A section of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has expressed dissatisfaction with a High Court judge for not halting a National Delegates’ Conference called by the party secretariat on October 6.
Ssemujju Nganda, the Member of Parliament for Kira Municipality and spokesperson for the dissident group, criticized Judge Musa Ssekaana, the head of the High Court’s Civil Division, for rejecting their requests.
Twenty-eight members of this faction filed a lawsuit (miscellaneous application number 962 of 2023) against Boniface Toterebuka Bamwenda, the FDC chief electoral commissioner.
They argued that Bamwenda and the party’s Vice Chairman, Kibuka Mukalazi, did not have the authority to convene the conference, and any elections they oversaw would be unlawful.
The petitioners sought a temporary injunction to prevent Bamwenda and his associates from organizing the conference and the party’s internal leadership elections until a separate civil suit (number 387 of 2023) they had filed was resolved.
They claimed that by calling the conference, Bamwenda was trying to usurp the powers of the National Chairman as per the FDC Constitution. The petitioners also requested court costs, highlighting an internal party dispute.
Until the 2021 elections, the FDC was Uganda’s largest opposition party.
However, allegations made by four-time presidential candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye, accusing President Patrick Oboi Amuriat and Secretary General Nandala Mafabi of accepting “dirty money” to compromise the party, led to a division.
The dissenting members, including National Chairman Ambassador Wasswa Birigwa and spokesman Ssemujju, claimed leadership from Dr. Besigye’s private office in Kampala and held a separate delegates’ conference. This event re-elected them.
Despite a court order against it, Ambassador Birigwa and other petitioners asked the court to block the secretariat’s planned election on October 6. Ambassador Birigwa, who had challenged the elections, also submitted his nomination forms for re-election.
In response, Mr. Bamwenda argued that he should not be personally sued for official work and questioned the exclusion of the FDC as a respondent.
He stated that he was appointed as FDC’s chief electoral commissioner by the party’s 14th National Council meeting on October 8, 2020, to replace Mr. Yusuf Nsibambi, who had resigned to run for MP successfully.
Bamwenda argued that the elections program he was implementing was in line with FDC’s road map, which was endorsed by the 13th National Council meeting held on December 13-14, 2019. The party’s National Council approved this road map on July 28, 2023.
In his ruling, Justice Ssekaana noted that the case involved individual members of the FDC, and since the FDC was not party to the suit, issuing orders that would affect the party’s operations would be unjustifiable.
He also highlighted potential professional misconduct in Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, who represented the applicants and could be summoned as a witness in the main suit due to his role in the infighting.
Justice Ssekaana ruled that the applicants had failed to prove their case, and the temporary injunction and costs requested were not justified.