Kampala- The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) has hit a stalemate on compensation for land that lies on the path of the Entebbe Express Highway, now under construction, after two parties Madhvani Group of Companies and Nakawa Division mayor Benjamin Kalumba claimed ownership.
Mr Kalumba, one of the administrators of the Muwanga Omuwesi family estate, claims they hold a mailo title for the land on Block 374 measuring 306 acres in Wakiso District through which the Entebbe Express Highway is being constructed.
However, the Madhvani Group, which owns Kakira sugar factory in Jinja District, also claims the same land and says it has a freehold title for it. The land is in Nakilagala, Ssisa Sub-county in Wakiso District.
Mr Kalumba says the land has a graveyard which contains tombs of the family’s ancestors and this is part of the evidence he presents as proof of ownership.
The family is seeking compensation from UNRA in order to exhume the remains for reburial elsewhere.
However, the Madhvani Group counterclaims that the said graveyard is their cemetery they gave to their migrant workers, Ugandans and non-Ugandans, many years ago to bury their deceased relatives. The site holds about 140 graves.
Both the Muwanga family and Madhvani Group are seeking compensation of Shs548m from UNRA for the graveyard land.
UNRA had levelled some of the graves to proceed with the road project and ignored the Kalumba-Madhvani dispute over the land.
However, some of administrators of the Muwanga family estate and Kalumba’s clan members pitched camp at the site to protect what they called “rights of the dead”.
The roads agency had proposed to them that since the graveyard land was still under contention, the UNRA consultant, Mott MacDonald, would exhume the remains and relocate them. But Kalumba’s family rejected the proposal. Madhvani Group said they would allow the proposal since the site is a cemetery but they would have to be compensated first.
The case was filed in 2013 in the High Court’s Land Division and the hearing had been scheduled for Monday this week.
However, presiding judge Wilson Kwesiga adjourned the hearing to June to allow him time to study the case file.
According to court documents, Kalumba and the family estate contend that their great grandfather Muwanga Omuweesi is the owner of the mailo land in question. They claim he received the land from the then king of Buganda Kabaka Chwa II.
Kalumba has a copy of a title which shows it was created on October 20, 1913, and a certificate of registration was issued and sealed as FC 9662 by the British colonial administration.
However, a freehold title was also later created in 1925 under Uganda Rubber and Coffee Estates Limited and Nsimbe Estates Mawokota Uganda but does not indicate termination of the mailo land title.
The Ministry of Lands said there is no information on who created the two titles or how the freehold one evolved from the mailo title.
The Lands ministry on December 12, 2012, wrote to the Muwanga family that a search had been made on “cadastral catridge” maps and microfilm records on the file FC 9662 but there were no record on the said freehold title.
The correspondence also noted there is no record of how Uganda Coffee Estates had become registered proprietors on the land. However, in 1960, according to the Lands ministry records, Madhvani was granted a lease of 49 years for the land using the mailo title which had been cancelled earlier in 1931. The lease ought to have expired in 2009.
The dispute is over ownership of plot 2 (257 acres) and plot 3 (49 acres) which adds up to 306 acres. A report from Wakiso District land office said the mark stones in the land were still intact and the “premises are duly registered in the names of Muwanga Omuwesi”.
After the expulsion of Asians by President Idi Amin in 1972 and upon their return in the 1980s and 1990s, the Madhvani Group applied for a new special land title for the 306 acres.
The Madhvanis contend that their “certificate of the title got lost during the Asian exodus of 1972 and I believe it is irretrievably lost,” according to the affidavit sworn by the Madhvanis before the commissioner of oaths in 1995.
According to UNRA, the Madhvanis are bona fide owners of the land since they have a new land title while the family estate is relying on the old title which was cancelled by the Lands ministry in a recent exercise to clean up the lands registry.
The row over ownership took centre stage when designs for the Entebbe Express Highway were displayed and payments were being processed for the persons affected by the road project.
After making another request in the Lands ministry in December 2012 to dig up the archives on the old titles, the commissioner in charge of registration, Ms Sarah Kulata, on June 26, 2013, wrote back to the Muwanga family indicating that while the ministry had earlier found no record regarding the freehold and mailo land titles during the last century which caused confusion, this time the records had been traced.
She said the records indicated that the mailo land document No.262 registered on May 19, 1915, in which their ancestor Muwanga Omuwesi was transferring his land to the British colonial governor of the time, Frederick Jackson, for six thousand rupees.
“This determines your claim and by copy of this letter I am informing UNRA of this development and recommending that they go ahead with dealing with Madhvani who are the rightful owners and no other,” Ms Kulata wrote. Her letter, however, did not state how the land was transferred to Madhvani.
Micro films from the Lands and Survey Department, copies seen by Sunday Monitor, however, indicate the area land schedule is still owned by Muwanga Omuwesi. Based on this fact the family petitioned State House for several times seeking President Museveni’s intervention and Madhvani’s takeover of the land was halted in 2012.
The director of land matters in State House, Gertrude Njuba, wrote to Wakiso Resident District Commissioner and the chairpersons of the villages on the 306 acres halting further road works on the site until the ownership dispute was resolved.
The Police Lands Unit also commenced investigations and a report of findings is pending.
UNRA’s take on the matter
The administrators of Muwanga’s estate last year blocked UNRA from excavating their graveyard before compensation to relocate the remains.
Acting UNRA executive director James Okiror on March 3 wrote to the family, saying the agency’s consultant, Mott Macdonald, had found no trace of Muwanga Omuwesi being buried at the site nor is there a trace that he had a home in the area.
“The graveyard at Nakilagala is known to be a common burial ground (cemetery) where different bodies were buried including Madhvani’s permanent and casual labourers-some Ugandans and non-Ugandans. Thus, nobody or family has exclusive claim over the graveyard,” Mr Okiror said.
Following this finding, UNRA is now opposed to the Muwanga family relocating all the remains to a site of their choice given the multi-cultural nature of the people who were reportedly buried there.
UNRA spokesperson Dan Alinange told Sunday Monitor that they have the money for compensation but the ownership issue is still holding the process.
“They (Kalumbas)laim they buried ancestors there but when we asked them to present their list they went back into hiding. Madhvani told us they had given that place (graveyard) to their migrant workers from Arua as a burial site because they could not return their deceased relatives to West Nile, and they gave us a list,” said Alinange.
He added that UNRA cannot wait until the case is concluded in court because it may take long yet the road project has to be completed in the scheduled time.
“Our interest is only for project right of way for the road construction to
continue. Our legal team plans to petition court for an order to exhume all the remains and conduct DNA tests to determine whether the remains belong to the Kalumbas or Madhvani’s workers,” Alinange added.
Repeated contacts to the Madhvani Group yielded no tangible response as they kept referring Sunday Monitor to different officials who were unavailable or not ready to speak.
Mr Kalumba admitted Madhvani once had a lease for the land but said it expired.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor