Mukono Land Dispute Referred To Anti-Corruption Unit For Fresh Investigations

A contentious and life-threatening dispute over family land in Mukono district seems to have reached a boiling point as it has defied resolution and escalated tensions instead.

Due to the nature of its complexity, even the Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development- Judith Nalule Nabakooba, who was petitioned to arbitrate the matter for immediate redress, on Wednesday threw it to the State House Anti-Corruption Unit for a fresh, thorough and impartial investigation.

The decades-long dispute involves two families- the Late Musa Mwanje’s family and the Late John Lule Ssebakijja’s family in Kiyanja, Nakisunga sub-county, Mukono District.

Currently, Mwanje’s family is protecting its estate of 100 acres while Ssebakijja’s son, Fulgencio Ssembajjwe is using all possible avenues to secure them.

Currently, the stakes are high as the two families continue clashing with the Resident District Commissioner- Fatumah Ndisaba reportedly siding with Ssebakijja’s family to torment the land title owners.

According to Ssembajjwe, his father bought 20 acres from Mwanje, who had 100 acres, but the transfer forms necessary for the land transaction were not completed or signed because Ssebakijja, unfortunately, passed on prematurely before the entire process could be finalised.

To secure the 20 acres, Ssembajjwe obtained an eviction court order from Jinja High Court in 2015 intended to drive the family off this disputed portion.

Disturbingly, in December 2022, as the disputes reached their peak, Ssembajjwe hired a gang led by Paddy Sserunjogi aka Sobi (Late) for assistance.

This time, their intentions were clear, not just take the 20 acres but the entire 100-acre estate owned by Mwanje’s family which acquired the land title in 1960.

This prompted Mwanje’s family to appeal against the order in the same court asking for its review and setting it aside. However, after the review, Justice Faridah Shamilah Bukirwa Ntambi made a ruling in favour of Mwanje ordering him to repossess his estate.

In response to the situation, Ssembajjwe through RDC-Ndibassa, took the initiative to appeal to the Minister for Lands for special intervention.

Before this, they expressed their concern that the court had made an error in setting aside a court order that they believed had a legitimate basis.

Nabakooba’s Visit and RDC’s Contradiction 

Nabakooba, who met at the district administration boardroom on February 14, 2024, found out that the report submitted by the RDC on the matter had wrong intentions due to uncoordinated facts.

It contradicted the two reports filed by the Mukono Division Police Commander Edirisa Kyeyune and that of Brig. Moses Lukyamuzi, the head of the Presidential Task Force on Land Matters and Environment.

The dispute has been ongoing since 1994 before the death of Ssebakijja who took Mwanje to court accusing him for grabbing his land. Mwanje won the case after proving that he had genuinely bought it from him.

The RDC’s report indicated that Mwanje’s family had destroyed tenant’s houses on top of evicting them from the land as well as injuring many in the process of eviction.

But in the reports of the DPC and Brig. Lukyamuzi, it is indicated that the group led by then Sobi had committed the crimes cited in the RDCs report.

However, Nabakooba suggested visiting the site for each affected resident to stand at his destroyed house but to shield Ssebakijja’s family, RDC Ndisaba claimed it was not necessary arguing that the media was interested in the matter and would use their pictures on the ground for bad intentions.

The minister looked puzzled and instead directed the State House Anti-Corruption Unit to commence fresh investigations and give her a report within two weeks.

Background Of The Case

In 1999, Ssebakijja’s son, Ssembajjwe, took the matter to the Jinja High Court, appealing the decision made by the Chief Magistrate. He claims to file an appeal leading to the issuance of a court order to evict Mwanje’s family from the disputed land.

However, facing eviction from their entire estate, Mwanje’s family sought court intervention after failed attempts to resolve the matter with local authorities such as the police and the RDC’s office.

In response, Mwanje’s son, Dirisa Ssebufu, who currently administers the estate, contested the legitimacy of the eviction order.

In a sworn statement, he explained that the order claimed by the opposing party originated from an appeal related to a case Mwanje had won years ago at the Chief Magistrates Court in Mukono.

Despite Ssembajjwe filing the appeal in 1999, there is no official communication of it reaching the other party, and there is no evidence of it being served. Moreover, there are no documented proceedings or judgments from the appeal, casting doubt on the validity of the eviction order.

Justice Ntambi, in her ruling, emphasised a critical flaw in the case – the absence of proper documentation. She noted that this lapse was a significant error as it denied Mwanje the right to a fair hearing.

Consequently, she concluded that the legitimacy of the eviction order was questionable without clear records and subsequently set it aside. This decision came a year after Mwanje’s passing.

Following Sobi’s demise in a separate land-grabbing scandal, Mwanje’s family managed to reclaim their land. Dirisa Ssebufu, the current administrator, revealed that the gang took advantage of the eviction to cause extensive damage.

They destroyed valuable properties, including banana plantations, trees valued at Ugx700 million, over ten cows, and excavated thousands of trips of sand in the area.

The gang forcefully seized their residence and used it as a base for vandalising properties, looting items such as beds, sofa sets, and utensils worth millions.

Visiting the contested land, it was confirmed that two houses were brought down, one belonging to Mwanje’s son Juma Majwala, estimated at Shillings 100 million.

Despite reporting the incidents to the police and providing the gang members’ names, they remain free without any summonses for statements. Juma Majwala’s family of eight children is currently scattered among relatives for temporary survival.

Another house, reportedly constructed by the UPDF engineering brigade as a gift from President Museveni to his former bodyguard, was also vandalised, with all properties stolen.

Ssebufu questions why the ministry prefers the court’s involvement and reveals that they are presently seeking compensation for the damages through legal proceedings. He appeals to President Museveni to guide and mentor his representatives in districts to ensure justice is not misled.

Ssembajjwe, the estate administrator, declined to comment on the ongoing process, expressing the need for guidance from his lawyers.

For a while now, Mukono district has been caught up in a bunch of land issues. Some of these disputes even involve local land officials and rich businessmen who conspicuously seek protection from the security authorities and influential people within the state.

In the meantime, Mukono residents and all stakeholders are left in suspense, eagerly awaiting the outcome of this new phase of finding a just and lasting resolution to the protracted land dispute.