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How Muslims lost property

In the first of a three-part series, The Observer reports on the 60-page Joint Muslim Committee (JMC) investigation report unveiled on June 14, which chronicles the genesis and escalation of wrangles in Uganda’s Muslim community.

Chapter 3 of the report lays out how the Muslim community accumulated its properties and how it lost it bit by bit, leading to a bitter conflict within the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council leadership (UMSC) and the wider Muslim community.
Below are excerpts of the report.

Chapter 3

It is important to identify and discuss the various categories of property the UMSC has or owns, before the discussion of the property wrangles.

Categories

  • Property owned by UMSC/Muslim community/organisations can be divided into six broad categories, namely;
  • Property/land granted by the State to Muslims during the colonial period.
  • Property built or offered by individuals specifically for construction of Mosques or Muslim Institutions such as schools, health centres etc;
  • Property belonging to various Muslim sects/Organisations;
  • Property that formerly belonged to Asians but was handed to UMSC after the departure of Asians.
  • Property that was directly bought by UMSC;
  • Property acquired through foreign donations to UMSC or a Muslim Community or organisation;

3.3.3.2 Property/land granted by the state of the Muslims during the colonial period

During the 1900 agreement, 24 sq miles were allocated to the “Mohamedan Chief (Muslim leader) Prince Nuhu Mbogo for himself and his adherents”.
There has been a claim that this land was for Muslims.

The expression “his adherents” was interpreted variously. Some people claimed that it meant the 24 square miles were allocated to the Prince and all Muslims. This interpretation was challenged by Prince Mbogo and the Colonial Government resolved this by allocating 10 sq miles specifically to the Muslims.

The 10 sq miles included 11 acres of land next to the Clock Tower, currently under dispute. These 11 acres were given by the Governor of Uganda Protectorate around 1930. Six square miles were to be held and managed by the Muslim Community based at Kibuli.

The remaining four square miles, including the Clock Tower land, were to be held and managed by the Africa Muslim Community Bukoto–Nateete based at Bukoto. All these are variously still held and managed by these organisations on behalf of the Muslim community, save for the eleven acres of the land at Clock Tower, four of which were fraudulently and illegally given to a private company and later to Hassan Basajjabalaba’s company.

3.3.4.3 Property built or offered by individuals specifically for the construction of Mosques or Muslim Institutions such as schools, health centres etc;

The Committee has established that an individual or individuals have donated land and built Mosques or other communal facilities by themselves or invited the community to build such facilities. This should ideally mean that the land and buildings no longer belong to the donor but is now owned by the Muslim Community.

The problem identified with this category of property is that many times it is not titled. It is taken for granted that a Mosque or Muslim Institution is for all Muslims and that no single person can claim it. Often times the land on which such a facility is built is customarily held.

Recent developments show that when the donor demises, his survivors (e.g. children or grandchildren) sometimes don’t recognise the donation attached to the land. In some cases there has been demolition of Mosques/institutions and or selling off the land. This has always resulted in conflicts, and the problem is prevalent in many parts of the country (as it recently happened in Iganga, Bujjuuko, Namukooge, Jinja, Kawempe etc).

3.3.4.4 Property belonging to various Muslim Organisations

Muslim organisations independent or affiliated to the UMSC such as Juma-Zukuli, Bukoto-Natete, Muslim Sunni Association of Uganda, Young Men’s Association, Ithani-a-sharia, Dawood Bohorah, UMYA, Salaf among others have overtime acquired property through outright purchase/acquisition of properties.

The Muslim community has an interest in such property because organisations build their capacity/growth on funds mobilised from the Muslim community members, who are sometimes not members. In some of these organisations, property has been misappropriated to the detriment of the community.

3.3.4.5 Property acquired through foreign donations to UMSC or for the benefit of Muslim communities,

The Ummah has variously received donation of property from outsiders. Such property include; the Grand Mosque at Old Kampala on plot 23/25, which was built by the former Libyan Leader Gaddafi; Kibuli Teachers College (Expansion project) and 21 convert centres built from funds donated from Saudi Arabia.

In this category are also the properties voluntarily donated in 1972, by the departing Asians then, such as the Registered Trustees of Dawood Bohora Jama’at Corporation. This group donated properties comprised in plots 23, 30, 32, 102/104; William Street, Kampala and Plots 7,9,11 Commercial Street, Masindi.

Conflicts have arisen regarding some of these properties in this category, as will be expounded on later.

3.3.4.6 Property that was bought or acquired directly by the UMSC

In its own capacity, the UMSC acquired/bought various properties across the country. Notable among these are;

1) The Najjanankumbi Housing Estate of 18 bungalows.

All these, except one house, were lost through various court suits. There remains only one house, which, presently, is occupied by employees of the Council.

2) Plot 12-16 Port Bell Road (Luzira)

This land of six acres was purchased by Industrial and Commercial Holdings Ltd, a subsidiary company of the UMSC. It used to house the Brushware Manufactures Ltd, a brush manufacturing industry formerly owned by the Council. It has since been transferred into the names of HAKS Express Ltd, a company owned or fronted by Hajj Hassan Basajjabalaba.

This property is currently the subject of a dispute as will be expounded on later.

3) Plot 2 Hoima Road, Kampala (block of 12 flats)

These were bought by UMSC as a source of income. These flats were also attached and sold as a result of a debt of Shs 30m which the Council failed to pay to Muhammad Alibhai, accruing from costs in a civil suit against UMSC when one of its officers, one Sheikh Muhammad Kibanga, refused to hand over a (building) on Plot 12 Martin Road, to the returning Asians.

The costs eventually accumulated to Shs 80 million, which the Council failed to pay, and hence the auction and sale of the property.

4) Plot at Busega

This property was bought in the 1980s. Today it is being rented by Muslim Girls Primary School, which was shifted from Rashid Khamis Road, Old Kampala. This property is registered in the names of the UMSC, though the whereabouts of the
land title could not be established by the Committee.

5) The Ranches Migyeera (Nakasongola)

This property measuring approximately 4 sq. miles or there about, (as its actual size could not be established by the Committee), was bought by UMSC in the 1970s. During the restructuring of the ranches in Uganda, this ranch was by mistakenly categorised among those that were to be restructured.

This left the Council with only two sq. miles. This property is registered in the names of Industrial and Commercial Holdings Ltd, a subsidiary company of the UMSC. Compensation is yet to be paid to UMSC for land illegally removed from it by the government.

ii) Kiryandongo in Masindi District (ranch no. 17) 1.16 square miles
iii) Mawogola in Sembabule District (ranch no. 31A) 2 square miles

The Committee was informed that all the above three ranches were taken by government during the restructuring of ranches with the exception of ranch No 52 Mawogola (Sembabule), where UMSC was left with 3 square miles.

3.3.4.7 Property that formerly belonged to Asians but was handed over to UMSC to look after;

When Asians were expelled in 1972, Idi Amin gave about 814 of their properties to UMSC for custody (This was via a Presidential letter dated 2th September, 1973). These properties were held by UMSC until the Asians returned and repossessed them.

During the time when UMSC was managing them, they were not well managed, nor were the proceeds there from well utilised. UMSC failed to build its own property base using the income from these properties.

Findings of the Committee about the property wrangle at UMSC

The present property wrangles at the UMSC are documented as far back as 2003 in the Kaaya, Mpeza (2006) and Wadriff (2010) Commission Reports. The Committee opted to handle property by property forming subject of the current wrangle, and the facts about the said properties are as follows;

(a) Plot 30, William Street

This plot is among the six plots that were donated to UMSC in 1973 by the Registered Trustees of Dawood Bohora Jama’at Corporation.

The William Street Mosque was transferred to HAKS EXPRESS LIMITED, a company fronted, controlled and which the beneficiary owner is Hajji Hassan Basajjabalaba then Vice Chairman and later “Chairman” to UMSC, under transfer instrument dated March 4, 2005 and signed by Dr Edris Kasenene, then Secretary General; Sheikh Shaban Mubajje, the Mufti and Hajji Basajjabalaba who signed as the Chairman.

In effect the purchaser, signed transferring the property to himself. The committee also discovered that at the time of the transfer, there was no minute of the executive committee authorising the said transfer as required under the UMSC constitution.

On March 18, 2005, the same property together with others were said to have been “sub-leased” to HAKS LTD for thirty years, via a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the UMSC and HAKS Express Limited.

In exchange for leasing plot 30 William Street and others to be detailed later, HAKS Express Limited was to construct a perimeter shopping mall at Old Kampala, plot 23-25 Old Kampala Road. HAKS Express Limited was also to extend the lease of the said plot 30 for 49 years. (At the time of donation of this property, the lease was remaining with seven years to expire).

This property was further affected by an undated document known as the “variation deed” executed by both HAKS Express Limited and Dr. Kasenene as Secretary General on behalf of the UMSC.

The document varied paragraphs 2-5 of MOU to provide that HAKS Express Limited should transfer the William street Mosque and all other properties mentioned in the MOU, into its names.

This transaction was not backed by a minute of the Executive Committee as required by the UMSC Constitution, (Article 10, and sub-Article 9 (d) thus rendering it illegal.

The document also made no mention of any value/considering UMSC was getting for transferring the properties in question to HAKS Express Limited, different from the consideration already agreed on as the reason for the leases given in the MOU.
Further Dr. Kasenene has since denied ever signing the said “variation deed”.

To be continued…


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