The Supreme court has this morning adjourned the hearing of an application seeking to withdraw the presidential election petition filed by former National Unity Platform presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu after his lawyers said their practising certificates had expired.
Medard Lubega Sseggona, the lead lawyer and Abubaker Ssekanjako said they couldn’t proceed with the case because they are not allowed to represent anybody in court without the practising certificates. Sseggona said he had tried to raise the matter with the court registrar before the case could begin but was unsuccessful.
“My Lord I want to be guided on a matter of professional nature in respect to the validity of our practising certificates," Sseggona said.
"When we filed this application, we had applied to get certificates and the Law Council is still processing the same. I should have brought this in chambers but court was ready to begin. But I thought I should bring it here for your guidance. It's not proper for us to proceed without the certificates.” Sseggona added.
In response, Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo asked Sseggona whether he'd disclosed to Kyagulanyi that they may get difficulties in executing his instructions so that he could represent himself. To this, Sseggona answered in the negative.
Owiny-Dollo then asked him whether he had talked to the registrar of the court about his predicament such that special consideration be given to them. To this, Sseggona answered that it didn't cross his mind until yesterday.
On his part, Attorney General William Byaruhanga who is the head of the bar said he was "happy that this time round" Sseggona was upright in his communications. In past weeks, Kyagulanyi’s legal team have been accused of lying to court on different matters. However, Sseggona objected to this characterization as a lair.
“My Lord I object to the description, ‘this time round is upright.’ I have been upright at all times in court. I want it to be retracted from the record,” Sseggona said.
Byaruhanga withdrew the statement. When Owiny-Dollo asked Byaruhanga how to proceed, he appeared to suggest that the court had discretionary powers to allow the application to go on even without the lawyers for the applicant having the licenses.
“We have not found any specific reference on this matter and it's a public interest matter…if this court deems it fit, since Sseggona says the only issue was giving him clearance, then we are ready to proceed,” Byaruhanga said.
However, after consulting with other 8 judges on the panel, Owiny-Dollo, advised that the proceedings be pushed to tomorrow to allow Sseggona and company to get practising licenses.
“We think it would be unfair to let them continue without certificates, therefore using our inherent powers we give you up to 5 pm to get them from Law Council, and in case you don't succeed, get temporary certificates from the Supreme court registrar that will be valid up to March 18," Dollo said before adjourning the hearing of the case. "We will resume tomorrow morning at 9:30.”
On February 1, Kyagulanyi, the runner-up in the January 14 election, dragged the winner, Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni to court accusing him, the Electoral Commission and the Attorney General of working hand in glove to rob him of his victory. However, a twin loss in applications to file more evidence and to amend his petition and coupled with what he called biased judges, pushed Kyagulanyi to withdraw his petition from the court.
As per the rules governing presidential election petitions, a petitioner must seek leave of court to withdraw the same from the Supreme court. This week, the application seeking to withdraw the petition was published in the Uganda Gazette, and hence court had set today as the day of hearing the application to that effect. Sseggona has told the media that it is not him to blame over the issue on delayed issuance of certificates.
Also, Oscar Kihika, director of legal affairs at the ruling National Resistance Movement party which sponsored Museveni in the recent concluded elections said he cannot blame the two lawyers saying the Law Council could be overwhelmed with the numbers of advocates which is in thousands. All lawyers' practising certificates expire yearly on March 1
A concerned citizen, Job Richard Matua, has since asked the Law Council to suspend seven of Kyagulanyi’s lawyers from practising law citing issues related to professional misconduct.