Constitutional court dismisses application against people power, people’s gov’t pressure groups

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The Constitutional Court has dismissed a petition by the former Ruhama County parliamentary aspirant Adens Ntare Rutaro challenging the political activities of People power and People’s Government pressure Groups. The five-member panel of the Constitutional Court Justices led by the Deputy Chief Justice, Richard Buteera dismissed the application in a majority decision of four to one judge.

The decision stems from a petition filed by Ntare in 2019 against Joel Ssenyonyi, the People Power Pressure Spokesperson before it evolved into the National Unity Platform-NUP political party under the leadership of Kyandondo East Member of Parliament, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alias Bobi Wine and the People’s Government Pressure Group under Dr. Kizza Besigye and the Attorney General.  

Through Newmark Advocates, Ntare argued that the establishment of the pressure groups to mobilise for political activities and members with a view of influencing political processes and participation in their governance issues of the country is unconstitutional, saying this is a reserve of the duly registered political parties. Ntale’s petition came shortly after Kyagulanyi and Ssenyonyi organized a news conference on July 24 2019 where they unveiled the names of the regional coordinators to help mobilise ahead of the 2021 elections. 

A day later, Dr. Kiiza Besigye who announced himself the People’s President after losing the 2016 elections convened what he called People’s parliament at his home and delivered his “state of the nation address”.

Ntare also sued the Attorney General for his alleged failure to stop the activities of the pressure groups, saying it was tantamount to abdication of his constitutional mandate and therefore unconstitutional.

He asked the court to declare the activities of the pressure groups illegal.  In their written submission to the petition, the respondents said that they never owned the pressure groups, arguing that they had been sued wrongly as individuals. 

In his submission, Dr. Besigye argued that he exercised his duty as a patriotic Ugandan citizen to resist a long list of abuses and violations by the government such as contempt of court, illegitimate actions and endless efforts intended to undermine and overthrow the Constitution. He also argued that the People’s Government was neither a Political Party nor an organization but a combination of actions of continued defiance against illegal actions by the sitting government.

The Attorney General never responded to the suit. In their Judgment, the Justices noted that the case was filed wrongly, saying that they did not have jurisdiction to entertain it.

“I’m well aware of the fact that the petitioner did not bring his grievances to this court under article 50 of the constitution. Neither did he refer to it. Nonetheless, am of the view that this is a matter that would have been best disposed of under Article 50 of the constitution and in such cases, the dispute is filed in the High Court, not this court” said  Justice Irene Mulyagonja who wrote the lead judgment.

The justices also noted that there no constitutional the question that needed their interpretation as required under the constitution.

“If in the opinion of the court, the decision of the point of law substantially disposes of the whole suit, or of any distinct cause of action, the ground of defence, set off, counterclaim, or reply therein, the court may thereupon dismiss the suit or make such other order in the suit as may be just”, added Mulyagonja. 

They accordingly dismissed the petition and advised Ntare to file it before an appropriate court if he so wishes, adding that each party will bear its own costs since it was a public interest case.  The Constitutional Court Registrar Mary Babirye read the judgment on behalf of justices. Kyagulanyi’s lawyers led by Anthony Wameli welcomed the decision.

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