11 June 2018

Uganda: Inmates' Exclusion From Voting Exercise - Judge Defers Hearing Over Mysterious Case Allocation

Kampala — The case in which a concerned citizen petitioned court challenging the exclusion of remand prisoners and people living in diaspora from participating in the general elections has been adjourned under mysterious circumstances.

The case had come up for its maiden reading in court but the presiding judge Henrietta Wolayo adjourned it saying she needed to establish the circumstances under which she was allocated the case file.

She explained that initially, the same case file had been allocated to Justice Lydia Mugambe who adjourned the case indefinitely.

The petitioner, Mr Steven Kalali in his suit filed in February this year, argues that since the coming into force of the 1995 Constitution, the Electoral Commission (EC), has held five general elections but excluded prisoners and Ugandans living in diaspora from voting, an omission he says is a violation of their fundamental right to vote.

He was represented in court by counsel Daphne Gunn though the Attorney General was not represented.

Further in his suit, Mr Kalali explains that prisoners including those on remand and those convicted, have never been given a chance to register and participate in the voting exercise and yet the Constitution provides that all citizens enjoy equal rights under the law.

"A declaration that the 2nd respondent's (EC) exclusion of Uganda prisoners of age 18 years and above from the voters registration exercise is illegal and a violation of their fundamental right to be registered as voters and to vote in the forthcoming elections and subsequent elections and referenda," Mr Kalali avers in his suit.

Adding: "A declaration that the non-registration of prisoners and Ugandans living in diaspora by the 2nd respondent (EC) amounts to segregation or discrimination and hence it's illegal."

The petitioner through his lawyers of Walusimbi & Co. Advocates, wants court to declare that each of the prison facilities is a registration centre and also deploy its polling agents there in preparation for the subsequent elections.

He also wants the EC and the Attorney General who are both listed as respondents, to adequately provide for voter registration and satisfactory voting mechanisms for Ugandans living in diaspora for not only presidential but also other offices as well.

The current practice by EC is that prisoners and Ugandans living in diaspora don't participate in general elections.

In an interview with this Daily Monitor late last year, Prisons spokesperson, Mr Frank Baine, revealed that there were 29,000 inmates on remand and 27,000 convicts bringing the total number of the inmates to 56,000 who would be legible voters.

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