NOT PLEASED! AG Kiryowa intervenes in justice Kiryabwire-Masindi land wrangle
By our reporter
Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka (KK) has expressed his disappointment with Justice Jesse Byaruhanga Rugyema of the Masindi High Court over directives issued regarding a land case involving Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire. The directives being contested were delivered in a ruling on an application filed in March 2020 by Stephen Wekomba against administrators of the estate of the late Prof JM Kiryabwire: Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Mary Kiryabwire, Sarah Kiryabwire Naswaali, Angela Kiryabwire Kayima and Kiryandongo District Local Government over the judge’s alleged encroachment on his ranch land. Wekomba’s application was based on the consent decree vide C.S No.114/08 in which the administrators of the estate of Prof Kiryabwire had sued the Attorney General and two others who included Wekomba, the plaintiff in the instant suit. The 2008 consent order saw Justice Kiryabwire compensated by the Government, hence relinquishing 962 hectares of land on Ranch 13, LRV No.1129, Folio 18 at Kiryandongo.
A portion of the surrendered land was reportedly allocated to the plaintiff (Wekomba) and other beneficiaries who had been squatters on the land. But Wekomba later complained that Justice Kiryabwire’s agents had encroached on his portion of land yet the judge was reportedly compensated for the said land and was accordingly paid Shs1.3bn by the Government of Uganda. On December 01, Justice Rugyema ruled on Wekomba’s application, giving surveyors 60 days within which to complete a re-survey and reopening of boundaries of a contested chunk of land. He further ruled that an existing consent decree vide C.S No.114/2008 be complied with and be implemented accordingly whereby the plaintiffs/ first defendant’s family (of the late Prof JM Kiryabwire) shall hand over the certificate of title of Ranch 13 LRV 1129, Folio 18 at Kiryandongo, Masindi for sub-division/re-survey by a joint team of two surveyors, each appointed by both sides or by a Chief Government surveyor but witnessed by each party’s representative surveyors. But in a letter dated December 03 and copied to Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo and his Deputy Richard Butera, AG Kiryowa Kiwanuka has registered his “dissatisfaction of the Honorable Court’s handling of the matter,” punching holes in Rugyema’s recent orders and making demands. In his protest letter, KK quotes Rugyema’s ruling directing the Kiryabwires to hand over the Certificate of Title for the sub-division and or re-survey of land comprised in Ranch 13 LRV Vol.1129 Folio 18 Kiryandongo by a joint team of two surveyors each appointed by both sides. The Attorney General also reminds the Masindi Resident Judge of a letter referenced PLS-CJ-01/08/21 and dated August 20, 2021 by the Personal Legal Secretary on behalf of Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo advising that all pending Suits and Civil Applications, including HCT C.S 03/2020, C.S. 24/2020, C.S.54/2021 and any others that may have been filed, relating to the same land, be consolidated and heard expeditiously to avoid breach of peace in the area.
He also told the judge that there was no formal application seeking orders that were issued by the Masindi Court on December 01. Wondering why the case had taken a new twist, KK further noted that during the mention of the Suit on May 24, 2021, Rugyema had adjourned the matter to February 17, 2022, and advised the parties to come ready for an amicable discussion, not a hearing.
The AG went on to tell the judge that he (Rugyema) had been well informed that there is a comprehensive report on the boundary opening and subdivision for the suit land made pursuant to clause six of the Consent Decree in C.S. 114/2008, and that the request to produce the same in two weeks’ time was rejected.
A seasoned lawyer who has handled a number of high profile court cases, Kiwanuka also told Justice Rugyema that the fifth defendant, Kiryandongo District Local Government Council, was never a party to the Consent Decree, further arguing that this defendant “has no legal capacity to execute the orders that were issued against it.” His other concern is that the plaintiff (Wekomba) in C.S. 0903/2020 is not a beneficiary of the consent decree in Civil Suit No. 114 of 2008: Hon. Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire & Others versus Attorney General & Others.
Making it clear that the Attorney General’s Chambers were dissatisfied with the handling of the case, and after shredding the judge’s latest ruling, the AG asked Justice Rugyema to avail his office with a copy of the typed ruling and the record of proceedings “to enable us determine how to proceed with this matter.”
Kiwanuka’s intervention in this land case may have two implications on two judicial officers. While it might portend well for Justice Kiryabwire, who is at the heart of the disagreement, how the AG proceeds might spell doom for Justice Rugyema.