The Court of Appeal has blocked payment of sh22b to 1097 people, who were evicted from Mpokya forest reserve in Kibaale district in 1992.
On April 20, 2018, Justice Lydia Mugambe directed the government to pay the claimants the money in compensation for damages sustained during their eviction.
Acting on behalf of Lt. Col David Kabareebe and others, Mushabe, Munungu, and Company Advocates, subsequently wrote to the finance ministry's permanent secretary and Attorney General, demanding for payment of sh22b, to 1097 claimants. The money was supposed to be paid to the claimants through the law firm.
This prompted Tumwijukye Mpirirwe and 10 others, represented by Geoffrey Nangumya and Company Advocates, to drag Kabareebe and others to the Court of Appeal, seeking to halt payment of the money.
Court of Appeal justice Muzamiru Kibeedi on Friday blocked payment of the money, pending the disposal of an appeal against payment filed in the Court of Appeal.
"I allow this application and grant an interim order staying execution and enforcement of the orders in a case filed in 2018 by Tumwijukye Mpirirwe and others against Kabareebe, until the disposal of the substantive application for stay of execution pending before this court," Justice Kibeedi ruled.
Kibeedi noted that there is an imminent threat of payment being affected following the lower court ruling. He, therefore, directed the registrar to fix the case for hearing as soon as possible. He said the costs of the application will be awarded when the substantive application for stay of execution has been decided.
Kibedi said the order is not intended to pre-empt the disposal of the substantive application for the stay, which is the mandate of a full bench of three justices of Court of Appeal.
"In the instant matter, there is no contest that the applicant, Bashasha and Co. Advocates has already filed a notice of appeal in the high court. There is also no contest that the application for stay of execution is pending before this court," he observed.
Petition to President
The ruling comes at a time when Kabareebe has petitioned President Yoweri Museveni on behalf of the 1097 claimants, accusing Nangumya together with Bashasha and Company Advocates of filing what he termed as "incessant frivolous and malicious court cases to frustrate their payment."
In the petition, Kabareebe is seeking Museveni's intervention to prevail over the two lawyers (Namgumya and Bashasha), who he alleges want to take their sh22b compensation.
However, Nangumya has lodged a counter-petition to President Museveni in which he is also accusing Kabareebe of conniving with lawyers from Mushabe, Munungu and Company Advocates, to have the money channeled to their side, yet there is a pending court case.
In a letter dated June 10, 2020, Nangumya said the army officer wrote to the President, seeking his intervention to have the money paid through lawyer David Mushabe's law firm yet he is aware of pending cases in court.
"It is legally and morally wrong for Kabareebe, a party to all court proceedings, pending before court to intentionally mislead the President to act on false information," he stated.
Nangumya said Kabareebe's letter is intended to intimidate, malign and interfere in the independence of the Judiciary in light of pending court proceedings.
Court documents indicate that on April 11, 2003, it was agreed that the late Benon Turyamureeba, also a complainant in the case, receives money on behalf of other claimants.
Turyamureeba was to receive the money through Didas Nkurunziza and Company Advocates by virtue of the agreement he signed with government. Bashasha and Company Advocates was also to receive money for the 600 claimants.
The agreement also provided that payment be made through Mulenga and Karemera Advocates, in five installments.
However, when the government in 2014 first paid sh10b, some of the beneficiaries raised complaints to different public offices including the President's office and Uganda Police, accusing Turyamureeba of mishandling the money.
This prompted the beneficiaries to get new law firms to recover the money. Some of the law firms include Mushabe, Munungu and Company Advocates; Newman Advocates; Geoffrey Nangumya and Company Advocates; Nyanzi, Kiboneka, and Mbabazi Advocates, among others.
This resulted in numerous applications being filed in the High Court. Matters were made worse by the death of Turyamureeba and subsequent withdrawal from the matter by Didas Nkurunziza and Company Advocates.
On September 24, 2018, Tumwijukye Mpirirwe and 10 others represented by Geoffrey Nangumya and Co. Advocates, sued Kabareebe, Bashasha and Company Advocates and others, seeking declarations as to who were the lawful attorneys of some of the beneficiaries.
Justice Mugambe on March 21, 2019, dismissed the application with costs and directed that the money shall be paid to Mpokya claimers through Mushabe, Munungu and Company Advocates.
Mugambe's decision is now being challenged, with Nangumya and Bashasha seeking a review.
However, there have been three other applications by Nangumya and Bashasha that court has since also dismissed.