UPDF general, Wakiso locals in bitter 559-acre land row

Part of the disputed land in Bulindo, Kira Division, Wakiso District, inset is Maj Gen (Rtd) Elly Kayanja. 

What you need to know:

  • Maj Gen Elly Kayanja, according to the sale agreement, paid Shs111b for the 560-acre prime land in Bulindo, KiraMunicipality, that the mayor says hosts 4,000 residents, school and a church.

A major row has erupted between residents of Bulindo Village in Kira Municipality and Maj Gen (Rtd) Elly Kayanja over the ownership of 226 hectare (559-acre) prime land in Wakiso District.

Trouble started after the retired UPDF general, according to rival claimants, last month deployed plain-clothed armed men to guard the site as numberless graders flattened part of the contested land.

 In an interview last evening, Gen Kayanja said he followed procedure and bought the land from a one Japhes M. B Wagumbulizi who, in a sales agreement this publication has seen, identified himself as the “true registered proprietor (as administrator of the estate of the late G. W. Wagumbulizi Biyimbwa)”.

The army general paid Shs111.6b in total or Shs200m per acre, for the land that Mr Wagumbulizi said he sold two months ago. 

Part 3 of the sales agreement reads: “The total purchase price (Shs111.6b) for all the contract land has been paid by the purchaser (Maj Gen Kayanja) to the vendor (Wagumbulizi) and the vendor hereby acknowledges receipt of the same by appending his usual and unrehearsed signature hereto …”

Mr Johnson K. Tusiime signed as witness for the seller while Eng Daniel Ssekitto appended his signature as the general’s witness of the transaction endorsed by Bulindo Village vice chairman Michael Kasozi.

But hardly had the ink on the July 5 sale agreement dried than problems erupted over ownership of the land identified in Wakiso District records and plot 1448 and comprised in Kyadondo block 182.

Mr Lazari Kikomeko,90, one of the individuals who claims that part of his land has been grabbed. PHOTO | ISAAC KASAMANI

It measures 559 acres and hosts a Catholic church, a school, several farms and residential houses and it is bordered by high-end apartments and other commercial structures. 

Mr Julius Mutebi Nsubuga, the Kira Municipality mayor, said about 4,000 live on the contested land which constitutes one of the 54 villages forming the municipality. We could not independently ascertain the number of residents. 

Our team visited the land and saw ongoing piggery projects and cultivation of banana and coffee.

The fight over the land came to the fore after Mr Mutebi wrote to Bulindo Village leadership on September 5 communicating that complaints he had received about land wrangle presented security concerns.

“By the copy of this letter, I request your office to invite all persons affected; the purchasers of the land mentioned and local leaders to understand these matters well and help to [in]form the next course of action,” he noted.

Before Maj Gen Kayanja paid, our investigations reveal that the land had encumbrances --- at least two caveats; one lodged jointly by Ms Alexandra Nabatanzi, Mr James Kagenda Ssemakula and Njuki Nabatanzi on February 25, 2019 and another by Mr Bruce Musinguzi on June 1 this year.

“I entered into this matter in July, we are calling all those people who have claim to have stayed on the land for a long time to come and present their documents,” the general said yesterday.

He added: “The Ministry of Lands gave us the advice that they should open up boundaries, indicate [where] each and every body’s land where it is.” 

Since Maj Gen Kayanja began undertaking activities on the land, three more caveats have been placed on it; on August 3 by Mr Michael Lupampa, claiming to be a beneficiary, another on August 9 by Mr James Kagenda Ssemakula, who claims an interests as “others” and the last on August 15 by a one Margret Nalweyiso.

Some of the claimants said they bought their parcels from Mr Samuel Sebina who in turn said he acquired land from Mr Wagumbulizi, the apparent seller to Maj Gen Kayanja.

Mr Sebina is among half-a-dozen complainants challenging the former domestic spymaster’s ownership, and they have lodged a case against him with Kampala Metropolitan Police.

He told investigators that he bought the 559-acre land from different people, including chunks he added from Noah Muwanga in 1996 and 1988 and Vicente Mulindwa in 2008.

In an interview, Mr Sebina said the people who made an incursion on his land threatened him with guns and told him that if he wanted any land, he needed to discuss with them.

“I went to Kiwologoma Police Post to report the matter, but the police officers refused to enter my case in their books, saying they have instructions from Kira Divisional Police headquarters not to [entertain] my case,” he said.

After he was turned away, Mr Sebina petitioned the Inspector General of Police whose aide issued him a written note to file the case instead at Jinja Road Police Station. 

The Metropolitan police deputy spokesperson, Mr Luke Owoyesigyire, said detectives are investigating allegations of malicious damage to property and criminal trespass that Mr Sebina lodged against Maj Gen Kayanja and others.

He said preliminary investigations indicate the retired general bought land in the same area, but the dispute is over its boundaries.

“The CID commander for Kampala Metropolitan police together with detectives from Kampala Metropolitan Police (KMP) East [last] Saturday visited the scene and they are going to sit with all the parties and come up with the solution,” he said.

We were unable to establish if Gen Kayanja had recorded a statement with police, but he told us last evening that he met the Resident District Commissioner of Wakiso, where the land is situated, earlier in the day to discuss the wrangle.

“Yes, I’m aware of the case filed [against me] at police because police approached me and asked me whether I know about Sebina Samuel. I told them that I don’t know him,” he said, “Then the police told me that he alleges that I have taken up his land, graded it. I told them that … I don’t know any land which belongs to Sebina that I have graded.”

Mr Wagumbulizi, the seller, told this reporter by telephone last night that Mr Sebina was to obtain a sub-lease on the private Mailo land and he could only have got a title for whole land in error.  

Our examination of the sales agreement, however, shows that Mr Wagumbulizi, despite stating in the document that there was no undisclosed “adverse third-party claims” in the land, was aware of caveats by Ms Nabatanzi, Mr Ssemakula and Njuki, which he promised when sealing thedeal to remove within 10 working days. 

Those days have lapsed, and the wrangle, rather than dwindling, has escalated, sucking in State House.

This followed a petition by Ms Janet Walusaga, Mr Kenneth Opolot, Israel Ssekanjako, Allan Karugaba, Musana Mixed farm, Margaret Sekanjako, Cissy Nakanwogi Cissy, Henry Ssewankambo, and Rajab Sebugeni, through their lawyers Kalikumutima & Co Advocates.

Mr Baker Ssewanyana, the head of the Special Presidential Taskforce on Land and Environment, confirmed that they are handling the dispute.

“We received the petition from residents of Bulindo about their forceful eviction from their land. Our office sent investigators to study the situation and meet the local leaders on the ground. We are working with other investigative bodies to have the matter fully investigated,” he said.

Kayanja: My side of  the story

 “Yes, I’m aware of the case filed [against me] at police because police approached me and asked me whether I know about Sebina Samuel. I told them that I don’t know him. Then the police told me that he alleges that I have taken up his land [and] graded it. I told them that … I don’t know any land which belongs to Sebina that I have graded.

There is what they (accusers) could call conflict and what I can call interest. I have interest in [the 559-acre] Bulindo land. I have not chased any kibanja holder. If there is any, he [or she] should come out. People in Bulindo have land titles which sit on a mother title, but they don’t know where the land is [on the ground].

I bought this land from a man called Japhes Wagumbulizi and the way I purchased the land was not upfront payment because even the land tittle does not mention my name, it is still in his name. [A July 5 sale agreement shows the retired army general paid Shs111.6 billion prior to signing of the deal – Editor]. 

I’m not claiming the land as they allege because Ministry of Lands called a meeting after Bulindo residents made an appeal to Lands minister Judith Nabakooba. Ms Nabakooba handed over the matter to a commissioner called Baker and Baker called me when those people (complainants) were in his office. He said, ‘Kayanja, you are taking people’s land where they have titles’. I said, ‘no, let them prove that it is their land’.

 I entered into this matter in July. We are calling all those people who claim to have stayed on the land for a long time to come and present their documents.

The Ministry of Lands gave us the advice that they should open up boundaries and indicate [where] each and every body’s land is.

The Ministry of Lands has taken over the matter. Those who claim that they have over stayed on the land, I am willing to meet them, but only when the Ministry of Lands has come up with the report. In case the ministry comes up with the report that is not in my favour, I’m willing to vacate and leave the place.” 

Who is Gen Kayanja?

A future two-star general of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, Elly Kayanja, 63, shot to national fame, arguably through controversially leading an aggressive crackdown on violent crime in Kampala. Although Operation Wembley launched in 2000 restored normalcy in the capital, blood spilled in its trail and indiscriminate arrests and alleged torture of suspects are still lingering human rights abuse concerns. 

For fighting crime, many lauded the general, who retired last month, as a hero. He was one of the pioneer fighters in the National Resistance Army (NRA), which brought President Museveni to power, having joined the guerrilla group in 1980. He served as Uganda’s domestic spymaster after deputing Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde. 

In September 2014, he was assigned to head Operation Wealth Creation, a multi-billion shillings agriculture government poverty alleviation programme run by the military under Gen Salim Saleh.   When he attained retirement age of 60 in 2019, Kayanja was promoted to a major general before his retirement with other influential bush-war generals.