By Our Reporter
Drama ensued at Bweyogerere-based logistics giants Globe Trotters Ltd premises when Kira Municipality Mayor Julius Mutebi admitted inciting violence before court.
Mutebi made the bold confession Monday as he labored to justify before High Court Registrar Flavia Nabakooza why Globe Trotters Managing Director Harold. B. Ssemalwadde should surrender his land for a community road without any compensation.
Nabakooza had led a delegation of High Court officials to visit locus as part of an evidence-gathering exercise at Bbuto-Bweyogerere on Monday. The exercise was in relation to the case in which Ssemalwadde dragged Kira Municipality officials led by Mayor Mutebi to court accusing them of forcefully grabbing his land to open up a road linking Bweyogerere in Wakiso district to Kiwanga in Mukono district.
In his plaint, Ssemalwadde avers that around April, in the thick of the Covid-19 lockdown, Mutebi led a group of vandals who demolished the perimeter fence of Globe Trotters’ business premises to make way for an illegal road that passes through his land.
MUTEBI ADMITS INCITING VIOLENCE
And indeed, while submitting on the matter before Registrar Nabakooza, Mutebi — in response to Ssemalwadde’s accusations — admitted ordering locals to vandalize the said property. Mutebi explained that he did so after locals reached out to him at night to help them stop Ssemalwadde’s builders from building in the way of the said road that has pitted globe trotters against locals backed by populist politicians.
“I was called at around midnight; the locals told me the man was building but vowed to stop him so I also encouraged them to stop him at all costs. I actually don’t deny it,” Mutebi said in an apparent admission to inciting violence which is contrary to the laws of Uganda.
Mutebi further dropped a legal blooper when he told the registrar that Ssemalwadde has no right to claim prior compensation before the road is passed through his land. The mayor premised his assertion on the explanation that since time immemorial, roads in Kira are built on land that locals freely offer to the community for the same purpose.
“This is not new for a local government to decide to pass a road through someone’s road (without compensation). Even in Kira the Technical Planning Committee (TPC) decided to pass a road through this land. Your Worship the norm in Kira has been that all roads are given away freely by the locals; even the said Kyobe road (which connects Bweyogerere to Ssonde) was given out free. Ssemalwadde must accept to give away the land as a buy-in so as to give back to the community. This is because ever since his company came to this place we as Kira have never benefited from it,” Mutebi said.
To legal scholars, the mayor’s utterances depict ignorance of the law especially in regard to forceful acquisition of personal property for public projects.
This position was clearly highlighted by the Uganda Supreme Court which in 2015 reasserted the Ugandans’ constitutional right to protection from deprivation of property. In Uganda National Roads Authority Vs. Irumba Asumani & Peter Magelah, Supreme Court Constitutional Appeal No.2 of 2014, the court ruled that the Land Acquisition Act (Cap 226) is unconstitutional in so far as it provided for the compulsory acquisition of property before the payment of compensation to the owner.
It thus confirmed the sanctity of property rights as enshrined in Article 26 of the Constitution on freedom from deprivation of property. The article provides for prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation prior to the State’s compulsory acquisition of any property. The ruling thus nullifies Mutebi’s assertions that Kira can forcefully take personal land free of charge. This is because the constitution reigns supreme over any delegated legislation such as district/municipal ordinances/bylaws.
FURTHER LIES DEBUNKED
In their defence submitted earlier in court, Kira Municipal bosses claim that they decided to approve a road on Ssemalwadde’s property because it has been used by the community for thirty years. To Ssemalwadde however, this assertion is a blatant lie. Submitting before registrar nabakooza, he noted that he has authentic title deeds for his land but there has been no such road. He said the footpath emerged around 2010 shortly after he bought his land and was concretized by trespassers who wanted to access the main Kyobe road via the tarmac Globe Trotters Road that he curved off his own land to facilitate his cargo business. His narrative was heavily corroborated by the local leaders of both Kiwanga in Mukono and Bbuto in Kira, Wakiso district provided shorter durations for the road.
In his submission, Musisi Henry, the Vice Chairperson Kiwanga-Kasokoso village in Goma sub county, Mukono district revealed that the suit road (now called Nnume road) was initially a footpath that connected onto the Bbuto-Kiwanga road but led to people’s sand mines and now vegetable gardens. He however stated that it was opened in 2014 and was last repaired in January 2020. This clearly means that it was opened four years after Ssemalwadde bought his land and two years after he submitted his plans for approval by Kira Municipality TPC led by Engineer Joloba James and Municipal planner, a one Kato.
On his part, Guyidde Eriab, the area chairman Bbuto-Bweyogerere where the suit road is located, noted that the road was initially a footpath that was only upgraded to a motorized road during this Covid-19 lockdown in April 2020.
Guyidde says as the village committee they had allowed Ssemalwadde to close the path upon offering the locals an alternative route, which he did. He however says that there was a turnaround by some of his committee members who were displeased that the alternative path was longer than they had desired.
Guyidde’s assertions were echoed by his vice chairman Bulikyalo Bernard. Bulikyalo noted that initially the road was a narrow path that was being used to access the vegetable gardens on the land neighbouring Ssemalwadde’s. He added that when the said land was sold to Ssemalwadde, he fenced it off and expressed interest to close the road because it was not demarcated on the land’s title deed prints.
He added that the locals attempted to protest and block Ssemalwadde from constructing the tarmac Globe Trotters road leading to his business premises. The matter was later resolved after Ssemalwadde provided an alternative route to the trespassers. The process was however sabotaged by the then area Police O/C who incited the locals to reject the alternative route saying it was longer and situated in Mukono district. This is how residents began agitating to reopen the trespass route on Ssemalwadde’s property.
Speaking on the rejection of the new road, Ssemalwadde’s lawyer, Mpagi, noted that there was no need for the locals to distress his client by rejecting the alternative route because roads are created out of necessity and not convenience. On his part, Ssemalwadde attributed his woes to refusal to bribe Kira Municipal bosses. He noted that insisting on a road through his land will expose locals to fatal accidents from the heavy traffic of turning cargo trucks. He also put it to the registrar that the insistence on opening a road through his land is a ploy aimed at raising the value of an opposite chunk of land owned by a one Henry T., business partner to mayor Mutebi’s political godfather/mentor.
In her final submission, Registrar Nabakooza urged the warring parties to keep peace as the status quo remains pending the disposal of the main suit. She promised that the matter before Justice Yasin Nyanzi will be heard expeditiously on July 3rd and 6th so as to quickly resolve it in the best interest of all concerned parties. Meanwhile, court extended the interim order maintaining the status quo on the land to August 18, 2020 when the main application will be coming up for ruling.
Watch this space!!!