Catherine Bamugemereire is a Ugandan lawyer and judge who, since 2015, has served as a Justice of the Court of Appeal of Uganda, which doubles as Uganda’s Constitutional Court.
As Uganda government finds a lasting solution to land problems, Justice Catherine Bamugemereire Chair of Land Probe Commission dominated news as she grilled those mentioned in land mismanagement.
She went around the country listening to people and made statements that were pro-people. She spoke to the Judiciary , a move that made her a pro-people Judge.
She will dominate news in 2019. Appointed by President Yoweri Museveni, Justice Catherine Bamugemereire has enjoyed his support.
Bamugemereire’s full statement
Date: October 26, 2018
Press release on the presenting role of the judiciary in catalysing rising land distress, grabbing of protected and fragile areas causing landlessness and a state of lawlessness.
The commission of inquiry has recently been faced with a number of developments on land for which a deserving press brief needs to be given. Notably, in the process of inquiring into the effectiveness of law, policies and processes of land in Uganda, the commission of inquiry has encountered a rising number of orders, rulings, judgments, and injunctions entered by judicial officers which have led to the eviction of thousands of bibanja holders or the giving away of land protected by gazette as a forest or wetland.
In a recent judgment, arising out of Civil Suit 885 of 2017, Justice Godfrey Namundi, on June 28 2018, ruled that about one square mile that is actually part of Kajjansi Central Forest Reserve belonged to Eria Mubiru, Vivian Keza and Peninah Busingye Kabingani, simply because they have land titles over the land.
This ruling was made in spite of the fact that a copy of the Legal Notices gazetting the forest, dated 1932, 1948, 1968 and 1998, were tendered as evidence before court. The judge declared National Forestry Authority (NFA) trespassers on the “forest reserve” because they had attempted to stop the encroachment, and awarded costs of the suit plus general damages of Shs200m against NFA. This judgement carries the import of degazetting a central forest reserve. Degazetting is the sole preserve of the Parliament of Uganda and not the High Court of the Judiciary of Uganda.
Relatedly, up to four court orders have been granted over Namanve Forest Reserve where titles were issued on an existent forest reserve. As a result of originating summons No. 9 of 2014, up to 50 private security guards were deployed on the land triggering a stand-off between UPDF [Uganda People’s Defence Forces] and NFA rangers. In this case, the court directed the commissioner of land registration to create hitherto non-existent plots in the forest reserve. Some judges and high-level government officers have been named in this forest reserve grab. The commission notes that speculators who get insider information on where future projects will be situated, desire titles in areas such as central forest reserves hoping to be paid astronomical compensation arising out infrastructural project over such areas. The preceding area is one such area bringing a convergence of projects such as the Bukasa Port, the Standard Gauge Railway, among others.
Further, more than 12 square miles of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve have been handed to Hoima Sugar Works through a ruling of court that reversed the cancellation of title to the land by the commissioner of land registration.
The commission continues to investigate sand mining in Lwera where individuals collude with officials from National Environmental Management Agency (Nema). Nema grants licences to mine the sand. The individuals then use these licences to apply for lands titles whose issuance contravenes the law as they are made over gazetted areas. Such activities have threatened fish breeding areas of Lake Victoria whose effects can be potentially catastrophic.
Multiple evictions in Entebbe, Wakiso, Mityana and Mubende [districts] have all been authorised by judicial officers. Some of these matters are under investigation by the commission.
Born: 1970 (age 48 years), UgandaNationality: UgandanSpouse(s): George Bamugemereire (LLB, LLM, Dip.Leg.Pract.)Title: Justice of the Uganda Court of AppealAlma maters: Makerere University, Law Development Centre, Southern Methodist University