• Sat. Aug 20th, 2022

High Court Gives Hope to Irish Man Who Had Lost Properties Worth Billions to Ugandan Fiancée

UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | UPDATE: 07th December 2021: The Mpigi High Court has recently granted a ray of hope to an Irish man who a lower court in Mpigi had evicted from his home, ten plots of land, and a farm.

Mr David Michael O’Connell allegedly purchased the contested properties in the name of his Ugandan fiancée, Ms Catherine Nakawooza, since he was not a Ugandan and therefore not allowed to purchase mailo land, hence buying it in his fiancée’s name.

However, in September, Chief Magistrate Ruth Nabaasa held that court would not go into the details of who financed the purchase of the land, stating, “Merely being the financier of a land transaction for which another person becomes registered as the proprietor is not one of the legally recognised exceptions to indivisibility of title under the Registration of Titles Act.”

Consequently, in September, Chief Magistrate Ruth Nabaasa ruled in Ms Nakawooza’s favour, evicting Mr O’Connell from the couple’s house and from all 10 plots of land, including their farm.

In contrast, on December 2nd, Justice Anthony Oyuko Ojok ruled that the lower court, which was presided over by Chief Magistrate Ruth Nabaasa in September, lacked the authority to hold a hearing of such a case since the contended wealth, which is in billions of shillings, surpasses the USh50 million case maximum that a magistrate is permitted to preside over.

“The trial chief magistrate exercised her powers in excess of her jurisdiction, while doing so illegally and with material irregularity of injustice in contravention of Section 83 (a) of the Civil Procedure Act,” ruled Justice Ojok.

He added: “The subject matter from my quick perusal of the record is one that is way above the pecuniary jurisdiction of the Chief Magistrate’s Court of Shs50m. The decision of the lower court is set aside and the application is allowed with costs. I so order.”

Justus Amanyire of Amanyire & Mwebaze Advocates and Denis Atwijukire of Pace Advocates represented Mr David Michael O’Connell.

Previous Update: Thursday 23rd September 2021: David Michael O’Connell, an Irish national, has lost all of his properties worth billions of Ugandan shillings that he had purchased under the name of his Ugandan fiancée.

Because Mr O’Connell is foreigner of Irish citizenship and not an Ugandan citizen, he is not allowed to purchase mailo land in his own name. Hence he bought the properties under his fiancee’s name, Catherine Nakawooza.

The claimed properties include ten plots of land, ten acres of farmland at Namayumba in Wakiso District, and a house worth billions.

On Friday, September 10, Chief Magistrate Ruth Nabaasa of the Mpigi Magistrate Court ruled in favour of his Ugandan fiancée, and ordered the man off his properties.

“Merely being the financier of a land transaction for which another person becomes registered as the proprietor is not one of the legally recognised exceptions to indefeasibility of title under the Registration of Titles Act,” Chief Magistrate Nabaasa held.

Where it all Began

According to court records, the couple began dating in 2002. They cohabited for a while before Catherine Nakawooza married David O’Connell in a customary ceremony in the Kampala suburb of Bweyogerere, on January 25, 2014. During their relationship they had three lovely children (two girls and one boy).

According to evidence provided by Ms Nakawooza, she claimed that while they were cohabitating, several properties were registered under her name, with all titles entrusted to David Michael’s care.

She further claims that during their alleged marriage, an addtional property in Nansana with 11 self-contained rental units was also purchased under her name, the details of which Mr O’Connell withheld from her.

However, in response, Mr O’Connell denied entering into a traditional marriage with Ms Nakawooza, instead claiming the events of January 25, 2014 merely constituted a visit and introduction to Ms Nakawooza’s mother. 

Catherine Nakawooza in her law suit sought a court order to annul their alleged marriage, an order prohibiting David Michael O’Connell from entering their marital home, and an order granting her custody of their children.

Catherine Nakawooza (right), seated with her three children. Image courtesy of GHBase
During the Court Trial

In court, Mr Godfrey Rwalinda represented Ms Nakawooza, and Mr Mohammad Mbabazi represented Mr O’Connell.

During the trial, David Michael O’Connell presented a slew of documents showing bank transfers and bill exchanges as proof of being the actual financier for the properties.

He stated: “The understanding between him and the petitioner was that, because he was a foreigner of Irish citizenship who could not own mailo interests in land in Uganda, the petitioner would execute peppercorn leases in his favour as lessee for each of the properties, and would grant him powers of attorney to use the properties.”

Court Ruling

In her ruling, Chief Magistrate Ruth Nabaasa held that no marriage existed between the two, hence there was no marriage to dissolve.

However, the court agreed with Ms Nakawooza and granted her the custody of their three children on grounds that they are still young and need their mother’s care.

Chief Magistrate Nabaasa further issued an order restraining Mr O’Connell from accessing the residential home of Ms Nakawooza without her prior permission.

“Merely being the financier of a land transaction for which another person becomes registered as the proprietor is not one of the legally recognized exceptions to indefeasibility of title under the Registration of Titles Act,” The Chief Magistrate ruled.

“It appears moot and academic for this court to consider whether the respondent’s (Mr O’Connell) funds paid for the petitioners’ lands” (Ms Nakawooza). I know that the petitioner (Ms Nakawooza) contested the link between the documentary evidence presented by the respondent to prove that he was the source of funds for the petitioner’s land transactions,” Ruth Nabaasa added.

“Nonetheless, owing to my findings in issue 2, I am satisfied that the residential home of the petitioner (Ms Nakawooza) where she ordinarily lives with her three issues, rightful belongs to her. An order doth issue restraining the respondent (Mr O’Connell) from accessing this home without the petitioner’s prior permission,” Ms Nabaasa ruled.

After losing his property, the Irish man expressed his dissatisfaction with the court’s decision saying he would file an appeal within 14 days.

“When foreign investors like myself are targeted for their assets here, the word spreads quickly, scaring away many more potential investors,” David Michael said.

Ms Nakawooza and two of the couple's children
Ms Nakawooza and two of the couple’s children



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