The High Court can hear EALA Election Petition – Court of Appeal rules.

The Court of Appeal on 29th November 2023 in Election Petition Appeal No. 05 of 2023; Agaba Gilbert and Others Versus Attorney General & 11 Ors unanimously held that the High Court of Uganda has jurisdiction to hear petitions arising from elections for Uganda’s Representatives to the East African Legislative Assembly.

The Petitioners Agaba Gilbert, Lolem Josephine, Nakitende Salaama Adelaide and Bwengye Lauben Muhangi were candidates in the EALA elections conducted on 29th September 2022. The Petitioners aggrieved with how the election was conducted by the Speaker and clerk to parliament filed Election Petition No. 02 of 2022 in the Civil Division of the High Court of Uganda.

The petition was heard by the Acting Justice Singiza who dismissed it on a preliminary objection that he did not have jurisdiction to entertain it under the rationale that it sought to interpret the EAC treaty which jurisdiction exclusively lies with the East African Court of Justice.

By unanimous decision, the panel comprised of Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera, Justice Catherine Bamugemereire and Justice Monica Mugyenyi held that Article 52 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community and Section 6 of the East African Legislative Assembly Act, 2011 conferred jurisdiction on the national court that determines questions of the election of members of the national assembly responsible for the election of EALA members which is parliament.

The learned justices of appeal in particular held that the trial court was bound by the EACJ’s preliminary ruling in Attorney General of Uganda Vs Tom Kyahurwenda, EACJ Case Stated No. 1 of 2014 and that the High Court erred as it had jurisdiction to interrogate the claims in Election Petition No. 02 of 2022 (that was before it) for purposes of the application or enforcement of Articles 6 (d) and 7 (2) of the Treaty, without necessarily encroaching upon the EACJ’s Treaty interpretation mandate.

The Court of Appeal has directed that the Election Petition No. 02 of 2022 be remitted back to the High Court for determination on its merits before a different judge.

The Appellants were represented by Jude Byamukama and Philip Mwesiga of JByamukama & Co. Advocates.