How village court saved ex-AG Makubuya’s land 

Kiddu Makubuya

What you need to know:

  • Village courts. LC I courts were established under the Local Council Court Act 2006, which regulate their jurisdiction and mode of operation. The courts were operationalised on June 8, 2006, to handle, especially cases involving complainants who cannot afford court fees in accordance with their quasi-judicial mandate. 

While the Local Councils (LCs) are empowered to administer primary mediation and justice in village courts, little is shared about their success in delivering justice for cases involving land disputes that fall within their respective powers.

One of such success stories involves former Attorney General (AG) and Member of Parliament Kiddu Makubuya.

On April 26, Mr Makubuya won a land dispute case through the Mugogo LCI court in Makulubita Sub-county, Luweero District. 

Mr Makubuya had sought mediation and justice in a land case against his neighbour, a one Mr Steven Ssekamatte, who for years, had allegedly encroached on the family land despite reminders for him to vacate.

Mr Robert Kiwanuka, the chairperson of Mugogo Village, said Mr Makubuya brought the case to their attention and they held several meetings, which were attended by the two parties.

“We have since decided to open the boundary lines after finding out that Mr Ssekamatte had indeed encroached on Mr Makubuya’s land. The evidence from the elders and residents was overwhelming,” Mr Kiwanuka said in an interview on Monday.

During the hearing of the case, Mr Ddumba Kiddawalime, who sold the land to Mr Makubuya, and also witnessed the purchase of the land for Mr Ssekamatte, testified against the latter.

“The elders and residents helped to draw the new boundary to resolve the conflict. Both parties attended all the LC1 court proceedings where we resolved to visit the disputed piece of land and drew the new boundary line to avoid future misunderstandings,” Mr Kiwanuka said. 

Mr Makubuya, a seasoned lawyer, said village courts are constitutional and are best suited in resolving land conflicts that touch the common person.

“I decided to report my case at the village court because it constitutes members who  are very conversant with whatever takes place in the area. They are well-placed to tell the facts on any matter affecting their residents,” Mr Makubuya said after the ruling.

He said many Ugandans are still ignoring the village courts because they do not know their importance.

“Some people may wonder why a lawyer like me would go down to the village courts yet I have the ability to use the other higher courts. The answer is very simple; because this particular case could ably be handled by the LC court at my village,” he added.

Residents speak out 

Ms Hadijah Luliika, an elder and a councillor representing Makulubita Sub-county at Luweero District, said land conflicts are rampant, but they can be resolved if both elders and residents play their pivotal role in society.

“The good thing with village courts is that the decisions are taken at the disputed land where eyewitnesses are able to reach and testify. For this particular case, most of the eyewitnesses, including those who were present at the time of purchase of the land, came and testified against Mr Ssekamate,” she said.

Mr Kiddawalime said he was surprised to learn that Mr Ssekamate had encroached on Mr Makubuya’s land.

“It is good that this matter was brought to us because the elders and residents know the truth. We should not be greedy over matters that can be resolved,” he said.

Asked to comment on the court decision, Mr Ssekamatte, who attended all the village court proceedings, said: “The local court has already made its verdict and resolved the problem. The court handled the matter and resolved to have the boundary demarcated. This matter was put to rest,” he said.

However, Mr Samuel Munobe, the Luweero Chief Magistrate, said while village courts have the powers to mediate and handle land dispute cases, those powers can only be exercised on non-titled land.

“We have many cases that are supposed to be handled by the LC I courts, but the cases are referred to higher courts. Let our people know that the LC I court decisions are legal and binding unless one decides to appeal against the decision,” he said.