The Court of Appeal has nullified the election of Ms Lucy Achiro Otim as the new Member of Parliament for Aruu North Constituency in Pader District, citing noncompliance with the election laws.
After the 2016 February 18 elections, Kitgum Chief Magistrate Japyem Okongo ordered a total recount of votes cast in the parliamentary elections in Aruu North County following an application filed by Kidega Nabinson James, the National Resistance Movement – NRM party candidate for the Aruu North County parliamentary seat.
Kidega lost to Lucy Achiro Otim, an independent candidate in the race that attracted five candidates. Achiro emerged winner with a difference of two votes. She polled 8,599 votes against Kidega’s 8,597, according to results released by Pader district returning officer Joseph Amone.
Kidega disputed the result and petitioned Kitgum Magistrate’s Court to compel the Electoral Commission to conduct a recount after the commission ignored his written application.
Through his lawyers Jude Ogik and Company Advocates and Okidi Ladwar and Company Advocates, Kidega told court that many of his valid votes were tallied as invalid.
However, the a vote recount was never conducted after boxes containing some of the ballots were destroyed by rowdy residents who raided Pader Central Police Station where they were being kept.
The same court has consequently ordered the Electoral Commission to organise fresh elections in the area.
Mr Kidega, then petitioned the Gulu High Court seeking nullification of the election results that saw him lose by only two votes.
Consequently, The Gulu High Court nullified the election of Ms Lucy Aciro Otim as the new Member of Parliament for Aruu North Constituency in Pader district, citing noncompliance with the election laws.
However, Ms Achiro decided to challenge the ruling and petitioned the ruling to the Court of Appeal.
Three judges; Richard Buteera, Barishaki Cheborion and Paul Mugamba dismissed an appeal by Ms Achiro in which she had faulted the high court judge, David Matovu who had initially ruled for the nullification of the same.
In their ruling, the Court of Appeal agreed with high court that what transpired at the magistrate’s court and the police station at Pader did not conform to the electoral laws of Uganda.
Judges held that the ballot boxes were destroyed and the chief magistrate was not able to order for a recount.
Under the law where margins are very narrow (50 and below), and in the present case only 2, justice will be done and seen to be done if a vote recount is ordered and carried out right from the word go which did not happen.
This is the first election appeal to be decided by the Court of Appeal in regard to the last year’s parliamentary elections. The Court of Appeal is the last court to determine election petitions for parliamentary and local government and its decisions are final.