It was excitement and jubilations among the supporters and leaders of Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine’s National Unity Platform party (NUP) after court ruled against calls by former party members to have its transfer and name change annulled.
Basile Difas and Hassan Twaha had sued Bobi Wine and over 10 others challenging the the change of the party’s name from National Unity Reconciliation and Development Party (NURDP).
They had also punched holes in the transfer of the party’s leadership from Moses Nkonge Kibalama to Bobi Wine.
Besides Bobi Wine, other respondents were: the Electoral Commission, Attorney General, Kibalama, David Lewis Rubongoya, Aisha Kabanda, Joel Ssenyonyi, Flavia Kalule Nabagabe, Fred Nyanzi Ssentamu and Kagombe Paul Ssimbwa.
But on October 21, Justice Musa Sekaana of the Civil Division of the High Court breathed fresh air into NUP when he ruled that the application lacked merit.
Justice Sekaana cited procedural gaps in the filing of the petition.
He ruled that whereas Difas and Twaha were required to file their application within three months after the change of name of the party from NURP to NUP, they waited for over a year to do so.
They should have filed their petition by June 06, 2019 — not August 24, 2020.
“This court declines to entertain the application since it was not brought under any known procedure; and secondly, it was made to avoid the time limit of three months within which an application for judicial review should have been brought,” ruled Sekaana.
The judge also noted that there was no clarity on the type of the application Difas and Twaha brought before court.
“It is not clear whether it is an application for constitutional interpretation or for enforcement of rights. But it can be deduced from the nature of remedies sought that this application seeks from this court judicial review remedies,” he said.
“The application should have been an application for judicial review since the applicants seek for declarations, orders and injunctions on the activities of the respondents.”
The judge also suspected ignorance on part of the applicants’ lawyers.
“It can be deduced from the pleadings and provisions cited that the applicants’ counsel are not aware that there is legal regime that governs the procedure of challenging decisions of political parties. It is trite law, that inherent powers of court cannot be invoked where there is specific law governing a subject matter.”
Sekaana suggested that Difas and Twaha were only in pursuit of money and relevance.
“This application was made with a view of making some money during the election season and the applicants have no genuine grievance but rather want to be relevant and make some quick cash,” he noted.
“The court is empowered to refuse relief and deny access to the judicial review reliefs on the ground of laches because of several considerations, for example, it is not desirable to allow stale claims to be canvassed before the court; there should be finality to ligation.”
Weeks ago, Kibalama and Ssimbwa shocked NUP and Bobi Wine’s supporters when they claimed that the singer-turned-politician had defaulted on his commitment to pay them $5m (about Sh18bn) for helping them acquire a political party.
The money, Kibalama and Ssimbwa said in a video recorded at night, would come from Bobi Wine’s funders overseas.
Bobi Wine said the ruling as a confirmation of how NUP had been acquired legally, but claimed its late delivery had made many seek nomination as independents.
The judgement is expected to give NUP flag bearers, including Bobi Wine, confidence as they seek votes ahead of the 2021 elections.