By Hamza Kyeyune
KAMPALA, Uganda (AA) – Uganda’s judiciary has denied claims of “secret meetings” between the country’s President Yoweri Museveni and the chief justice to discuss a petition challenging the results of recently held elections.
Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for 35 years, was declared the winner of the Jan. 14, 2021 election for a record sixth term by the country's electoral commission.
Bobi Wine, who was the main opposition frontrunner, rejected the outcome and challenged the election results with the Supreme Court.
Over the weekend, there were reports on social media that some top judges, including Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, who are set to hear the petition have “secretly met” Museveni at state house.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the judiciary dismissed the allegations as “false,” saying one of the two recent occasions when its top leadership went to State House was during the swearing in ceremony of a newly appointed judge of the High Court.
The second occasion, according to the statement, was on Feb. 16, 2021 when the chief justice attended the Janan Luwum Day celebrations at State House on the invitation of the archbishop of the Church of Uganda.
The judiciary’s statement came days after Wine asked three judges to recuse themselves from hearing his election petition, citing conflict of interest based on their background.
He recalled that the chief justice is a former minister and a former defense lawyer for Museveni and Justice Mike Chibita is a former private secretary for legal affairs in Museveni’s office for seven years.
He also claimed that Justice Ezekiel Muhanguzi is a relative of Security Minister Elly Tumwine castigated for human rights abuses. However, Tumwine denied the claim saying "I have no blood relations with any justice on the Supreme Court panel."
Wine had hinted he could withdraw the petition if the chief justice and two other judges of the Supreme Court do not recuse themselves from hearing the matter.
“We went to the Supreme Court to seek justice, not injustice. We want to put the Supreme Court on notice; that if this persists, we are not going to be part of the mockery. We strongly believe that the court is working with orders from Gen. Museveni. Many of our witnesses are in jail,” he told journalists in Kampala.
Responding to Wine’s remarks, the chief justice said the Supreme Court would not be blackmailed or intimidated by such accusations, adding that Wine should not have run to the judges to challenge Museveni’s victory if he did not have confidence in the court.
The chief justice and eight other judges of the Supreme Court are expected to start hearing the petition on Feb. 24, and give their judgement by March 17.