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Govt to compulsorily acquire st Peter's Ndeeba Church land

By Eddie Ssejjoba

Added 29th August 2020 10:42 AM

Following the demolition of the church, President Yoweri Museveni visited the site and told Christians that the Government would reconstruct the church. He also ordered for whoever was responsible for the demolition to be held accountable.

Govt to compulsorily acquire st Peter's Ndeeba Church land

What was left of St Peter's Church of Uganda in Ndeeba after the demolition earlier this month

Following the demolition of the church, President Yoweri Museveni visited the site and told Christians that the Government would reconstruct the church. He also ordered for whoever was responsible for the demolition to be held accountable.

The Government has embarked on a process of compulsory acquisition of St Peter's Church Ndeeba's land.

Sources that talked to New Vision intimated that the Government would then hand it back to the Anglican Christian community, before it takes on the responsibility of constructing another Church as President Yoweri Museveni promised.

St Peter's Church, which had existed for 40 years, was on the night of August 9 demolished by bailiffs, which left many Christians shocked.

The mailo land, registered as Kibuga Block 7, Plot 39 in Ndeeba, was a subject of dispute between the church community and local businessman, Dodoviko Mwanje aka Dodo Owonyi.

Mwanje reportedly acquired the land from some members of the family of Princess Evelyn Nachwa who sued the Church of Uganda, alleging that the transfer of the land title was carried out fraudulently.

Following the demolition of the church, President Yoweri Museveni visited the site and told Christians that the Government would reconstruct the church. He also ordered for whoever was responsible for the demolition to be held accountable.

New Vision has learned from reliable sources in the lands ministry that on August 24, the Attorney General wrote to lands minister Beti Kamya asking her to set in motion what was termed as a ‘process for compulsory acquisition of the land by the Government for a public purpose'.

According to the communication, this was done in accordance with section 3 (1) of the Land Acquisition Act cap 226.

The section stipulates that for a declaration under Section 3 in respect of any land, ‘the assessment officer shall cause the land to be marked out and measured and a plan of the land to be made if it (the plan) has not already been made."

On August 24, the Permanent Secretary in the lands ministry, Dorcas Okalany, wrote to the Solicitor General, requesting him to draft the statutory instrument for the compulsory land acquisition.

The letter from the Okalany was titled; "Request to prepare statutory instrument in respect of compulsory land acquisition for Kibuga Block 7 Plot 39 at Mengo Ndeeba to be acquired in public interest."

Is says: "This is, therefore, to request you to prepare a draft statutory for land acquisition of the above-mentioned land for consideration and signature of the Hon. Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development." Okalany referred to the correspondence between the Attorney General and the lands minister on the matter.

She also provided to the Solicitor General the coordinates, a deed plan, and orth photo of the land for gazetting. The land, according to the lands ministry, measures 0.8340 hectares and is being acquired under the provision for compulsory acquisition of land for public purposes (public order or public morality).

Okalany recently dispatched a team of surveyors, led by Jasper Kakooza, to St Peter's Church, Ndeeba to reportedly reopen its land boundaries.

The opening of the boundaries was intended to, among other things, prepare the land for use. The surveyors, according to Kakooza, were interested in establishing all features on the land, including a Buganda Kingdom's cultural protected spring called Muganzirwazza, a drainage channel and roads surrounding the land, as well as make a report for further action.

CHRISTIANS EXCITED

Patrick Wakkonyi, a lay leader who witnessed the re-opening of the boundaries, said the community was excited by the Government's move and pledged that they will soon meet to forge a way forward. According to Wakkonyi, Christians fenced off the site.

"We shall not wait for any further confirmation. We have decided to take action by fencing off this place as we make further plans to reinstate the glory of the church," Wakkonyi stated.

Several Christians, mainly the elderly, including some founder members, have been camping at the site and discussing how to raise money to rebuild ‘even a better structure'.

COMPULSORY LAND ACQUISITION

Compulsory land acquisition has been a contentious matter, though provided for under the Constitution. Article 26 (2) of the Constitution states: "No person shall be compulsorily deprived of property or any interest in or right over property of any description, except where the possession is necessary for public use or in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health."

But for compulsory acquisition to take place, the Government is required, under article 26 (b1) of the Constitution, to ensure adequate compensation prior to the taking of possession or acquisition of the property.

In 2017, the Government introduced a Land Acquisition and Compensation Bill to enable the Government take over the private property before compensating the owner.

But the Bill was withdrawn from Parliament after it faced a lot of resistance from a cross-section of people, including religious leaders, cultural leaders, and civil society.

The demolition of the church in Ndeeba led to the arrest and prosecution of four senior Police officers and Ivan Katongole, the acting director of physical planning at Kampala Capital City Authority. Mwanje and 11 others were also charged and remanded.

COMPULSORY LAND ACQUISITION

Compulsory land acquisition has been a contentious matter, though provided for under the Constitution. Article 26 (2) of the Constitution states: "No person shall be compulsorily deprived of property or any interest in or right over property of any description, except where the possession is necessary for public use or in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health."

But for compulsory acquisition to take place, the Government is required, under article 26 (b1) of the Constitution, to ensure adequate compensation prior to the taking of possession or acquisition of the property.

In 2017, the Government introduced a Land Acquisition and Compensation Bill to enable the Government take over the private property before compensating the owner.

But the Bill was withdrawn from Parliament after it faced a lot of resistance from a cross-section of people, including religious leaders, cultural leaders, and civil society.

The demolition of the church in Ndeeba led to the arrest and prosecution of four senior Police officers and Ivan Katongole, the acting director of physical planning at Kampala Capital City Authority. Mwanje and 11 others were also charged and remanded.

The demolition of the Ndeeba church followed a protracted dispute and intricate legal battle in court. Following the demise of Princess Evelyn Nachwa, some of her relatives went to court to challenge the church's ownership of the land. The relatives, who said they were the administrators of Nachwa's estate, included Dan Ssemwanga, John Kajoba, Edward Balunga and Steven Nakibinge.

They sued the administrators of the estates of Bishop Dunstan Nsubuga, the Rev. Yakobo Kitaka and Esau Kizito, as well as the Church of Uganda trustees and the commissioner for land registration, saying the manner in which they acquired the land in Ndeeba was fraudulent. Nachwa's relatives were reportedly working with Dodoviko Mwanje in the background, though he never featured in the court case.

The court ruled in favour of the family members and rejected the Church's argument that Bishop Nsubuga, the Rev. Kitaka and Kizito were only trustees. According to the church and the community, when the land was acquired from Nachwa, it was registered in the names of three trustees - Bishop Nsubuga, Rev. Kitaka and Kizito. Princess Evelyn Nacwa (deceased) was daughter of Ssekabaka Daudi Chwa and sister of Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi's father, Ssekabaka Edward Mutesa II.

However, Justice John Eudes Keitirima of the High Court, in a judgement dated August 6, 2019, declared that the land was fraudulently registered in the names of Bishop Nsubuga, Kitaka and Kizito and directed the commissioner land registration to cancel it and register it in the names of Nachwa.

He also gave vacant possession of the land to four joint administrators of Nachwa's estate, including Ssemwanga, Kajoba, Balunga and Nakibinge. He ordered that the Church should henceforth cease carrying out any activities on the land.

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