Accusations and counter accusations on legal technicalities characterized the first hours of a petition in which opposition leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye, is contesting the results of the February 23rd presidential elections.
In his petition, Besigye claims that the elections were marred by massive rigging in favour of President Yoweri Museveni. He is suing both Museveni and the Electoral Commission for their alleged role in the mismanagement of the elections and would like court to nullify the election results.
Before a fully packed Supreme Court in Mengo, Besigye's lawyers led by Wandera Ogalo claimed that Museveni's legal team refused to be served with affidavits on the petition. Ogalo said attempts to serve the affidavits on Monday and Tuesday this week were all turned down.
The lawyers for the defense, led by Joseph Byamugisha, defended their actions, arguing that the petitioner had served them with the affidavits very late. Byamugisha said it was usual court practice for affidavits to be served shortly after there are filed with court and not days before the court hearings begin. He accused Besigye's lawyers of also refusing to receive the defense affidavits.
The rejection of affidavits was just one of several complaints this morning. Besigye's lawyers also said reports by the election returning officers, which were meant to accompany the tally sheets and declaration of results had not yet been submitted to court. Wandera Ogalo said the returning officer reports were vital to the case and demanded an explanation for the delay.
The chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Badru Kiggundu, who was in court for the session, looked visibly uncomfortable when the matter was raised. His lawyer, Lucien Tibaruha, said he would consult on the matter and report to court on the status of the returning officers' reports.
Kiggundu was escorted to court by the Secretary of the Electoral Commission, Sam Rwakoojo, and the Head of Elections, Joshua Walusimbi.
The Chief Justice, Benjamin Odoki, ordered for a short court break, in which he asked the lawyers for the two sides to iron out their differences. He also advised them to agree on the basic issues in the case in order to avoid further delays on technical issues.
The petitioner, Kizza Besigye, looked on passively as the debate in court progressed. He was accompanied by the chairperson of the Forum for Democratic Change, Sulaiman Kiggundu, as well as top opposition party leaders.
President Yoweri Museveni was not in court and the most senior government official present was the State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Hope Mwesigye. Mwesigye is also a member of Museveni's legal team.