Kampala, Uganda | The administrator of the contested land in Lusanja Wakiso District has denied selling the land to its claimants. Paul Katabazi Bitarabeho told court that his sister; Chrispa Bitarabeho illegally sold off some land in Wakiso and land comprising plots 206 and 671 at Sekanyonyi in Mpererwe in Kampala District to the claimants.
He was testifying before High Court Judge, Tadeo Asiimwe who is handling two consolidated suits arising from Lusanja land evictions. The consolidated suits were filed by businessman Medard Kiconco against Lands State Minister, Persis Namuganza in her individual capacity, Kampala Capital City Authority and 148 occupants of the contested land.
Kiconco wants court to declare that the contested land belongs to him and the occupants are there illegally. He faults KCCA for failing to demolish property illegally erected on his land. He also faults Namuganza for overstepping her ministerial powers when she directed the occupants to stay on the contented land until she communicates otherwise.
Also in the consolidated petition, is another suit filed by Kiconco against the Attorney General seeking compensation. Appearing before Justice Asiimwe on Monday afternoon, Bitarabeho told court that when he got powers of administration in 2002 from his late father, the family had 84.7 acres of undeveloped land in Sekanyonyi and Lusanja.
He however, says he got a misunderstanding with his sister; Crispa Bitarabeho who illegally sold some piece of land to 17 people in Sekanyonyi. The same piece of land measuring 9.6 acres was officially sold to businessman, Kiconco. According to the witness, he tried to evict the 17 people from the land but they became hostile forcing him to step back.
Asked by the Judge why he didn’t sit down with his sister to resolve the family dispute, Bitarabeho told court that he chose to run to Grace Akullo, the Director of Criminal Investigations Directorate for advice.
He said that Akullo advised him to meet the occupants and they meet with Crispa to resolve the wrangle. The judge also asked him why he didn’t collect ground rent (busulu) from the occupants. In his response, Bitarabeho said the family was not interested in anything else apart from repossessing its land.
Kiconco’s lawyer, Richard Babu asked him when the occupants started selling the land and he said between April, 2013 and 2015. However, Kiconco was fully given all documents relating to the purchase of the land in 2016. Bitarabeho also said that in 2014, he instituted a civil case against the 17 claimants of the land and obtained an interim injunction blocking them from selling the land or developing it.
But he later withdrew the case due to frustration. He however, couldn’t answer when he withdrew the matter, saying they should consult his lawyers. Earlier, the court closed the defence hearing of Namuganza when she failed to show up without any justifiable cause.
It was the second time the minister was skipping court. Trouble for the Lusanja people started in October 2018 when the Nabweru Chief Magistrate, Esther Rebecca Nasambu granted eviction orders to Kiconco which led to the demolition of the property.
More than 200 homes and 540 people were evicted from a piece of land measuring 9.6 acres. High court has since declared the orders illegal since they were reportedly meant for the land in Sekanyonyi in Mpererwe and not Lusanja. The lusanja people have welcomed today’s testimony, saying it is sufficient to help the court come up with the right decision.