MBEYA LAND ROW: Two-Year Standoff Ends As Police Finally Adhere To Court Decision

The police in Mukono have yielded to mounting pressure and are now poised to enforce a court order that was issued two years ago restraining the possession of a disputed seven-acre land on Mbeya Island in the Mpunge sub-county of Mukono District.

The prolonged legal battle surrounding this contested plot has kept the local community on the edge, eagerly anticipating a resolution to the protracted land wrangle punctuated with threats, torture, assault and deaths. The police had deliberately disregarded the order in favour of Wanyama until recently when they made a U-turn and decided to comply.

The contested property, originally belonging to Francis Tyaba, was officially transferred to Mukono entrepreneur Jackson Twinamasiko under the representation of his attorney, Joyce Lutaaya.

However, after sealing the deal with Twinamasiko, Lutaaya deceptively entered another deal with a Senior UPDF Officer Maj. Mark Wanyama, ultimately leading to Twinamasiko’s eviction from the land. Wanyama gave Lutaaya an enticing offer of an additional Ugx5m for each acre of land that would be transferred from Twinamasiko’s ownership to Major Wanyama’s.

Remember, Twinamasiko had made payment for the plot of land, disbursing a total sum of Ugx70 million. This financial transaction occurred on two separate occasions, precisely on November 6 and 20, 2019 executing the payments via his Dfcu bank account, with the recipient being Lutaaya’s Nino Boutique account, held at Standard Chartered Bank.

Twinamasiko initiated a civil lawsuit at Mukono High Court to pursue a legal resolution. Nevertheless, before the resolution of the primary case, Wanyama employed forceful tactics to take control of the land.

He then occupied the property by deploying armed military personnel, obstructing Twinamasiko from accessing or utilising it. This aggressive action resulted in substantial property damage and destruction, along with injuries sustained by casual workers on Twinamasiko’s farm.

In response to the situation, Twinamasiko took proactive measures by reporting the issue to the police and pursuing a temporary court injunction.

Despite successfully obtaining a temporary injunction granted by the High Court in Mukono on December 3, 2021, which prohibited the respondent (Francis Tyaba) from selling or interfering with the land, Mukono Police Division Commander Edirisa Kyeyune declined to officially communicate it to the parties involved, citing concerns about its authenticity.

“A temporary injunction does issue restraining the Respondent, his servants, agents, employees or any person claiming under his title from selling, alienating, transferring, subdividing or in any other way interfering with the suit land comprised in Kyaggwe Block 494 Plot 9 Situate at Mbaya until the hearing and final determination of the main suit.” The court injunction reads in parts.

Twinamasiko, through Leadman Advocates, took the initiative to petition various offices for the implementation of the injunction. On October 21, 2022, the Office of the Inspector General of Police approved the injunction and directed the Kampala Metropolitan Commander to ensure that Mukono Division adheres to and enforces the court order.

“I have been guided to forward the same to you with the guidance that in the absence of any other court order from the same or a higher court to the contrary and upon verification of its authenticity, you allow the area police being Mukono to bring the contents of the order to the attention of the parties and require their compliance.” Chepkurul Shunu Jimmy on behalf of the IGP instructed.

Despite efforts from the district security committee, led by Resident District Commissioner Fatumah Ndisaba, to review and advise the police commander on implementing the order, their attempts proved futile as the commander continued to doubt its authenticity.

On November 25, 2022, the Office of the Inspector General of Police issued a reminder, along with an interpretation of the injunction, clarifying that it specifically pertains to the disputed seven acres of land.

The interpretation further clarified that the injunction extends its impact to any individual not directly involved in the legal proceedings but who holds a title derived from the respondent, Francis Tyaba, represented by Joyce Lutaaya.

“The order does not restrict activities on the uncontested land owned by the two parties involved in the suit or any subsequent buyers acquiring title from either party. This clarification intends to provide the accurate interpretation of the injunction and direct investigations into all criminal activities that transgressed the order,” clarified Erasmus Twaruhukwa, signing on behalf of the Inspector General of Police.

After consistent reminders, on December 22, 2023, the District Police Commander (DPC) formally communicated with the Mukono High Court to verify the authenticity of the injunction. In response, the Assistant Registrar, Umar Nasif Mubiru, confirmed that the injunction was indeed authentic.

“The Purpose of this letter, therefore, is to confirm to you that the rectified Court Order dated 3rd December 2021 granted by this Honourable Court is authentic,” Mubiru responded.On January 2, 2024, legal representatives of Twinamasiko formally petitioned the District Police Commander (DPC), requesting written acknowledgement of his failure to enforce the court order. This was done to explore alternative remedies for the situation.

“Your failure to implement the said Court Order has occasioned damages and loss of property to our client by Major Mark Wanyama and his agents have since invaded the suit Land, destroyed our client’s property thereon, threatening and evicting him from the suit land and illegally changed its status quo.”

What changed?

On Friday, the DPC- Edirisa Kyeyune, instructed Mukono Division Crime Investigations Officer, Ali Katende to escort the Katosi Police Station Officer in Charge, ASP Peter Muhiire to implement the injunction at Mbeya.

The injunction was read in the absence of the respondent but in the presence of residents and local leaders. These individuals were instructed to promptly inform the police if the respondent or his agents acted contrary to the injunction.

Upon reaching the disputed land in Mbeya, a group of people identified by the Local Council I (LCI) chairperson, Eldad Bashaija, as belonging to Wanyama’s camp, hastily retreated into the forest upon spotting armed police officers.

Bashaija expressed optimism that this development would significantly restore order in the area. He highlighted that the group associated with Major Wanyama, armed with guns, bows, and arrows, had been hindering the community from using pathways within the contested area.

Insight Post Uganda observed on the minute paper signed by people who observed the reading of the injunction that police had already drafted a resolution dated January 10, 2024, indicating that the injunction was not read since both parties were not present but this was contested by Twinamasiko’s lawyer.

Eventually, the resolution was disregarded by writing the word ‘ignored’ and another resolution was drafted indicating that the court injunction was read by police in the presence of the Twinamasiko’s agents, residents, and local leaders.

Since last Friday, Wanyama’s known contact has been unreachable, raising concerns about their responsiveness to the injunction. In October of the previous year, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Kibuli arrested Twinamasiko and charged him with trespassing on the disputed land, asserting that it was under the possession of Major Wanyama.

When presented before the court in Mukono, Chief Magistrate Roselyn Nsenge dismissed the case. She reasoned that neither the complainant nor the defendant in the criminal case could prove ownership of the land through possession of the title. Moreover, with superior court orders in place, the conventional concepts of possession and ownership did not apply.

Wanyama’s lawyer, Jabar Luyima, expressed dissatisfaction with the court’s ruling, stating that it lacked merit before criticising the abuse of legal processes by court officers.