KAMPALA – The High Court’s Civil Division in Kampala has suspended the planned elections of the Uganda Journalists’ Association – UJA – initially scheduled for February 25.
Justice Musa Ssekaana issued the ruling on Friday after Abubakar Lubowa led a group of four others – including Zambaali Bulasio Mukasa, Emmanuel Nkata, Hasifu Sekiwunga and Martin Kimbowa in petitioning over an unfair treatment. The stay-in situation will continue until February 28, 2023 when the main matter will be addressed.
The petitioners accuse the UJA administration including current president Mathias Rukundo and Secretary General Emmanuel Kirunda of illegally changing the scribers’ body’s Constitution with the motive of stopping all other contestants from running for office.
In a suit filed on January 12, 2023, the five journalists argued that a decision barring, stopping, eliminating and ejecting them from standing as candidates for elective positions in UJA is illegal and an abuse of the respondent’s powers.
“The decision of the respondents in rendering the applicants not able to pass through the stages of nomination as candidates to go for final election during the annual general meeting slated for February 25, 2023, was made in violation of the applicant’s right to a fair hearing guaranteed under Articles 28, 42, and 44 of the Constitution,” contends Lubowa.
They argue that the actions of Rukundo and Kirunda in organising the election process of UJA including the nomination process and subsequent vetting, in which they are also candidates, are illegal.
The applicants, therefore, sought a declaration that the decision of the respondents in refusing to pass them to go for final elections during the annual general meeting is a nullity as it is tainted with illegality, irrationality, bias and procedural impropriety.
They also sought an injunction, restraining the respondents from stopping them to participate in the final election.
The applicants prayed that court issues an order, quashing the decision of the respondents, contained in the email dated February 3, 2023, that they did not meet the requirement of regulation N0.2 which requires any journalist who wishes to stand for the position must have been a full member for the last two years before the annual general meeting.
According to the applicants, this prevented them from passing through the stages of nomination to participate in the final elections, yet they had cleared all the requirements.
In their affidavit, the applicants contend that in December 2022, the members of the association were notified that UJA was setting up guidelines for new election bearers.
“Most of the requirements listed in that notice were done outside the constitution of the association and had never been agreed upon, or communicated to the members,” argues Lubowa.
The applicants say they expressed interest in standing for the different positions, picked nomination forms and paid fees before submitting the documents.
However, on February 3, 2023, the applicants were notified that their nomination did not satisfy the vetting committee and stopped them from participating in the UJA elections.