UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | UPDATE: 11 January 2021 Hon. Beatrice Byenkya Nyakaisiki, Uganda Land Commission chairperson, was this morning arraigned before the Anti-Corruption Court and charged with obstruction of a search and abuse of office. Byenkya pleaded not guilty the charges.
Later the same day, Byenkya was granted a four million cash bail by the Anti Corruption Court Chief Magistrate Joan Achiro.
The Court further granted a four million cash bail to two of her body guards; constable Richard Godfrey Anywar, and Titus Wamono. However, her third body guard, constable Edward Turyatunga, was remanded to Kitalya government prison after failure to produce substantial sureties.
The matter has been adjourned to the 17th of January 2022.
The offence of obstruction of search attracts a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment upon conviction, while abuse of office elicits a maximum of seven years.
Original Article, Published January 10, 2021: A firestorm has erupted over the rift between the Uganda Lands Commission (ULC) Members, its embattled chairperson, Hon. Beatrice Byenkya Nyakaisiki, and some officials in the Lands Ministry and the Inspector General of Government.
In the latest developments, the Anti-Corruption Court has summoned chairperson Byenkya to appear in court this coming Tuesday, January 11, 2022. She is charged with two counts of Obstruction of Search and Abuse of Office by the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Betty Kamya.
Her security detail has already been remanded by the court on charges that on 4th January 2022 they willfully obstructed and hindered officials from the Inspectorate of Government from carrying out a search in the office of Chairperson Uganda Land Commission.
Byenyka’s troubles started in October last year when Lands Minister, Judith Nabakooba, suspended Byenkya, citing allegations of misconduct and abuse of office made against her by the ULC top leadership.
In a letter dated October 12, Nabakooba requested IGG Betty Kamya to carry out an investigation into the allegations. In the meantime, Nabakooba took over the duties of managing the Commission while the investigation was taking place.
In response to Nabakooba’s letter, Kamya, ordered for the interdiction of Byenkya from her position as chairperson of the Commission to pave the way for investigations. Kamya also ordered the interdiction of Barbarah Imaryo from her duties as secretary of the ULC.
However, chairperson Byenkya says she never received any letter of interdiction addressed to her, so she did not step down and continued carrying out her responsibilities.
In the meantime, Byenkya ran to court and on December 30, 2021, Justice Musa Ssekaana of the High Court Civil Division, issued an interim order halting the interdiction, allowing Byenkya to stay until the main application challenging her interdiction and allegations against her is heard.
What are the Allegations?
On October 7th, members of the ULC called for chairperson Beatrice Byenkya Nyakaisiki’s interdiction, accusing her of misconduct.
The members allege that on 30th September 2021, chairperson Byenkya wrote a letter to the Director of the Bank of Uganda citing fraud in payments from the Land Fund.
It is further alleged that on 2nd October 2021 she then wrote to the Director of the Criminal Investigations Directorate of Uganda Police, proposing investigations into officers of the ULC.
In her letter to the police, Byenkya accused officials of engaging in corruption and bribery, citing overpayment of land fund claimants, irregularities on daily handling of taxpayers’ funds given to the entity, bribery of individuals when handling land fund and other business at ULC, fake land titling at ULC, non-compliance with public service rules and regulations, among others.
As a result of her letter, on October 4th detectives raided the ULC offices in Kampala and arrested four officials.
According to the members of the ULC, chairperson Byenkya, as the head of the institution, should have resolved the matter internally instead of writing to outside agencies and damaging the reputation of the Commission. Therefore, they called for her interdiction on the grounds of misconduct.
The members behind the request for Byenkya’s interdiction are Prof Jack H. Nyeko Pen-Mogi, Mr Tom John Fisher Kasenge, Mr Charles K. Muhoozi, Ms Stella Achan, Mr Bujara Rukiika, Haji Asuman Kyafu, and Hajat Madina Nsereko.
What Does Chairperson Byenyka Say?
In a press conference on Tuesday, Byenkya told the media that she is facing political battles from a syndicate of powerful individuals who have encroached on public land and are now desperately working to get her out of office.
She revealed that 18% of the public land had been taken by “untouchables”, adding that the commission is grappling with many challenges, including persons with “god fathers” running the commission.
“Everybody in Uganda knows that anything connected to land is a sensitive matter, it is a matter that concerns everybody so that is why we have been in the press for wrong reasons. We work at an institution but believe me or not, we have other influences from outside. You find people with god parents but for me I don’t have a god parent. I was just appointed by the grace of God,” she said.
Byenyka has been sounding the alarm as far back as March 2020 that government officials are at the centre of grabbing public land across the country.
Speaking to reporters at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala on March 3, 2020, Byenkya who at the time had only been in the position of ULC chairperson for six months, said that government land is under threat from the very people under whose custody it is invested.
“There is this issue of people grabbing government land. Well, it is unfortunate but it is happening and it is an open secret. Government officials are grabbing government land. It is unfortunate but there we are. If the cadres of government are not really walking the line and carrying out the responsibilities as is to keep whatever is in their custody, then what type of people are we? What type of leaders are we because we’re supposed to be leaders by example,” said Byenkya.
Prior Clashes Have Come Back to Bite Byenkya
It appears clashes from February 2021 have come back to bite Byenkya.
On February 10, chairperson Byenkya appeared before the budget committee sitting at parliament and clashed with Beti Kamya, then Lands Minister, and Persis Namuganza, State Minister for Lands, over a USh12.1 billion request to settle outstanding compensation to six beneficiaries under the Land Fund.
Chairperson Byenkya protested what she described as selective compensation of six landowners with such a huge sum of money, when many more had waited for years to receive compensation from the Land Fund, in vein.
Byenkya had earlier written a letter to Parliament accusing the Ministry of Lands of not involving her commission in the compensation matter. She said as chairperson of the ULC, she was not privy to information about the beneficiaries and the processes that led to their compensation, despite ULC being the responsible entity for compensations.
However, Ministers Kamya and Namuganza insisted that the six beneficiaries should be considered first since they were cleared by the Ministry of Lands following a presidential directive.
Members of Parliament sided with chairperson Byenkya on the matter, saying that the request before them was irregular and that Parliament should not be seen supporting irregularities.
Following their inability to build consensus, Budget Committee vice-chairperson Patrick Isiagi dismissed the officials from the Ministry of Lands, saying that his Committee would come up with a recommendation.
After Kamya and Namuganza had vacated the room, Byenkya accused the Ministers of usurping the ULC powers and undermining the Commission’s mandate.
“The ministers are supposed to supervise but they want to manage the operations of the Commission. That is why when I saw this request, I ran quickly and blocked the approval. The political leadership is trying to usurp our powers,” said Byenkya.
Betty Kamya, former Lands Minister, has since become the Inspector General of Government (IGG) and the main arbitrator in the investigation into Byenkya’s alleged misconduct.
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