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Complainant: I was harassed by land inquiry employees

Justice Catherine Bamugemereire

Justice Catherine Bamugemereire

On Friday September 21, 2018 at 12:35pm, Sam-Dick Mukasa an army veteran, received a call from a woman who identified herself as Hildah Namuno from the Land inquiry commission.

She asked Mukasa to pick an urgent letter from the commission offices at Wandegeya. Having filed his complaint more than a year ago and waited endlessly to get his day before the land commission of inquiry headed by Justice Catherine Bamugemerire, Mukasa excitedly thought his time had come to publicly bare his grievances.

At 3pm, Mukasa reached the offices on Plot 8 Lourdel road in Wandegeya. He was handed the letter signed by secretary to the commission Dr Douglas K Singiza. On opening the letter, however, it was inviting him for mediation at the commission “on September 20, 2018 at 10:00 noon”.

That meant he was to appear the day before he received the call. “Something did not look right,” Mukasa told The Observer this week in an interview at our offices in Kamwokya.

“I asked the lady ‘but the letter says I was supposed to appear yesterday?’” According to Mukasa, Namuno said ‘she also didn’t know’ and offered to call in another lady who she said wanted to talk to him. She called a lady who identified herself as Hellen, the investigator into Mukasa’s case.

Mukasa was puzzled because he had known investigators into his case to be a one Ms Ruth and Mr Opendi whom he had been contacting to get upraised on the progress of his complaint.

“The lady was tough,” he said. “She told me ‘don’t ask much. I am now the investigator in your case. Go, we shall call you’”.

As Mukasa walked to the gate, he was called back by an armed policeman who held his arm and led him to a room within the commission’s office and there he found about 20 men. Mukasa knew two of the men as John Bosco Muwonge, city tycoon and his lawyer Joseph Anguria.

Mukasa’s complaint to the commission is against Muwonge and six directors of the army veterans company called Kampala Veterans’ Development Association limited (KAVEDA) in Kampala.

The six directors are Gerald Kayabula (RIP), Frank Matovu, Steven Kigundu, Siraj Hamis Nsimbi, Sam Kabugo, and George Soya. KAVEDA got a five-year lease for the 0.1270 hectares land on May 27, 2015 and transferred it to John Bosco Muwonge on July 13, 2015.

The latter paid Shs 1.5bn for the land to the six directors. On May 29, 2017, Mukasa wrote to the Justice Bamugemerire commission, just days after it started work, asking the commission to investigate the manner in which Muwonge came to buy land along Kafumbe Mukasa road belonging to KAVEDA members.

He was given a reference number LI/103/2017. This means he was 103rd person to file a complaint and would be among the first people to be invited or whose file would be worked on. He has never been called.

When President Museveni appointed the land commission in December 2016, he said he wanted to address land issues once and for all. The maneuvers going on mean some compliainants are denied a chance to be heard.

Back in the room, the lady – Hellen – asked Mukasa whether he knew the men in there. He replied that he knew only Muwonge and the lawyer Anguria. The other men also said they didn’t know Mukasa.

At this point, Hellen asked Mukasa: “What do you call yourself? Why did you write a complaint here when you are not a veteran? How come your fellow veterans don’t know you?”

“I told her ‘I know my group but the people you have here I don’t know who they are’,” Mukasa said.

“We will arrest you for failing the mediation. Why are you failing your fellows from getting money?” the woman reportedly told Mukasa.

The men in the room chorused: “Bamusibe” (arrest him). Hellen then ordered that Mukasa be taken to the secretary to the commission. As they were getting out of the room, another man came in and introduced himself as Dr Douglas Singiza and said he had gotten a complaint from veterans saying a man called Mukasa had stopped them from getting their money.

“Why are you here to disturb the commission’s work?” Singiza reportedly asked Mukasa. “Why are you soiling the name of the investor [Muwonge]?” he went on.

Mukasa explained that he was a veteran and that he filed a complaint with the commission asking for an investigation into how KAVEDA land was sold and why their businesses were demolished. The secretary then told him to accept money and ‘go and finish his problems’.

“We are going to tell Muwonge to bring your money to the commission. We will call you and everyone else, sign, and get your photographs taken and take your money,” the secretary said.

“Let the man go and do his work. That land was government land, and not for you.” “What do you want the commission to do, summon the directors [of KAVEDA]...We have information your directors died. Where do you want us to get them from? Accept the money and leave the land,” Singiza reportedly told Mukasa and ordered him to leave.

Interviewed for a comment yesterday, Dr Singiza said the commission runs ad hoc mediation tests where people are encouraged to settle amicably. For the veterans’ case, he said “there are many widows and those in poor health” making mediation a quicker option.

“There is no coercion. If a person wants to mediate, they write to us to facilitate the process,” Dr Singiza said.

Muwonge’s lawyer Anguria confirmed to The Observer that he attended the meeting on September 21 and said their engagement lasted less than five minutes.

“I and my client [Muwonge] did not say anything in the meeting,” he said. Anguria said it was Mukasa who needed them and when they showed up, he did not like the decision.

“When you don’t like the decision, you don’t throw a tantrum,” Anguria said, adding that the land belonged to Uganda Land Commission and that his client paid those who had the title. This land saga has been ongoing for a while.

On October 23, 2015 Brig Proscovia Nalweyiso wrote to then minister of Lands Daudi Migereko informing him that there were fraudulent manoeuvres to fleece veterans of their market on Kafumbe Mukasa road. She said the president had directed the minister to work with the IGG and police to find a solution.

Frank Matovu, a veteran and one of the directors of KAVEDA who received money from Muwonge, said that indeed the land belonged to Uganda Land Commission and people who had property on the land at the time of disposal, were paid.

Matovu told The Observer on Tuesday that they were nine original members who were given the land on temporary basis in early 1990s.

“It was a swamp that belonged to Nakivubo Blue primary school,” he said “And the Uganda Land Commission was in charge. We went there and secured the title and sold our interests. If anyone was a member and has genuine documents, he should come and be paid.” 

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