IN THE HIGH COURT OF UGANDA AT KAMPALA
CIVIL SUIT NO. 157 OF 2015
AKAMPURIRA LABAN ……………………..PLAINTIFF
- THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
- MATHIUS NSUBUGA (SECRETARY GENERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY)
- VICENT P. MAYANJA ( CHAIRMAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY KAMPALA DISTRICT )
- BUKENYA EDWARD
- KASIRYE ALI NGANDA
- ALLAN SEWANYANA
- ABDU MAYANJA
- SEKIBENGO WILLIAM
- KABOGOZA YUSUF
- NAMUKASA ROSE
- SEMUJJU ROSE…………………………..DEFENDANTS
BEFORE HON. LADY JUSTICE H. WOLAYO
The plaintiff sued the defendants for breach of the party constitution when the 1st , 2nd and3rddefendants organisedelections between April and May 2015 in Makindye Division wherethe 4th to 11thdefendants were elected office bearerswithin the Democratic Party contrary to articles 4 , 64 (a) (iii) and (iv) of the party constitution.
The defendants denied breaching the party constitution and averred that the elections were a statutory requirement by virtue ofthe Political Parties Organisation Act that required parties to hold delegates conference prior to the 2016 generalelections. That therefore, defendants Nos.4 to 11 were elected to various offices in Kibuye II, Katwe II, Lukuli Makindye parishes in Makindye division to fill partyposts of Chairpersons, vice chairpersons, secretaries, treasurers , women leaders among others.
Furthermore, that the 4th to 11th defendants were party members and therefore eligible to participate in the elections.
Shwekyerera Kalera & Co. Advocates appeared for the plaintiff whileMessrs. Semuyaba & Co. Advocates and Mbidde & Co. Advocates appeared for the defendants.
A preliminary point raised by counsel for the plaintiff is that the witness statementsof the 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants were not commissioned and not formally admitted in court as their evidence in chief.
On the contrary, these statements are on oath . Moreover, it was agreed in court thatthe court determines the case on the basis of witness statements and documents. In other words, both counsel agreed to go by the evidence as iswithout cross examination.
The other point raised by counselfor the plaintiff in his written submissions is that thewitness statementshave errorsand that they are made in the format of affidavits.
As rightly submitted by counsel for the defendants, courts take a liberal approach to matters of formwhich means the errors or omissions pointed out by counsel for the plaintiff are curable under article 126 (2)(e) of the Constitution.
Issues for trial
Two issues were framed for trial in the scheduling memo filed on 10th July 2015.
- Whether the 4th to 11th defendants are members of the Democratic Party who have actively participated in its activities for more than three years.
- Whether the 4th to 11th defendants were duly elected in their positions in the grass root elections organised and conducted by the 1st defendant in Makindye Division to fill posts including chairpersons, vice chairpersons, secretaries, treasurers, women leaders up to the level of constituency delegates in accordance with the Democratic party constitution.
On 29.9.2016 when parties appeared before me, it was agreed thatthe court determines the dispute on the witness statements , documentary evidence and written submissions.
Both counsel filed written submissions that I have carefully considered.
Issue No. 1
Whether the 4th to 11th defendants are members of the Democratic Party
who have actively participated in its activities for more than three years.
From the witness statements of both parties, it is not disputed that the 4th to 11th defendants were elected to various officesin Makindye Divisions during party elections held betweenApril and May 2015.
The 3rd defendantVincent Mayanja swears his witness statement in his capacityas DP chairperson Kampala district.
The 5th defendant Kasirye Ali Nganda confirms he is the DP chairperson Katwe parish II .
The 6th defendant Allan Ssewanyana confirms in his witness statement that he is the DP chairperson Kibuye II .
The 9th defendant Kabogoza Yusuf confirms he is the DP chairpersonKizungu zone and Secretary Makindye II parish .
The 11th defendant confirms she is the DP treasurer Kalule Zone and deputy woman leader .
All defendants attached party membership cards to their witness statements.
The plaintiff did not challenge the authenticity of these cards . Indeed he too hadattached a similar card to his statement.
Articles 4 and64of the DP constitution. ( party membership)
Article 4 stipulates that membership of the party is open to any citizen of Uganda who is open to the policies, and discipline of the party.
Article 64 provides for qualification for party offices.
A person shall qualify to be electedParliamentary candidate of the Party if he has been an active member for at least five years.
iii) to any other office of the party if he has been an active member for at least three years,
iV) candidates for urban or district council election should have active for at least two years.
The defining concept here is ‘active membership of the party’fordifferent periods depending onwhether it is a Parliamentary election, party office election or local council election.
I note that the plaintiff did not seriously challenge the party membership cards of the defendants, a position that is at odds with that of his witnesses Kiwanuka Mayambala who avers in para. 5 that the 6th defendant was not a member of DP because he was the LCV councillor as an independent.While Kaliballa Richard averred in para. 5 that the 5th to 11th defendantshad not been active for some ‘good years’.
On a balance of probabilities, I find that the membership cardsavailed by the defendantsis prima facie evidence of party membership thathas not beenrebutted by the plaintiff and his witnesses.
Issue No. 2
Whether the 4th to 11thdefendants were duly elected in their positions in the grass root elections organised and conducted by the Democratic party in Makindye Division to fill posts including chairpersons, vice chairpersons, secretaries, treasurers, women leaders up to the level of constituency delegates in accordance with the Democratic party constitution.
The 11th defendantSemuju in para. 8by implication admits she once stood on an independent ticket butavers that this is an internal matter to be handled under the party disciplinary committee mechanisms.
The 5th defendant Kasirye Ngandain para. 9 and 10 denies being a member of the Liberal Democratic party but the plaintiff avers in his evidence thatthis is the case.
The 6th defendantalludes to participation in elections as an independent a factthat is categorically averred by the plaintiff in his statement in which he states that the 6th defendant is the LC V councillor at Kampala Capital City Authority on an independent ticket but he was elected as DP flag bearer for Member of Parliament.
The 9th defendantKabogoza in para. 7 and 9 admits to have previouslycontested in general elections as an independent.
Consequently, the 4th to 11th defendants were elected as office bearers within the democratic party between April and May 2015andthenbecame members of the party executive committee inorder tocomply with the Electoral Commission road mapto the 2016 GeneralElections issued on1st April 2015. In his submissions, counsel for the defendants explains that the 1st defendant was under a statutory duty to conduct these elections in accordance with the requirements of the Political Organizations Act that requires every political party to elect members of party executive committee every five years . Section 10(3)thereof.
The executive committee is defined in the Act as the ‘governing body of a political party or organisation’.
By implication, it is this committee that wasexpected to prepare and organise the party for the 2016 General Elections using theEC road map as a blue print.
What is crucial is that the plaintiff complains that the defendants were wrongly electedto party offices in 2015 when theypreviously contested on a different party ticket or were serving in elective positions elected on a party ticket other than the democratic party ticket c/s articles 4, 64 (a) ( iii) of the DP constitution.
This brings me to the main thrust of the plaintiff’s case, that the defendants had not relinquishedparty membership ofother political parties before theDPelections in April and May 2015.
Const. Petition No 38 of 2010
Counsel for the plaintiff relied on George Owor v Attorney General and Hon. William Okecho Const, Petition No. 38 of 2010 . The respondent was member of NRM party but on 4.1.2006, heformally withdrew from the NRM partyand immediately offered himself as an independent candidate andwas elected to the 8th Parliament.
Subsequently, he offered himself for election for the 9th Parliament onNRM ticket.After holding thathe ought to have vacated his seat in the 8th Parliament, the court found that he was not entitled to continue to represent the people of Budama North constituency as an independent.
Counsel for the defendants submitted thatin the Oketcho case, thecourt deemed that the respondent in that case had vacated his seat as an independent member of Parliament.The respondent did not vacate his seat in the 9th Parliament after here-joined the NRM party.Therefore, when a sitting member of Parliamenta member of Parliament joins anotherpolitical party, the member looses his right to represent the partyon whose ticket was successfully elected. That is the effect of the constitutionalcourt decision delivered on 1.2.2011.
Application of article 83 as amended to local government elections.
Counsel for the defendants submitted that const. petition No.38 of 2010 and theConstitution Amendment Act 2015regulates effect of changing a party at the level of Parliament only.I agree with him.
I note that the plaintiff in his pleadings citedalleged breaches of theparty constitution butthenargued the1995 constitution in the submissions.This was a departure from pleadingswithout seekinganamendmentcontraryto order 6 rule 7 of the CPR. It appears to me thatthe plaintiff could not cite violationof article 83 of the Constitution in his pleadings because it refers to members of Parliament.
In Supreme Court Civil Appeal No. 33 of 1992Interfreight Forwarders (U) ltd v East Africa Development Bank U( ulii) where the plaintiff did not plead that the defendant was a common carrier , thecourt restated the principle on departure from pleadings in the following terms:
‘ a party is expected and bound to prove the case as alleged by him and as covered in the issues framed, he will not be allowed to succeed on a case not so set up by him and be allowed at the trial to change his case or set up a case inconsistent with what he alleged in his pleadings except by amendment of pleadings’
Nevertheless, none of the defendants was a sitting member of Parliament when they participated in the April 2015 DP elections for party positions.Apart from defendant 6 who was a sitting LC V councillor in KCCA, the others had run on independent or liberal democratic party tickets inthe previous general election.
I will therefore not attempt to apply the constitutional principle in Oketcho’s case orthe Constitutional Amendment Act 2015 to the current defendants because those principles regulate members of Parliament only.
As earlier found,the defendants are members of the 1st defendant and as such were eligible to participate in theelections for party offices in April –May 2015.
The plaintifffailed to proveana balance of probabilities that they didnot qualify for the various offices. The plaintiff failed to prove that the 4th to 11th defendants had not been active members of the party to bedisqualified from competing for party positions.
Furthermore, in the absence of a provision in the DP constitutionthat precludes memberswho previously run on othertickets from holding party offices , the plaintiff failed to prove thatthe 4th to 11th defendantswere not eligible to participate in the 2015 elections ofparty officebearers .
In the result, this suit is dismissed with no order as to costs as this is a public interest litigation
DATED AT KAMPALA THIS8TH DAYOFJUNE2017
HON. LADY JUSTICE H. WOLAYO