? You have to look for that evidence throughout the country; is it possible within 10 days?” Walubiri asked.
“I’m now going to tell my colleagues who might challenge the outcome of the presidential elections that they should file over four thousand affidavits such that they overwhelm judges with evidence.”
In his presentation, Court of Appeal judge Remmy Kasule, questioned the Supreme court’s decision not to annul President Museveni’s victory on grounds that the election malpractices hadn’t substantially affected the outcome of the elections.
Kasule wondered why the Parliamentary Elections Act allows court to annul a parliamentary election on a lower test of ‘balance of probabilities’ yet the test for annulling a presidential election has to be to the ‘satisfaction’ of the court, which means that the standard of proof is higher.
Citing the 2001 and 2006 presidential election petitions, Kasule said: “In my considered view, a uniform standard of proof, whereby court is satisfied with the ground(s) to set aside an election petition, should be prescribed by Parliament for all elections whether presidential, parliamentary or local governments. This will facilitate the courts to apply the same parameters of standard of proof…,” Kasule said.
Former chief justice Benjamin Odoki told judges not to be afraid to change their minds even at the last minute when deciding election petitions.
“It’s fine to consult. It’s fine to change your mind if you think that evidence has not been sufficient or it has been sufficient,”Odoki said.