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Rwandan UN worker accused of grabbing 562 hectares in Mbarara

On Wednesday, the commission of inquiry into land matters was surprised to find out that a Rwandan national, Isaac Ndahiro, working for the UN, is registered on 562 hectares in Kyeera, Mbarara.

Several residents accused him of grabbing their land and for one, Charles Mutungi, accuses Ndahiro of evicting his family off land measuring about one mile and 40 hectares. 

Mutungi claimed that Ndahiro's agents attacked his family which caused the death of his pregnant wife. In a cross-examination led by Ebert Byenkya, the lead counsel to the commission, Ndahilo was tasked to explain his actions. ALI TWAHA brings an abridged version of the proceedings.

Isaac Ndahiro before the commission of inquiry into land matters

Byenkya: State your name for the record.
Ndahiro: Isaac Ndahiro.
Byenkya: How old are you?
Ndahiro: 47 years.
Byenkya: Where do you reside?
Ndahiro: I’m currently living in Budapest, Hungary.
Byenkya: What do you do for a living?
Ndahiro: I’m an expert consultant for the United Nations.
Byenkya: In what area do you consult?
Ndahiro: I trained in economics and law. I advise on global contracts.
Byenkya: What national passport do you hold?
Ndahiro: I hold a Rwandan passport.

Byenkya: So, you are a citizen of Rwanda?
Ndahiro: Yes.
Byenkya: Do you also hold duo citizenship with Uganda?
Ndahiro: I don’t hold documents for that but…
Byenkya: You either have duo citizenship that has been approved by the government of Uganda or you don’t.
Ndahiro: I don’t.
Byenkya: Did you say you had a national identity card of Uganda?
Ndahiro: I have citizenship in Uganda by natural descent.
Byenkya: You said you’re an expert in law; so, have you bothered to find out the laws regarding duo citizenship in Uganda?
Ndahiro: Yes, I have.

Byenkya: So, I take it that you understand that if you’re a Rwandan citizen, you cannot be a Ugandan citizen unless you follow the proper procedure to apply and be recognized.
Ndahiro: I have taken note of that.
Byenkya: You have been called here in regard to land in Uganda. This land is in a place called Kyeera. I understand that you are on that land. Is that true?
Ndahiro: Yes.
Byenkya: Can you tell us how you became to be on land in Kyeera?
Ndahiro: I inherited that land through my late dad who was the elder sibling to the late Bishop Shalita.   
Byenkya: Should I take it that he was a citizen of Rwanda?
Ndahiro: He was a citizen of this country.
Byenkya: Tell us how you became a citizen of Rwanda.
Ndahiro: After my studies at Makerere University in 1996, I worked with the Uganda Railways Corporation.
Byenkya: What position were you holding?
Ndahiro: Rail operations officer. There was a massive layoff and I sought employment in the government of Rwanda.

Byenkya: When did you join the government of Rwanda?
Ndahiro: January 1998. That time the Ugandan passport validity was up to 1999. In 2001, I sought for British Council scholarship interviews in Kigali. These were scholarships reserved for Rwandan citizenships. I was privileged to win a scholarship and I was admitted at the University of Birmingham. For the purposes of fulfilling the requirements of that scholarship, I had to apply for a Rwandan passport which was granted to me to facilitate easy travel to England.  

Byenkya: Were you required to renounce your Ugandan citizenship?
Ndahiro: No, my lord.
Byenkya: Are you aware that by applying for a citizenship for another nation that you effectively renounced your Ugandan citizenship?
Ndahiro: I don’t know that, my lord.
Byenkya: On what day did you become a citizen of Rwanda?
Ndahiro: I can’t be exact but it should have been 2002.
Byenkya: Let’s get back to the land at Kyeera. I’m looking at your statement and you said you inherited land from your father, who was a younger brother to the late Bishop Shalita. You actually said that Bishop Shalita owned this land.
Ndahiro: He had owned it before gifting it to my father.
Byenkya: So, Bishop Shalita owned this land from what time? And did he own it until he died?
Ndahiro: He acquired his land rights from one Alfred Ntafera. He was a judicial officer in the Ankole kingdom. He had been using that land in partnership with Rwakanuma and Rutehenda to graze some cows for a business.

Members of the family of the late Bishop Shalita

Byenkya: Are you taking about a partnership with Bishop Shalita and Rwakanuma, Rutehenda or Ntafera Rwakanuma and Rutehenda?
Ndahiro: Rwakanuma, Ntafera and Rutehenda for business purposes.
Byenkya: So, three were in partnership before Mr Ntafera transferred his interests to Bishop Shalita?
Ndahiro: Correct.
Byenkya: Did Bishop Shalita have children?
Ndahiro: Yes.
Byenkya: Who are the children of Bishop Shalita?
Ndahiro: Newell Katanazi Shalita who died in May this year.
Byenkya: How old would he have been?
Ndahiro: 88 years. Then Janet Rubadire (86 years), the late Ruth Kangaho, Alexander Norman Shalita (83 years), Linze Shalita Museminari (70 years)…

Byenkya: I’m counting about 8 children who are still alive...
Ndahiro: That’s correct.
Byenkya: This seems to me to be the direct descendants of Bishop Shalita. I’m wondering in what circumstances you come to lay ownership on land that belonged to Bishop Shalita?
Ndahiro: I highlighted that being a son of my father who was the elder brother to Bishop Shalita, he had gifted that land to my father and other relatives who had lived on that land and are still there. It is through that connection that I came to claim ownership.

Byenkya: You make an extraordinary claim that a man with so many children, some of whom are still alive, gave away his substantial estate to his brother. Can you produce some documents of this gift?
Ndahiro: I would wish to underscore that it was not for my father only.
Byenkya: First answer my question. You make an extraordinary claim…
Ndahiro: No, my lord. I have no documentary evidence.
Byenkya: Isn’t it a fact that you are currently involved in litigation in which these descendants of Bishop Shalita have taken you to court in respect to their father’s estate?
Ndahiro: That’s a fact, my lord.
Byenkya: You said you had no documentary evidence of the gift to your father and that the children have taken you to court. Can you give us the details of that court case?
Ndahiro: I’m not privy to the court case. It has been going on since 2005 but the plaintiff is Mr Norman Alexander Shalita against myself.

Byenkya: What do you mean when you say you are not privy to the case?
Ndahiro: I’m not privy to the case number.
Byenkya: Has the suit been heard?
Ndahiro: It’s been in court since 2007.
Byenkya: In that suit what is the case stated against you?
Ndahiro: Norman claims that it was a mistake to have the land registered in the names of other people other than himself. I need to make another correction, one of the parties is the attorney general.
Byenkya: Would that be the attorney general or the administrator general?
Ndahiro: Attorney general, my lord, because he claims that the title was irregularly issued to wrong people.

Byenkya: Was the land titled when the late Bishop Shalita was alive?
Ndahiro: Not at the time. The title was processed in 2005 after the conclusion of the litigation process.
Bamugemereire: Which litigation now?
Ndahiro: The litigation that my opponents were talking about which had commenced in 1967 and had been subsisting in the courts until 1996.
Bamugemereire: Did you say you commenced the litigation?
Ndahiro: I didn’t say that.
Byenkya: You’re talking about the litigation between Shalita and Kazindira family?
Ndahiro: That’s correct.
Byenkya: So, after the conclusion of litigation in 2005, the title was processed. When did Bishop Shalita die?
Ndahiro: In 1995.

Byenkya: Who is the lawful administrator of the estate of Bishop Shalita?
Ndahiro: Norman Shalita.
Byenkya: So, you have never got any letters of administration for the estate of Bishop Shalita?
Ndahiro: Not at any one time.
Byenkya: Who processed this title that came into existence after if Norman Shalita does not know about it?
Ndahiro: It’s not true that Norman Shalita does not know about it.
Byenkya: I asked who processed it?
Ndahiro: The parties on the title and myself, George Nvengiri, Norman Shalita, Ann Kantaramu (my mom), Rosemary Kyokunda.
Byenkya: George and Kyokunda, who are they?
Ndahiro: My cousins.
Byenkya: I’m intrigued that out of five names on the title, only one person is a direct descendant of Bishop Shalita. And that person is the only person holding letters of administration of the estate or are any of the others you named administrators of the estate?

Ndahiro: That one I’m not aware. What I know is that Norman is the sole administrator.
Byenkya: Who processed the letters of administration?
Ndahiro: The people I have mentioned.
Byenkya: Does that include you?
Ndahiro: Yes.
Byenkya: Tell us under what legal authority you processed a title in respect to land that belonged to the estate of Bishop Shalita.
Ndahiro: We processed as owners under customary ownership…
Byenkya: No no no…Owners under customary is not legal authority. When a person dies, he is represented by the person who holds letters of administration.
Ndahiro: I have already told you that that land was gifted.

Byenkya: Please, answer my questions. If you have no legal authority, then you don’t have it. Did you hold letters of administration or a grant of probate?   
Ndahiro: I can explain but you seem to want a yes or no answer.
Byenkya: You could concede first whether you had authority or not.
Ndahiro: I had legal ownership.
Byenkya: But you failed to provide evidence of it.
Ndahiro: The evidence is that I was living there. When my cousin sought the letters of administration, he extended it over an estate that was no longer under his dad’s estate. It should have been for Kashaari. That is the bishop’s property. This one he had gifted it to his relatives and that’s why we processed that title.
Byenkya: Is Norman Shalita really your cousin?
Ndahiro: Yes, my lord.

Byenkya: I’m reading from his affidavit in support of a caveat which was forbidding registration that he filed in 2006. He says he is the administrator of the late Bishop Shalita estate. Was at any material time Bishop Shalita used to let some people stay on the land as tenants at will, including Isaac Ndahiro, Ann Kyokunda and George who have now procured registration as proprietors of the land? I’m wondering why he doesn’t seem to know that you are cousins?

Ndahiro: My lord, that can be answered by Norman. But what I understand is that when you are siblings, the brother to one of them becomes an uncle to the other and their children are cousins.
Byenkya: His affidavit says he doesn’t know you as a cousin. So, he has answered it.
Ndahiro: The fact is that he is my cousin.
Byenkya: When did your father die?
Ndahiro: In 1981.
Byenkya: And when did Bishop Shalita die?
Ndahiro: In 1995.
Byenkya: So, Bishop Shalita seems to have died 14 years after your father died. Is that correct?
Ndahiro: Correct.

Byenkya: If your father had been gifted this land and you have rights of ownership, why didn’t you get acknowledgement from Bishop Shalita when he was still alive?
Ndahiro: My lord, there was no need to do that because my uncle was still alive. He was the benefactor looking after us after my father had died.
Bamugemereire: If you were the one in the late Bishop Shalita’s shoes and you wanted to gift your cousin or brother a piece of land; would you see it as okay to just say in your heart that you have gifted and leave nothing in writing?
Ndahiro: It’s not unusual to…
Bamugemereire: No. We are looking for facts don’t just say.
Ndahiro: Myself I wouldn’t, my lord.
Bamugemereire: Good. So, when you look back, was that prudent?
Ndahiro: Customarily, it happens.

Justice Catherine Bamugemereire

Bamugemereire: I don’t know your customs you will tell us a bit about it. Counsel, you can continue.
Byenkya: Where was your father buried?
Ndahiro: In Kashaari.
Byenkya: Not in Kyeera, the land that you claim belongs to your father?
Ndahiro: Correct.
Byenkya: You said this land was gifted to your father, how do other people Kyokunda and George come to be in the title? Why were all the bishop’s children excluded except one?

Ndahiro: As I have noted, after acquiring this land, he granted it to his relatives including my father. Specifically, for Rose Kyokunda, she had been legally adopted by the bishop. Her father was the eldest brother to the bishop. We grew up together and knew her as my uncle’s daughter. But she maintained a separate home together with her animals.
Byenkya: Does anybody have letters of administration to your late father’s estate?
Ndahiro: My late brother, Emmanuel Mwesigye, had.
Byenkya: So, I take it that you don’t hold letters of administration to your own father’s estate?
Ndahiro: I don’t.  
Byenkya: Under that definition of legal authority, which means letters of administration, you don’t have authority from the government to represent the estate of your father and that of the late Bishop Shalita…
Ndahiro: Legally and formally, I don’t.  

Byenkya: You saw Mr Mutungi testify, do you know him?
Ndahiro: I do.
Byenkya: How do you know him?
Ndahiro: When I used to visit my family on that same land, I used to see them. And more frequently in the 90s when this dispute escalated. We lived as neighbours.
Byenkya: So, you know each other well?
Ndahiro: Yes, my lord.

Byenkya: He testified about some vicious attacks on his household that resulted into the death of his wife who was pregnant. It also resulted into the injury of his son whose arm got amputated. It also resulted into the injury and death of another daughter. He attributed these squarely to you. He said on that night he talked to you. You visited the house and he recognized your voice because he knew you.
Ndahiro: I’m not aware, my lord.
Byenkya: Have you ever been arrested in connection with those murders?
Ndahiro: I was arrested, my lord, and detained in Mbarara for nine months. Later I was transferred to another prison by the police barracks.
Byenkya: You saw the gentleman without the arm. Did you know that boy?
Ndahiro: No. I don’t know him. It was my first time to see him today.

Byenkya: He is Mutungi’s son and you are neighbours. I think you can see that he was not born like that, something happened to him. Mutungi’s testimony is that it was the day you attacked his family. You knew him well, why should we disbelieve him?
Ndahiro: You shouldn’t believe him because investigations were conducted and no evidence was found in their testimony.
Byenkya: Was Mutungi living on that land?
Ndahiro: Yes.
Byenkya: Did they have a total of five houses on that land?
Ndahiro: I can only recall four homesteads.
Byenkya: Is that on the land that you now claim as your own?
Ndahiro: That’s the same land.
Byenkya: Did they have cattle and banana plantations on the land?
Ndahiro: They had cattle and some banana gardens.

Byenkya: Can you explain how come they were a well-established Katujundira family on land that supposedly belonged to your father?
Ndahiro: Those establishments had been set up. It was not possible on our side to resist them and stop them to do that although the court had issued an injunction against them not to carry out any developments.   
Byenkya: How come you’re the sole beneficiary of this carnage?
Ndahiro: That is not a correct statement.
Byenkya: But it is. They were settled on the land and you evicted them?
Ndahiro: It is not a correct record that after that attack these people fled the land. They actually stayed and were evicted by a court order after the case had ended.

Commissioner George Bagonza: You work for an international agency; do you enjoy the scenario you are in now? Look at the picture that will come out, the old woman weeping and the children crying, the one-handed officer. And all this happened before an officer working for the UN?
Ndailo: I don’t.
Commissioner Mary Oduka: What would the UN think if they found out that you illegally hold two passports?
Ndailo: The UN does not take offence at staff carrying multinational passports.
Oduka: I’m saying illegally. You have not applied for duo citizenship in Uganda. So, you should not be holding that passport. Just to inform you, I worked with the UN.
Ndailo: I don’t have a valid Ugandan passport.
Bamugemereire: Can you tell me how you are related to the former solicitor general called Peter Kabatsi?
Ndailo: Not related in any way.

alitwaha@observer.ug

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