Court orders govt to pay businessman for burnt bus

Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers and locals inspect a vehicle that was torched by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels in Lira District in the 1990s. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Businessman Fred Lubwama sued the government for recovery of compensation of his commercial passenger bus, which plied the Kampala-Gulu highway in 1990s.

The Court of Appeal has ordered the government to immediately pay more than Shs131m to a businessman, whose bus was burnt by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels during the two-decade insurgency in northern Uganda.

Businessman Fred Lubwama sued the government for recovery of compensation of his commercial passenger bus, which plied the Kampala-Gulu highway in 1990s.

In a unanimous decision, the three justices of the court reasoned that since the government had promised to pay Mr Lubwama more than Shs211m as compensation, it was bound by the doctrine of legitimate expectation to pay the money to the appellant as there was no justification  to retract the same.

The justices include Elizabeth Musoke, Catherine Bamugemereire and Stephen Musota.

“The doctrine of legitimate expectation was developed to ensure that the government fulfils promises or representations made to citizens where it would be unfair for the government to retract and deny the citizens the benefits promised,” the justices ruled.

They added: “I find that there was no reason justifying the government’s change in position and its subsequent refusal to pay the appellant (Mr Lubwama) the balance of Shs131,320,000.”

The court dismissed the judgement of the lower court which had ruled that Mr Lubwama’s case was barred in law having been filed more than a decade since the cause of action and that the money paid to him was final entitlement since it was an ex-gratia.

The justices said Mr Lubwama had a legitimate expectation entitling him to a payment of Shs211m as compensation from the government and only Shs80m was paid to him.

“I order that the government pay the balance of Shs131,320,000 with interest at court rate from the date of the judgment of the trial court on November 14, 2017 until full payment. The appellant shall be paid the costs of the appeal and those in the lower court,” the court ruled.

Background

According to court documents, on May 3, 1990, the bus was attacked and damaged by rebels who were then occupying parts of Gulu District. On March 14, Mr Lubwama contacted the government requesting for compensation.

After several engagements, Cabinet announced that it would pay compensation to certain persons whose property had been destroyed by the rebels.

In October 2005, the government pledged to compensate Mr Lubwama with a sum of Shs211,320,000 payable in instalments. However, only Shs80 million was paid to Mr Lubwama.

In a May 8, 2012 letter, the then Solicitor General, Mr Peter Kabatsi, communicated to Mr Lubwama that the payment of Shs80million was full and final thus he cannot claim or sue demanding for further payment.

Mr Lubwama filed a case at the Commercial Court but it was dismissed by Justice Ann Mugenyi in 2017.

Justice Mugenyi said Mr Lubwama’s case was barred in law having been filed more than a decade since the cause of action and that the money paid to him was final entitlement since it was ex-gratia.

Dissatisfied with the High Court’s decision, Mr Lubwama petitioned the Court of Appeal.

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.