Enos Tumusiime, the EC lead counsel told justices of the Supreme Court mid-morning today that, although the Presidential Elections act mandates Electoral Commission to deliver polling materials to district returning officers within 24 hours, in the event that the materials reach within 24 hours, it makes it difficult for the returning officers to supply presiding officers with the materials in time.
According to EC, the voting process complied with the universal declaration of Human Rights, the Constitution of Uganda and the presidential election act that enabled registered voters to cast their votes on February 18th.
Enos Tumusiime, the EC lead counsel told justices of the Supreme Court mid-morning today that, although the Presidential Elections act mandates Electoral Commission to deliver polling materials to district returning officers within 24 hours, it makes leaves the returning officers with limited time to supply presiding officers with the materials.
He said this is the problem with the law and asked court to suggest to parliament to revise it on the delivery of voting materials. Tumusiime says that EC delivered the materials in time in all districts except Kampala and Wakiso, adding that they candidly apologized for the delay and extended the voting period.
He said in some polling stations voting was conducted the following day. Tumusiime explained that the new declaration of results forms, with enhanced security features took time to print because all the polling station's particulars and serial number and bar code had to be carefully arranged, forcing them to start with distant polling stations. The EC miscalculated the delivery time of voting materials in Kampala and Wakiso districts.
He denied claims that the late delivery of voting materials was done deliberately, adding that EC put mitigation measures in place so that no voter was disenfranchised. "Nonetheless voter turnout in Kampala and Wakiso was higher in 2016 compared to 2011," he said.
The Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe asked Tumusiime, why voting materials for Kaabong, which is far off and Mukono district, which is near the EC headquarters were delivered on 15th February and yet those of Arua, which is even further off, and Kampala Central where the EC is based, were delivered the day before polling day.
In his response, Tumusiime argued that court should consider the fact, that EC had logistical nightmares considering that it was holding joint parliamentary and presidential elections.
Justice Eldad Mwanguhya tasked Tumusiime to explain why delivery of voting material and voting went on smoothly in 110 districts, some of which have very few voters and not in Kampala and Wakiso with over 2 million voters.
Tumusiime replied saying EC apologised for the mess and also did everything possible to ensure that no a single voter was disenfranchised. He pointed out that the printing of declaration of result forms for Kampala and Wakiso was completed a day before polling, but EC underestimated the logistical challenges involved.
He also said, it should be appreciated that the population density in Kampala and Wakiso is higher and that there will always be long queues of voters that spill into the night whether or not voting starts in time. He also said the petitioner gave no evidence that his voters were prejudiced in Kampala and Wakiso and for that matter; he has no grounds whatsoever to complain.
On the claim that Kampala and Wakiso are not strongholds of Museveni, Tumusiime said there is no evidence for that. He also added that the Electoral Commission act obliges any person who has any complaint to take it to the EC which has powers to resolve them but neither the petitioner nor his supporters filed any complaint.
At that point, Justice Mwanguhya challenged him why one would complain to the EC after voting had closed. On the use of the Voter Verification Biometric Kits, Tumusiime said, the EC has proved that it takes 30 seconds to verify a voter and not two minutes as claimed by the petitioner.
He said the Voter Verification Biometric Kits were there not to replace the voter's register but to serve a complimentary role. On the social media blockade by Uganda Communication Commission, Tumusiime, said it wasn't selective since it didn't pick only the petitioner's voters nor did it stop anyone from voting and neither did it disenfranchise any voter.
He said instead, the petitioner and voters had other media of transmitting results from the polling stations like scanning and sending images via the internet using telephone and SMS. Tumusiime says majority of voters aren't on social media, adding that this claim shouldn't have come to court at all and that it is an abuse of court.
On unequal coverage by Uganda Broadcasting Corporation and New Vision he said, that doesn't apply to the EC but the two entities. It is a wrong allegation and an attack on EC. He said UBC and New Vision are independent of EC and it has never alleged to control, manage or direct activities at both media houses.
Tumusiime said if the petitioner felt aggrieved by the actions of UBC and New Vision he could have applied for administrative review or file a normal suit. He concluded that UBC and New Vision are not part of the petition and are being condemned unheard. He prayed that court dismisses the allegations. Court will resume at 2pm.