What you need to know:
- Buganda Kindom officials accuse businessman Hamis Kiggundu of grabbing kingdom’s land, but the later says the officials are hiding behind the king to sell Buganda land and enrich themselves.
The fight between businessman Hamis Kiggundu and officials of Buganda Kingdom over prime land in Kigo, outside Kampala, has deepened, with both sides calling each other names while simultaneously denying any wrong-doing.
Mr Kiggundu said individuals who have called him out for allegedly grabbing the 140-acre land belonging to the Kabaka are the actual thieves using the king’s name to “steal” from ordinary men and women.
The businessman’s outburst comes more than two months after he, on behalf of his company called Kiham Enterprises, and officials of Buganda Land Board (BLB), on March 21 met the Commissioner for Land Registration over simmering dispute over the ownership of the Kigo land.
Following the meeting, Mr Kiggundu announced that he had given up the fight for the land, reasoning that he was too small to fight his own kingdom and king.
He, however, said a May 23 decision by Mengo through the Kabaka’s lawyers to ask the Commissioner Land Registration to cancel his titles was provocative.
At first, the businessman said he was unsure about the persons fighting him, which was why he elected to disengage from the wrangle, but he has decided to make a U-turn after discovering that the individuals were “thieves hiding in Mengo and are using the cover of the Kabaka”
“When you expose their ill dealings, they malice and blackmail you that you are attacking the Kabaka, yet actually the Kabaka is out of their dealings. These people have stolen people’s land with impunity,” he said this week.
The accusations made to journalists touched off the ire of officials of Mengo, the administrative seat of Buganda kingdom, who dismissed the businessman’s “media smear” a diversionary plot to conceal an illegality and smudge the reputation of Kabaka officials.
Mengo engaged lawyers, according to Buganda Kingdom, Noah Kiyimba, because it is duty-bound to defend the king and his interests, whenever threatened, as is the case with Mr Kiggundu’s alleged underhand method at land grab.
“We condemn all the averments made and published [by Kiggundu] ridiculing the kingdom officials, and treat the same with the contempt they deserve, Mr Kiyimba said, adding: “All that which has been done at all material times regarding this matter [land ownership row] has been done for and on behalf of the kingdom, and fully authorised.”
He added: “Nothing shall force the kingdom to stop the pursuit of cancellation of the illegal freehold certificates of title, the diversionary ridicules, defamatory statements shall not divert the kingdom officials from bringing to light the truth regarding this land.”
Mr Kiyimba questioned how Mr Kiggundu in 2018 acquired 140 acres of land at only Shs100,000 and secured a certificate of title on it at Shs20,000 after paying Shs10,000 for registration of grant and Shs50,000 application fees.
“The real issues at hand are about the legality of the freehold certificates of title of Kiham Enterprises Ltd [owned by Kiggundu], and not the activities and or conducts of the kingdom’s officials,” he said.
In his defence filed to the Commissioner of Land Registration, the businessman’s lawyers, in a rejoinder to the May petition by Mengo lawyers for freehold title cancellation, noted that the land of their client and that of the Kabaka are separate entities --- one a Mailo and his public land.
This newspaper broke the news of the row between Mr Kiggundu and BLB in March, this year, after the businessman attempted to create an access road from near Mirembe Villas towards the land he claims. BLB raised alarm to the Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) which had cleared Kiham. The permit was subsequently revoked.
The two wrangling sides failed to conduct a joint survey, leading to two separate surveys, and two different results.
Mr William Matovu conducted one survey on behalf of Kiham while Mr Bashir Kizito did another on behalf of the Kabaka.
The purpose of both surveys was to establish whether or not the freehold certificates of title overlap with the official Mailo interest owned by the king.
The findings, according to a report written by Mr Matovu, confirm no existence of any overlap of the freehold certificates of titles into the existing Mailo certificates of titles for land comprised in FC 18454.
“It is confirmed from the findings that the freehold certificates were created out of land known as ‘Total Lake Area’ [which is] public land. The controlling authority of such public land is vested in the respective District Land Board on behalf of government, in this case, Wakiso District Land Board,’’ Mr Matovu noted.
In contrast, the survey done on behalf of the Kabaka shows that the disputed land was originally registered in the names of Kabaka Daudi Chwa and its ownership has since transferred to Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi, the reigning king.
It measures 16 square miles, the survey revealed.
According to Mr Kizito, Kiham’s freehold titles are on the other hand on block 273. These were created out of 140 acres. The drawings illustrate overlap into the Mailo belonging to Kabaka.
With no signs that the dispute is petering out, Mr Kiggundu alleges that a senior BLB executive, one of its officials who doubles as a government employee, one lady involved in planning and another senior BLB official were part of a “cartel” using the Kabaka’s name to profiteer from land they grab from other kingdom subjects.
We are withholding the names of the accused for legal reasons as the businessman did not adduce evidence to incriminate the quartet.
The accused, he said, spot land of interest, author and authenticate required legal documents with help from Wakiso District land and surveys to facilitate illegal takeover.
‘‘We know of many families who have lost their farmlands. Katikkiro [Peter Charles Mayiga] who preaches transparency should sack them before it’s too late. Their individual actions are tainting all us as Baganda. If you can play with a man of my calibre (politically-connected wealthy businessman), what about those who don’t have a say?” Mr Kiggundu wondered.
The Kabaka had 320 acres of land at Kigo, he claimed, but the BLB officials he named and their accomplices have allegedly sold most of it to foreign investors while excluding natives.
‘‘I can no longer look on as a small clique of individuals steal using the seat of the Kingdom,’’ he charged.
In a rejoinder, the Buganda Kingdom Attorney General, Mr Chris Bwanika, in comments he said were on behalf of all the accused, counter-accused Mr Kiggundu of being fraudster.
‘‘Kiggundu claims to have gotten his land from Wakiso, but Wakiso has written a letter saying that he has fraudulent titles! And that they were never issued by the district as he claims. There is a letter from Wakiso District land office detailing Kiham’s fraud,” he noted in a statement to this newspaper.
Mr Bwanika added: “Let Kiggundu not be mistaken. BLB officials have a mandate to protect Kabaka’s land from any type of thug and they can’t be derailed by blackmail. He will not grab land through blackmail, at least not from the Kabaka of Buganda.”
In a separate interview, BLB Spokesperson Dennis Bugaya said: ‘‘The Kigo land was allotted in 1900 to the Kabaka of Buganda and registered in 1919! So, Kiham, a company Ham Kiggundu owns, in 2019 became John Speke and discovered 140 acres in Kigo, forged signatures of Wakiso District officials and allotted the land which is vested in Kabaka of Buganda to itself at a fee of 100,000/= only!’’
He said the Kabaka of Buganda, through his lawyers K&K, petitioned the Commissioner for Land Registration to cancel Kiggundu’s freehold title once he learnt of the fraud.
The businessman in his defence claims the land he owns is public land, while Mengo insists it is a title on a private Mailo of the Kabaka.
Resolution of the matter has stalled, with each side accusing the other of trying to grab land.
Previous BLB land wrangles
• In April 2017, National Unity Platform principal Bobi Wine lost land in Busabala to Mengo.
• Kigo Prisons Primary School was a victim of an illegal takeover of their play field in 2017.
• BLB accused of leasing out Nnabagereka Primary School land and a market in Bakuli-Mengo.
• In Bugaba Village in Luwero, BLB allegedly attempted to evict 78 families.
• In Senetma where a Chinese company is constructing low-cost houses, residents cried after evictions by BLB.
• In Mubende there have been complaints of evictions.