• Mon. Jun 5th, 2023

UGANDA, Jinja Real Muloodi News | The Departed Asians Property Custodian Board (DAPCB) filed a suit against businessmen Musa Balikowa and Moses Emma Gamwanga, and as a result, the Jinja High Court has issued an interim order preventing the businessmen from interfering with a contested Jinja property.

The property in question is located at Plot 54 Main Street East, which is being sought by both parties.

On Tuesday April 11, Jinja High Court Judge Faridah Shamilah Bukirwa issued an interim order that restrains the Respondents from any interference with the property, including sale, mortgage, transfer, eviction, demolition, threats, intimidation, and any other form of interference with regard to LRV 154 Folio 17. The interim order is granted pending the determination of the main suit.

In late 2022, controversy erupted when businessman Gamwanga sent individuals to demolish the dilapidated building, claiming to have sold it to Iganga-based tycoon Hajji Musa Balikowa, who intends to construct a new modern structure fitting for Jinja’s city status.

However, Hirome Sabbehe Mayanja, the DAPCB representative, maintains that the property belongs to the government because the original owner did not physically return to repossess it as required by the law.

To gain a better understanding of the situation, Lady Justice Bukirwa conducted a hearing at the scene on Wednesday April 13, with witnesses and lawyers giving their sides of the story.

During the locus visit to the contested Jinja property, Justice Bukirwa head the statement of Wilson Hamia Mulongo, who claims to have been a tenant for two decades. Mulongo claims the property has been undergoing demolition since December 30, 2022. He stated that he is just a tenant and not interested in grabbing any property, and he is ready and willing to pay whoever claims true ownership.

Despite tempers flaring and people talking in chorus without being asked, the soft-speaking judge, who has managed dozens of property-related wrangles, managed to avoid an ugly situation that could have arisen.

Throughout the hearing, a female bodyguard attached to Counter Terrorism struggled to push people away, some of whom squeezed closer to the judge, who seemed more interested in the case than the potential risks.

Conflicting Claims Over Property Ownership

Hirome Sabbehe Mayanja, a member of the Divestiture Committee in the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development, said that the original owner, a man named Kotchecha, has never returned to Uganda since being expelled by President Idi Amin Dada in 1972.

Mr Mayanja added that when the DAPCB finalised with repossession in 1993, this property wasn’t yet repossessed. Mr Kotchecha last applied through his embassy but did not come back to pick the repossession certificate. The law gives up to 120 days for one to pick and manage property, and once that period elapses, it automatically reverses to the government.

Mr Sharif Ssemaganda, the DAPCB lawyer, said that their mandate is to keep the property and give it to the rightful owners after they have submitted the necessary documentation. “The DAPCB isn’t claiming property but defending property until the rightful owner comes on board,” Mr Ssemaganda told Justice Bukirwa. He also added that the property, just like nearly all others, had a mortgage before the Indians were expelled.

On the other hand, Davis Guma, representing the Respondents, claimed that a certificate of repossession was issued to the original owner of the property by the Ministry of Finance on April 19, 1993. “Once a certificate of repossession has been issued, the DAPCB ceases to manage that property,” Mr Guma submitted. He, however, said his clients had no possession of any document authorising occupancy.

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