A row over a disputed piece of land measuring 0.35 acres in Lukuli Makindye has escalated following the alleged sale of the said property by Maj Gen Samuel Kasirye Gwanga.
The presidential advisor on Buganda Affairs has for more than a decade been fighting for the land and has on several occasions resisted efforts to be evicted from the property valued at more than Shs 1.5 billion.
The dispute pits Kasirye Gwanga against long-term adversaries Mowm Construction Ltd, the company which also claims ownership of the land in question. The latest controversy has also sucked in KCCA as well as neighbours.
The Observer has learnt that Kasirye Gwanga sold both his legally acquired land and the one in dispute recently and the buyer in turn razed down parts of the structure and the tree plantation around it.
On Monday when The Observer visited the area, it was surrounded by armed plainclothes men who did not allow anyone to come closer or even take any photos.
When contacted, Kasirye Gwanga, didn’t deny selling off the land but declined to give details.
“It’s my house; how is it your concern? I sold it because it had become too old. Now, I’m in Kyaggwe doing developmental things, you should come and see what we are doing other than writing stories that don’t help our people at all,” he said.
A neighbour who preferred anonymity said the cutting down of trees was a sign of impunity.
“A group of men with armed protection cut down all trees in the neighbourhood without any consideration to the boundaries of the land,” he said.
Meanwhile, an official from the KCCA’s Environment Management Unit said the authority is assessing the situation to find out whether there was violation of the city’s environmental quality compliance.
Kasirye Gwanga entered the house in 1990 as a tenant for Owalla Home Investments Ltd and Mowm Construction Ltd but allegedly defaulted on payment. In 2006, attempts to evict him failed because he claimed the house belonged to the army.
However, in his letter dated June 21 2013, Maj Gen Wilson Mbadi, the UPDF joint chief of staff, denied that the house belonged to the army.
“The matter in contention is entirely a private issue between your client Mown Construction Ltd and Maj Gen Kasirye Gwanga...the UPDF, as an institution, does not condone such acts of indiscipline and equally advises that the services of court bailiffs be sought to ensure that your client repossess this property in good time,” Mbadi’s letter says in part.
Armed with this letter, bailiffs backed up by police moved to evict Gwanga but he repulsed them. Later, President Museveni intervened and pledged to pay off the claimants. Since then, however, nothing has materialised until Gwanga moved to sell it.
Kasirye Gwanga holds a lease on block 273 plot 732 from Buganda Land Board. However, he also took possession of a private mailo on block 261 plot 428 which is near his legally-acquired land.
Charles Odere, the lawyer for Mowm Construction, said they were taken aback by the actions of Gwanga to sell off the land yet State House hasn’t paid them even a penny in compensation. Odere insists BLB has never leased land in block 261 plot 428 to Kasirye Gwanga.
“We had discussions with the State House legal officer Florence Kiconco and she said the president didn’t want his officer to be humiliated by being evicted. She said the government was going to buy the house for Kasirye Gwanga but we last heard from them in 2016,” Odere told The Observer on Tuesday.
When contacted, Don Wanyama, the senior presidential spokesperson; said he was not familiar with that case.
“I don’t know about that case; I need to first crosscheck. You’re telling me about it for the first time, let me first speak to our land people and find out,” Wanyama said.
Odere says they want Kasirye Gwanga and those who allegedly bought the land to desist from undertaking any activity on the land until its ownership dispute is settled. They have written to Kampala Capital City Authority requesting them to halt any development on the land.
“It has been brought to our client’s notice that some unscrupulous individuals purporting to claim an interest in part of our client’s aforesaid land are in the process of carrying out construction upon the same...we seek the indulgence of your office to intervene and halt forthwith the commencement of any illegal construction upon the said plot of land without our client’s consent and in the absence of the prerequisite approval from the authority,” the letter says in part.
Odere has also said they are considering legal action against Gwanga, a man best known for controversy and open-mindedness.
Speaking to this newspaper on Tuesday, Denis Bugaya, the spokesperson for BLB, reiterated that Gwanga indeed has a 49-year running lease on their land but said they were also disturbed by allegations that he had sold it to a third party without their knowledge and consent.
“We heard about the sale in rumours but we haven’t received any information regarding any transaction on that plot of land,” he said.
Under normal circumstances, you are supposed to get consent transfer from the landlord before you transfer ownership of your lease to someone else.