• Sun. May 28th, 2023

Shock as Bishop Accused of Land Grabbing

UGANDA, Mukono | Real Muloodi News | Rwenzori Diocese Bishop Reuben Kisembo is defending himself against claims that he colluded with others to unlawfully sell land belonging to the deceased Bishop Eustace Kamanyire’s estate during the Covid-19 lockdown last year.

The two conjoined plots of disputed land in Mukono are worth USh400 million to USh500 million, but were allegedly illegally sold well below market price to buyers Ms Esther Kabajungu and Mr Wycliff Ntambi for only USh195million.

Bishop Kisembo is accused by Ms Joyce Kamanyire Ruhweeza who filed a criminal charge against him at Mukono Police Station on August 19, 2021, of “intermeddling with the estate of the deceased” and of using his influential position as Bishop to obstruct the course of justice.

In a letter dated September 5, 2021, Ms Joyce Kamanyire Ruhweeza—one of the two surviving children of the late Bishop Eustace Kamanyire—asked the Church of Uganda (CoU) authorities for help. She did so through Archbishop Samuel Stephen Kazimba Mugalu.

On September 6, 2021, the letter was delivered to the Church Commission Holding Company (after being pointed in that direction by the archbishop’s office).

“Further communication was made to the archbishop by phone call to confirm receipt of the letter, which he did and an SMS was also sent to him on September 14, 2021 at 08:56am for follow up, but he did not respond,” a representative of Ms Ruhweeza said, adding, “Despite the detailed letter to the archbishop with all supporting documents, there has never been any further communication from him to date.”

The Case

Bishop Kisembo contacted Ms Ruhweeza during the 42-day lockdown to inform her that he and Patricia Asaba, Bishop Kamanyire’s daughter-in-law, had found a buyer for the Mukono plots owned by the late Bishop Eustace Kamanyire family.

According to reports, Bishop Kisembo says the family needed to earn money for some of their orphaned grandchildren’s school expenses.

According to Ms Ruhweeza, she informed Bishop Kisembo that she would speak with a lawyer and her sister Ruth.

Ms Ruhweeza claims that she got back to Bishop Kisembo and informed him that the land was not up for sale, and that they lacked the right to sell it because the estate still did not have administrators.

Following that, Ms Ruhweeza allegedly received several calls from a lady known as “Lawyer Esther” from LOI Advocates, who was acting as Bishop Kisembo and Ms Patricia Asaba’s legal counsel.

Lawyer Esther from LOI Advocates allegedly pressured Ms Ruhweeza into removing the caveats that had been placed on the titles so that the land could be sold. The intimidation on the part of this lawfirm, according to Ms Ruhweeza, led her to stop answering calls from Lawyer Esther.

Ms Ruhweeza decided to seek help from a KGN Advocates lawyer called Solomon Webale Araali, who is also her brother-in-law but also a relative to Bishop Kisembo.

Lawyer Solomon was entrusted to outline the “illegalities” of the deal to Bishop Kisembo and Ms Esther Kabajungu, who in turn told him to put his remarks in writing.

Part of the letter from Lawyer Solomon, dated August 25, 2021, addressed to LOI Advocates and Bishop Kisembo reads: “Note that with Exception of Plots 3-11, Freehold Volume 849 Folio 6, the Trustees have no authority to deal with any part of the estate.”

Lawyer Solomon further stated: “Where any such sale has already taken place, the sellers are advised to refund the money to the purchaser because the sale is illegal abnito.”

Later, it was found that the transaction had already been completed on July 9, 2021.

Bishop Kisembo, the chairperson of the “Bishop Kamanyire Trust Fund,” and Patricia Asaba were the land sellers.

The contract was signed in Ms Esther Kabajungu’s presence, and the buyer was identified as Mr Wycliff Ntambi.

Some challenged provisions in the selling agreement that were referred to as “deceptive clauses” were: “The vendor holds letters of administration as the widow of late Peter Asaba Kamanyire, who was the registered proprietor of the land.”

The late Bishop Kamanyire is listed as the land’s registered owner. Later, Peter Asaba Kamanyire was listed as the administrator of Bishop Kamanyire’s inheritance.

Ms Ruhweeza engaged with Mr Ntambi in the presence of both their lawyers. This was after the hearing of a civil case against Bishop Kisembo and others had started.

Bishop Kisembo allegedly informed Mr Ntambi that Ms Ruhweeza was ill and would sign the paperwork once she was well. Ms Ruhweeza, thus, did not sign anywhere and is not a party to the arrangement.

The Mukono land was sold at USh195million under the selling agreement, and only USh77.6 million of this total was deposited in the “Kamanyire Trust Fund” account in Centenary Bank on August 19, 2021, even though the sales agreement stated that the date of payment was July 9, 2021.

Ms Ruhweeza is the one who filed a criminal charge against Bishop Kisembo at Mukono Police Station on August 19, 2021, for “intermeddling with the estate of the deceased”.

What was Revealed

Ms Ruth Kihumuro Kamanyire-Imukat has adjacent plots in the same area as the contested land, which were bequeathed to her by her late father. According to Ms Ruhweeza’s lawyers, it was only when her caretaker observed construction taking place on the disputed plots that the “illegal” transaction was discovered.

The two plots had been graded, retaining walls built and construction had commenced during the 42-day lockdown. This prompted the caretaker, Mr Francis Mugume, also known as Junior, to ask about the land transaction.

After learning about the illegal sale, Ms Ruth Kihumuro and her sister Ms Ruhweeza reported Bishop Kisembo to the Mukono Police.

Subsequently, Ms Ruhweeza summonsed the Bishop Kisembo to record a statement with the police. After which the bishop communicated to the investigating officer (Grace) via text message, saying he would travel to Mukono on September 2, 2021, as he had just returned from annual leave.

The bishop reportedly added that he was going to look for funds for fuel to make the trip. Bank records show that he withdrew Shs3,560,000 on September 4, 2021, and Shs5,470,000 on September 8, 2021, from the “Trust fund” account. However, Bishop Kisembo never went to the Mukono Police Station to provide his statement.

Instead, SSP Charles Mutungi, then Commandant of the Lands Police Protection Unit, called the investigating officer, Grace, and interrogated her for summoning the bishop.

According to sources, it was later discovered that Mr Mutungi had been misinformed by Lawyer Esther into believing that the bishop was being “harassed” by Mukono police.

The bishop himself backed up the accusation of harassment.

However, Mr Mutungi claims that he was only providing Grace guidance on how to address a serving bishop to protect her after having received a call from State House alerting him of the bishop’s harassment.

Only the purchaser of the land, Mr Ntambi, was summonsed by Mukono police, and he provided a straightforward statement.

The other accused people, Bishop Kisembo, Ms Patricia Asaba, and Ms Esther Kabajungu, did not provide any more remarks.

Mr Ntambi kept on constructing on the disputed land throughout this time.

As a result, a civil trespass complaint was filed at Mukono High Court to get a temporary injunction stopping the construction.

The High Court of Mukono’s deputy registrar, Ms Mary Ikit, issued the temporary order on September 22, 2021.

At this stage, Mr Ntambi had already built and roofed what appeared to be a servant’s quarters.

He had also commenced constructed of a two-story home by laying the foundation for the first level. Later, a permanent injunction was obtained to halt all building and land usage pending the outcome of the legal proceedings.

Police Fail

On September 18, 2021, a complaint was submitted to the regional CID, Kampala Metropolitan East, asking for the transfer of the matter to the regional level because the Mukono police had not produced any findings.

After then, the file was moved, and the investigation continued.

When Ms Kabajungu and Bishop Kisembo were called to testify, Kibuli CID headquarters requested that the case be transferred there because Ms Kabajungu had complained that the bishop was being harassed.

Although Mr Ntambi was given a summons by the police, there is no evidence that he complied.

Another person who stepped in was a Senior Female Military Officer at State House who is a close cousin of Mr Ntambi.

Bishop Kisembo and Ms Asaba gave their statements after the Deputy Inspector General of Police intervened in the situation giving the CID instructions to treat the situation fairly.

At the State House

On March 15, Ms Ruhweeza and her sister Kamanyire-Imukat received a letter from the State House Legal Department (PO/19), signed by Ms Flora Kiconco for the Principal Private Secretary to the President, calling them to State House Nakasero on March 29 slated at 10 am.

According to a complaint made by Bishop Kisembo and Ms Asaba, he accused the Kamanyire sisters of frustrating the beneficiaries of their late father’s estate by thwarting a meeting to choose an estate administrator.

One of Ms Ruhweeza’s sons responded to the letter and mentioned thus: “The dispute subject of your letter is also subject of the ongoing Mukono H.C.C.S No. 234 of 2021 and a criminal case at CID headquarters Vide 88/19/08/2021 II. That Joyce Kamanyire Ruhweeza and Ruth Kihumuro Kamanyire-Imukat are the only surviving children of Bishop Kamanyire and that the ones who complained to State House legal department are not part of the family meeting that will sit to select administrators for the estate as none of them is a beneficiary (they aren’t blood relatives, Bishop Kisembo is a friend to the deceased and Patricia Asaba and Lucy Kamanyire are daughters in law).”

On the mentioned day, the complainants, Mr Ntambi’s attorney, and Ms Ruhweeza’s son all attended the meeting.

The meeting was presided over by Judith Oromo, Ms Kiconco’s private assistant for legal issues at State House (head of the State House Legal Department).

The meeting concluded that Bishop Kisembo and Ms Asaba sold things over which they lacked authority. That the full estate of the late Bishop Kamanyire was not under Bishop Kisembo’s control; only the land at Fort Portal was.

Bishop Kisembo and Ms Asaba received a second letter signed by Ms Kiconco, on July 20 asking them to a meeting to address the matter further. The other parties were not informed of the meeting’s details.

Despite being crucial to the deal, there is no evidence that Mr Ntambi was called by State House Legal representatives.

The High Court of Mukono held a hearing on the civil case on October 18.

Ms Asaba and Bishop Kisembo did not attend the hearing. However, Mr Ntambi’s attorney wanted to change their “prayers” such that Ms Asaba and Bishop Kisembo would be required to compensate Mr Ntambi if they lost the lawsuit.

The following hearing will take place on November 24.


Land Dispute Linked to Kikuube LC1 Chairperson’s Murder

Backlog of Unresolved Land Cases Reaches USh3 trillion