Lusanja case: Magistrate apologises to Judiciary

Nabweru Court Chief Magistrate Esther Rebecca Nasambu has apologised to the Judiciary for not visiting the land before delivering a ruling which led to the demolition of about 350 homes at Lusanja village in Wakiso district.

In a letter dated October 30, directed to chief registrar Esta Nambayo, the magistrate states that the order was in respect to Ssekanyonyi Zone land in Mpererwe, Kawempe in Kampala and not Lusanja in Kasangati, Nangabo sub-county in Wakiso district.

Nasambu said the two areas are different and divided by high pylon electricity poles and a murram road.

“Probably the persons who carried out evictions andd emolitions can properly guide court on where exactly the eviction took place and whether it was the land mentioned in the case,” she said.

Recently businessman Bernard Kiconco evicted people from Lusanja land using a controversial court order which prompted them to protest. Nasambu also conceded that she made a mistake by failing to visit the disputed land before she made her ruling, for which she is sorry.

 “Non-visitation of locus in quo was an error by this court, for which I humbly apologise. It is abig lesson learnt that assumption should not be made without proof,” she said.The letter was copied to the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe and Principal Judge,Yorokamu Bamwine.

 Court order

Nasambu said the court did not visit the disputed land because statements of Kiconco and that of his witnesses stated that people living in the land had been compensated and they left unplanned structures which needed to be demolished by way of a court order.

 The magistrate explained that while presiding over the case of Ssekanyonyi Zone land, the issue of court jurisdiction did not arise, hence not adding up the total money compensated.

“This may have been an oversight by court for which I pray for pardon and further guidance,” she said.

The apology followed a letter by the Chief Registrar Esta Nambayo to Nasambu, directing Nansambu to explain why she handled the case the way she did, so that she takes necessary legal process to rectify the error if any.

“As you may be aware, so many issues have arisen from your decision in the above file, including President Museveni and the chairperson of the commission of inquiry into land matters visiting the land and stopping implementation of the order you made,” Nambayo said.

Nambayo also told the Principal Judge that the inspectorate had investigated the matter and made a report, which the top management discussed and advised the trial magistrate to make a response to the findings before the file is placed before him for further action. However, in a letter dated November 5, the Principal Judge wrote to the head of land division,justice John Eudes Ketrima, to study the file for possible provisional order and take appropriate action.

 Kiconco’s suit

A witness statement seen by Saturday Vision shows that Kiconco, now aged 50 years, is a businessman residing in Kisaasi, Nakawa division, Kampala. That he bought the land located at Mpererwe plot 671, block 206 Kyadondo, from the family of the late Paul Bitarabeho around 2013.

However, he does not state who exactly sold him the land and at how much. Kiconco said the suit land located on plot 671, block 206 Kyadondo measures 9.72 acres, and that it adjoins his other piece of land located on plot 17, block 206 Kyadondo measuring 12.20 acres.

However, according to the survey addressed to Henry Ssejjemba, the then Sekanyonyi village chairperson, shows the suit land was 9.61 acres and not 9.72 acres. Kiconco said:

 “Despite obtaining compensation, the defendants continued constructing illegal structures and refused to stop the trespass and that this trespass has to be abated.”

He said he sued the 17 people as trespassers who constructed illegal structures on his land. Kiconco presented five witnesses, including himself and also tendered in court four exhibits including documents proving ownership.

The ruling

Nabweru Chief Magistrate on October 10, last year ruled that Patrick Opedo and 16 others were trespassers on the disputed land and that they should vacant the land. According to the ruling arising from civil suit number 07 of 2017, the Nabweru court chief magistrate, said the defendants were severally served, but they failed to go to court to file written statements of defence. As part of the terms given, Nasambu issued a permanent injunction against Opedo and 16 others, their agents, workers and servants barring them from continuing to trespass and degrade the land.

The magistrate stopped the defendants from altering the land lay out, or continuing with further construction there on. Court ordered for the demolition of the defendants’ illegal structures from the suit land.

It also awarded Kiconco general damages for loss and suffering to a tune of sh20m, as well as taxed costs of the suit. Basing on this ruling, Kiconco secured an order to demolish people’s houses.

 High court

It is upon this ruling that Kiconco went to the High Court’s execution and bailiff’s division and secured a demolition order. On August 23,deputy registrar Baker Rwatooro issued an eviction order which Kiconco used to evict the residents. Whereas Kiconco claims he compensated all residents,documents that he tendered in court show that he paid 13 people between sh5m and sh70m.

The number of people involved in the suit is also unclear.The suit he filed in court has 17 defendants, but a survey report, dated March13, 2017, addressed to Henry Ssejjemba, the then Sekanyonyi village chairperson, shows that the land, located at Mpererwe plot 671, block 206 Kyadondo, had 22 residents.

When it came to demolition, 590 houses were targeted, of which 350 were allegedly demolished on October 12 by Moses Kirunda of Spear Link Auctioneers and Court Bailiffs. According to Kiconco, the rest of the residents illegally settled on his land. But the residents dismiss this as untrue, arguing that they have been on the land as far back as 1989, way before Kiconco bought it in 2013.

Residents, who now live in squalid conditions in tents provided by the Government wondered how the 590 houses that Kiconco targeted to demolish got built in such a short time. The bailiffs were scheduled to demolish another 240 houses before President Yoweri Museveni, on October 16,visited the area and halted any further evictions.

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Lukwago Joseph grew up in a newspaper family, and rumor has it that instead of playing the guitar in his infancy, his parents put a reporter’s notebook and a pen next to him shortly after he turned born eight years. Before becoming editor of UGANDANZ, Lukwago was a parliament news editor for WBS TV. He joined UGANDANZ in July 2018, A few months after the company launched. Lukwago also spent five years as a freelance reporter, where he covered reporting for the highest bidder, intelligence, foreign policy, and Ugandan police. Lukwago graduated from Makerere University in 2008 with a B.A. in Journalism and worked on his college newspaper.