Businessman Loses Bid To Block UPDF From Constructing On Contentious Land

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The High Court in Kampala has dismissed an interim application in which businessman Frank Matovu Ssenkwajju wanted to stop the Uganda People’s Defence Forces-UPDF from erecting buildings on his land in Kitala, Wakiso district.

Matovu petitioned the High Court Land Division in April saying that he purchased the contested land in 2018 from Christopher Musisi, Diana Birungi, and Bernard Kiwanuka and transferred it into his name in the same year. But he added that the UPDF encroached on the said land on March 9, and fenced part of it without his knowledge, consent, or approval.

Matovu informed the High court that all his attempts to evict the army from the land have been futile and his access to the land has also been blocked. He asked the court to order the army to vacate the land and issue a permanent injunction restraining the government and its agents, employees from trespassing on the same.

He also asked the High court to order the government to compensate him for the damages caused at a commercial interest rate of 20 per cent. However, on September 12, 2022, he returned to court seeking a temporary injunction arguing that the UPDF had started erecting temporary structures on the land; implying an imminent threat of taking away his land when there is still a pending case waiting for the determination of ownership.

Matovu told the court to issue an order to stop further construction, alienation, selling and fencing off the land. His lawyer Denis Wabwire said that his client was going to suffer injustice and irreparable damages because he is planning to erect lockups on the land for purposes of generating income to sustain his family.

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But the Attorney General who was represented by State Attorney Johnson Natuhwera asked the Court to dismiss the case on grounds that the land in contention belongs to the UPDF. He explained that the army acquired that land in 1987 and started a school of political education there. However, he added that when the soldiers went to fight political insurgents in various parts of the country, the land was grabbed and occupied by various individuals, including the ones who sold it to Matovu.

The court further heard that currently, the UPDF is constructing a military hardware on the land and does not intend to halt the process or even transfer the structures elsewhere.

Today, the registrar of the Land Division Janeva Natukunda dismissed the application on grounds that Matovu failed to prove with sufficient evidence that he will suffer irreparable damages if the application is not granted. She explained that although Matovu said the soldiers are threatening to fence off and dispose of part of the suit land, he did not attach the required evidence.

“The photos attached show one uniport with a small veranda foundation being constructed and a small wooden old structure next to the uniport, and there is no claim of ownership or use of the same by either party,” Natukunda said.

According to the Registrar, whereas Matovu argues that the soldiers are erecting a temporary structure on the suit land, this cannot be said to cause an imminent threat. She relied on a 2020 case determined by Civil Division Judge Musa Ssekaana where he held that the orders sought in interim applications are discretionary and the court is at liberty to grant them depending on the circumstances of each case.

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The substantive application has been fixed for hearing on September 28, 2022.

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