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Ugandan Court Rejects Challenge to Election Results


Uganda's Supreme Court has rejected an attempt by opposition politician Kizza Besigye to challenge the results of the country's recent elections, won by incumbent President Yoweri Museveni. A seven-member panel of judges admitted that there were irregularities in the February 23 polls, but four out of the seven said that those were not serious enough to nullify the results.

One of Besigye's lawyers, Sam Njuba, describes the court challenge.

"We are complaining about stuffing of ballot boxes, [we are] complaining about bribery, we are complaining about even the court itself, the way it approaches this petition," he explained. "They [the panel] agreed that there was ballot stuffing, rigging. But they are saying the law is that it must be substantial to affect the results, and since we have not proved that substantial element, we lose."

Besigye, the head of the Forum for Democratic Change party, ran against President Museveni. The president captured 59 percent of the vote, with Besigye garnering 37 percent.

Lawyer Njuba says he thinks as much as 34 percent of the population was prevented from voting because of electoral fraud such as rigging and bribery.

Museveni's party, commonly known as The Movement, dismisses Besigye's claims, calling the opposition politician a sore loser.

Movement spokesman Ofwono Opondo says he is pleased the judges found that Museveni did not commit illegal electoral practices, either personally or through his agents.

"We are happy that the Supreme Court has ruled to uphold the results of the election. We call [on] our opponent [Besigye] to concede defeat and to implement the manifesto of the government," he said.

Museveni has been in power for about two decades.

Besigye, who also ran against Museveni in the 2001 elections, has had a rough campaign period.

The opposition politician returned to Uganda last October, after more than four years in exile, only to be arrested the following month and charged with rape and treason in High Court and terrorism and illegal possession of firearms in military court. He was jailed throughout most of the campaign period.

Besigye was cleared of rape, and is currently on trial in High Court on treason charges.

It is widely believed that the charges were politically motivated, designed to prevent Besigye from campaigning fully and to ruin his reputation, charges the ruling party denies.