The deputy attorney general Mwesigwa Rukutana was today, Wednesday sent out of the Commission of Inquiry into land matters for undermining the commission’s chairperson, lead counsel and commissioners during cross examination.
Rukutana, who had also defied several court summonses before, spoke egotistically and refused to adhere to the probe’s terms of reference saying he "will not respect anyone in the commission If am not respected.”
While appearing before the commission on February 5, 2019, Rukutana, refused to testify, saying he wanted more time to prepare himself. He asked for a minimum of 30 days. However, his plea was rejected on the grounds that it was not commensurate with the Land Probe’s terms of reference, which is time bound.
Land Probe chairperson Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, gave him 14 days, and subsequently deferred the hearing to February 20. Rukutana, a lawyer and a politician who has held a number of government jobs including ministerial positions, is being investigated among other allegations for wrongly advising and misinforming President Museveni on the ownership of Mutungo hill. His legal advice subsequently led to some letters originating from the President’s Office.
Rukutana is also accused of giving wrong legal opinion in the media, well knowing that the facts as he claimed, are not corroborated with what the Commission has unearthed through various testimonies from complainants and locus in quo visits to the land under contention.
The Commission further wants Rukutana to explain how Shs 24.6 billion is about to leave the treasury following his legal opinion. He is furthermore wanted to explain; how he authorized the payment of Shs 8 billion in interest for a contested piece of land in Mutungo, a Kampala suburb.
The land comprising of 12 plots, is being claimed by Dr Muhammad Kasasa, 80, and was purchased by government at a cost of Shs 2.4 billion in 2002. However, the figures seem to have changed since, and the Commission is also wondering how the Shs 2.4 billion figure, is now changing to Shs 24.6 billion.
The compensation award is part of the wider dispute the Commission is looking at. There are allegations of an inflated, irregular and probably fraudulent transaction in the process.
But while appearing before the Commission today, Rukutana kept on interrupting and interfering with the process of cross examination.
All along during the hearing that was interrupted with premature adjournments, Rukutana kept on answering questions arrogantly and disrespectfully - prompting Bamugemereire to prematurely adjourn the hearing. But even when the hearing resumed, Rukutana was not remorseful for his earlier behaviour despite pleas from Bamugemereire to be respectful and mindful of his words.
“ Can I have your word on this problem because this would determine whether we should continue with you or not ” asked Bamugemereire.
“Which word?” retorted Rukutana.
“Are you going to be respectful to this Commission?” Justice Bamugemereire asked Rukutana again.
But before she could complete her statement, Rukutana again jumped in and interfered with her statement saying; “Look, my position is very clear. As long as I am respected, I will be respectful. If I am not respected, I will not respect anybody” Rukutana who all along kept on interrupting the lead counsel, Ebert Byenkya.
“Okay, I think let’s stop here. Because this is not pretense. If we come here, for a person not less than a deputy attorney general to show this commission that we are a waste of time. Our first interaction was two weeks ago where we granted you an adjournment to be prepared. Our main object in soliciting your guidance to this commission was to bring clarity to this compensation award that was granted to Dr Kasasa” Bamugemereire said in a somber voice.
“There have been allegations that these figures and this contracts are arrived at through an inflated, irregular and even probably fraudulent process. We were hoping to get answers to these questions. And it turns out we are confronted with a situation, a situation of hostility, combativeness, disrespect and an attitude never, never seen before.” Bamugemereire said.
“ I have thought very hard about this. And we have talked about it as a Commission. But now, at this point, as regards the attorney general’s opinion on this issue, I will refer this matter to His Excellency the President of Uganda, who is our appointing authority, so that probably the appointing authority can find another way of verifying, investigating and probing how Shs 24.6 billion is about to leave the treasury. And probably the appointing authority will find a body that the learned attorney general respects enough.”
“As it turns out, this level of disrespect by government officials makes it impossible for us to continue with this type of investigation. If this level of disrespect continues, we might actually. rethink our method as a commission. But as of now, this interview is over. You are dismissed and discharged. Please get out of here ” Bamugemereire said.
Asked to give a comment by the journalists, the non remorseful Rukutana said: “ I don’t give a damn. Let her tell the president, she can even tell God.”
“Eh!, this man, where does he get the guts to do this? That he doesn’t give a damn, that the judge can even go and tell God” a man who came to attend the hearing said as he shook his head.
Dr Kasasa, recently told the Commission that whereas he was supposed to be paid part of the money, he was only paid in papers.
“Mafias from the Uganda Land Commission, deceived me and opened a bank account of theirs where the money was wired and they took it. I was told to wait in the banking hall in vain. All they said, was that I will wait for another pending payment” Dr Kasasa said
This is not the first time Rukutana is conducting himself in an improper manner before a probe and other inquiries. His acts during the age limit court hearing in Mbale last year, were also, according to some lawyers wanting.
Rukutana, was appointed deputy attorney general of Uganda on March 1, 2015, replacing Fred Ruhindi, who was appointed attorney general. Ruhindi is one of the probe commissioners.
On February 5, soldiers attached to External Security Organisation (ESO) barred the Land Probe chairperson, Bamugemereire and her team comprising of commissioners and the media from accessing the land under contention located at Mutungo Zone IV.
A gun totting Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) soldier, No 095301, Corporal Julius Katuriba, held Bamugemereire and commissioners, Joyce Habasa, Dr Rose Nakayi and Fredrick Ruhindi at gun point and ordered them and other people including journalists to move away from the quarter guard of a residential building he was guarding.
“Nyinyi, mutoke hapa maramoja. Sitaki kuona mutu hapa saa hii” he said in Kiswahili. Meaning, can all of you go away from here. I don’t want to see anybody here.
The probe was inspecting the land in contention on Mutungo hill in Luzira. Mutungo, the prime Kampala, hill, is hostage to a number of land wrangles and court cases.
Three families, namely Prince David Kintu Wasajja, Sir Edward Mutesa II’s youngest son, retired Dr Muhammad Kasasa and former ambassador Maurice Kagimu Kiwanuka, son of the late Benedicto Kiwanuka, Uganda’s first chief justice are embroiled in an argument on the ownership of the Mutungo hill land.
The land in question is Block 237 Plot 67, 48, 29 and 59 on Mutungo hill where ESO intends to build its headquarters.